These are a few highlights from a seminar on nutrition for cyclists preparing for big events. It was organised by Sigma Sport in South West London a few years ago. The speakers were former pro cyclist Daniel Lloyd (now a broadcaster for Eurosport and GCN) and Dr Robert Child (Director at Alimentarius; previously worked at SiS as Chief Scientific Officer, at Team Katusha as Performance Biochemist, MTN-Qhubeka as Head of Nutrition, at Maximuscle as Head of Research and Cervelo Test Team as Head of Nutrition).
When I attended this seminar, I was preparing for some big events: the Pearson 150km Sportive in preparation for my first London to Paris in 24 hours, a charity ride of 300 km.
I was curious about what I could improve off the bike and these few tips from the seminar proved invaluable. Most of it is common sense and well known by now, but I realised then, sometimes it's good to be reminded or simply being nudged towards a better nutrition. It worked and it's now the basis for a healthy diet, regardless of the purpose.
The secret to a good intake of food while training for a big event is to have a huge breakfast, a medium lunch and a small dinner. Staying away from processed food and alcohol is, of course, highly recommended.
What to eat:
Breakfast: If you commute on the bike, split the breakfast in two, before and after the ride, starting with kipper or eggs and coffee before setting off. After the ride, have porridge with some fruit, possibly some toast with jam too.
Lunch: Meat/fish, vegetables, rice.
Dinner: Meat/fish, salad.
What to look for in food:
Protein: Milk and Eggs (Antioxidants); Fish; Meat (Creatine, Carnosine, Carnitine) - Not good: most dairy products, white bread, soy.
Omega: Fish and Olive oil (Omega 3 can also be taken with 3x1000mg tablets, it reduces heart rate, it improves mood and ventilation).
Whey protein shake (the most efficient)
Having a bit of sugar is not a drama, also eating fatty meats like lamb is better than avoiding them as the benefits are greater as lamb, for instance, is very high in iron. Fats are important as they will be used for fuel. Body fat should ideally be between 10% and 15%. Any lower and you risk getting ill.
Try a protein bar towards the last few kms of a long ride to start recovery. Pro riders recover by drinking shake straight away even before showering and a fruit salad for the sugars, then they have a bit of pasta and later, after washing and a massage, they sit for a full meal.
2 day taper.
High carbs, high GI meal the evening before (turkey or chicken breasts too).
2 hrs before the event eat high carbs, high GI, low fibre (herring, chicken, beef).
2 day taper.
High carbs, high GI for the 2 evenings before the event.
High carbs, high GI, low fibre 2hrs before the event.