Eating right for long distance bicycle rides isn’t as difficult as you might
think. Pay attention to just three fairly simple nutritional guidelines, and
your body should be ready to perform its best come race day, said Roberta
Anding, sport dietitian for the Ironman Sports Medicine Institute at Memorial
Anding’s nutritional guidelines for distance cyclists fall into three
- Plate organization
“Most athletes say they are well-hydrated,
but studies consistently show they usually aren’t,” Anding said.
The easiest way to tell whether you’re getting enough liquids is to check the
color of your first morning urine. If your urine is dark, say the color of apple
juice or darker, then you need to consume more fluids.
“People will often ask me, ‘What if my urine is dark in the morning, but I
drink a lot and then it is clear the next time I go to the bathroom,’” Anding
said. “The answer is that your kidneys are probably seeing most of the water,
but your muscles could still be dry.”
Guidelines for daily water consumption are just that – guides. People sweat
and lose water at different rates, so don’t be alarmed if you need more or less
water than the standard eight, 8-ounce glasses.
Also, don’t forget hidden sources of fluids, such as fruit, vegetables, milk
and yogurt. Some of these foods can be made of 80 percent water.
Good Carbs Are Good
Carbohydrates get a bad rap, Anding
said, but distance cyclists should aim for each meal to feature a plate
two-thirds to three-quarters filled with plant-based foods.
“Carbs are the fuel of exercising muscle,” she said. “It’s the gas in your
tank. Someone who eats lots of protein may look good, but they’re not prepared
for distance exercise.”
Still, not all carbohydrates are created equal. High-quality carbohydrates
include fruits, vegetables, milk and whole-grain breads and pasta. With plenty
of high-quality carbs, you may not need vitamin supplements.
“You don’t have to weigh and measure all your food,” reminded Anding. “Just
make sure your plate is two-thirds to three-quarters plant-based foods and
remember that quality counts.”
This guideline works for coach potatoes and amateur athletes as well since
this type of diet is recommended by several organizations, including the
American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association.
Reload During Recovery
New to many athletes is research
that recommends eating a snack of protein and carbohydrate immediately after
exercise of more than 45 minutes to an hour.
“Muscles are better at utilizing carbohydrates and protein within the first
15 minutes after exercise than at any other time,” Anding said. “Your muscles
need to reload, so eat something immediately.”
Appropriate snacks include Ensure, Carnation Instant Breakfast, half a
peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich on whole-grain bread or a sports drink with
protein and carbs.
Recharge On Race Day
Come race day, don’t forget to
recharge throughout the day, Anding said. Depending on your pace, you probably
need a source of carbohydrates every hour of the race.
“Nothing big, but something,” she said. “You can’t drive to Denver on one
tank of gas, so put some fuel back in your tank at every rest stop.” Examples of
such fuels are a banana or potato, a carbohydrate-based gel or a sports drink
These three simple guidelines work equally well for professional and
collegiate athletes, endurance athletes of all kinds, as well as amateur