If you ride seriously, eat seriously.
I am not a dietician and all recommendations are just my recommendations. Of course you should use your own judgement and consult your physician with any concerns you have.
It has often been repeated that “variety is the spice of life.” I agree. I was very fortunate to be raised by the kind of parents that made me sit at the table until I ate the broccoli on my plate. They also gave “no-thank-you-servings.” This was a clever invention of my mother’s that I intend to pass on to my offspring. If my siblings or I were to turn down a particular dish with a polite, “no, thank you.” My mother would give us a small serving regardless.
As we know it often takes several attempts before we acquire a taste for a new food. As a serious cyclist it is imperative to feed our bodies with the nutrients it needs. We can not live on protein bars alone. As you add in healthier foods and reduce the less healthful kind your body will begin to replace your cravings. Perhaps soon you will want a piece of fruit after your meal, rather than a slice of cake.
If you have the problem of maintaining weight, rather than losing it, you are not alone. So many people today lead such sedentary lives that it seems few have this problem. Cyclists on the other hand expend so many calories that it can at times be hard to keep up. Don’t cut out too much if you are losing weight. Maybe you should have that slice of cake.
Complex carbohydrates are the best source of energy for physical activity. Whole grains provide more fiber and nutrients. Aim for six to eleven daily servings. The USDA food pyramid also recommends three to five servings of vegetables. Be sure to vary your veggies. Think in the terms of eating from each color group.
Try to eat two to four servings of fruit a day. Two to three daily dairy products are recommended. Calcium is especially important for women cyclists. Your two to three servings of meat could be replaced with nuts, legumes, or eggs. Legumes can be counted either as vegetable or protein. Sugars and fats should be used sparingly. You can replace sugar and fat with healthier alternatives. Honey has properties that have been thought to boost the immune system. Olive oil and the fats in nuts and fish are healthier alternatives.
Protein is especially important to a cyclist. After a long day cycling your muscle tissue has been damaged. In order for your body to repair that tissue and rebuild stronger muscles, it is imperative that your intake of protein is high enough. A cyclist may need twice the protein that another person of similar size would need. Not getting enough protein could result in fatigue, anemia, and a reduction in aerobic capacity.
Iron deficiency may be a problem for cyclists tying to keep their weight down. Some doctors recommend that for every 1,000 calories of your diet, you should consume five milligrams of iron. However an active cyclist consuming 2,000 calories a day may need the iron recommended for those on a 3,000-calorie diet.
This should be of special concern to vegetarians or those who eat limited quantities of red meat. Try combining sources of iron with vitamin C for better absorption. Avoid things that can hinder absorption such as wheat bran, tea, antacids, and calcium phosphate supplements. Try adding spinach, raisins, turnip tops, and beet greens to your diet.
Vitamin A or retinol produces beta-carotene. It promotes cell development and the growth of bones and teeth. You probably also know its benefits when it comes to night vision. Vitamin B1 or thiamin provides the body with energy. Alcohol will decrease the rate of vitamin B absorption. Vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid also aids in energy. Vitamin C is vital for connective tissues and the functioning of red blood cells. It also acts as an anti-oxidant.
Take a quality multivitamin, multi-mineral dietary supplement. This will not replace your lapses in judgement or occasional indulgences, but it will supplement your overall nutrition needs. Look for a supplement that is age and gender specific. Find one that is made to the U.S. Pharmacopoeia standards for “quality, purity and potency standards.” Be sure that your supplement is lab tested to dissolve in 60 minutes or less.
Commit to cycling seriously and eating seriously. Mind your ABCs and don’t deprive your body of the essentials. When your body is treated right you’ll look, feel, and ride better.