Nutrition and hydration

bowl of porridge with blueberries

It’s not just the miles you pedal your bike that will help you get to the finish line in June, it’s the foods and fluids you put into your body too. 

Whilst training for the ride, you should include choosing foods that give you enough energy to fuel your body, as well as helping it grow and repair. Good nutrition can help make a difference to your performance.

Which carbohydrates should I be eating?

The best type of carbohydrates are those that release their energy slowly and help to maintain your muscle glycogen. 

Avoid choosing carbohydrates that are made with simple sugars and refined flours as they will give you short term energy which won’t be there when you need it at the beginning of a training session or on the day. These types of carbohydrates are useful during activities longer than 90 minutes.

So, if you’re not already, you should be including the slow burn carbohydrates in every meal.  

 Good choices  Avoid                      
 Wholegrain bread   White breads
 Wholegrain Cereal  Cereals
 Rice and pasta  Biscuits
 Beans  Cake
 Sweet potatoes   
 Fruit and vegetables  

How do you know if you’re eating enough?

Eat a fist-sized portion of these carbohydrate with each meal or snack. These smaller but frequent servings will supply enough energy without leading to an energy drop that can leave you feeling lethargic.

The power of protein – a little goes a long way

Once the training cranks up a gear you’ll need a little bit more protein than usual. However, you do not need extra protein supplements or a special high protein diet to fulfil this. As protein is a filling nutrient, smaller more frequent intakes will also help to steady energy levels and control appetite. 

Go for lean cuts of meat, low fat dairy, beans, pulses and lentils and include 1-2 portions of fish a week. Use your hand as a guide to portion side – palm of your hand for red meat and whole hand for white meat and fish. 

Healthy fats

Keeping your heart healthy, whatever your age, is the most important thing you can do to help prevent and manage heart disease. Healthy fats are known to reduce the bad cholesterol when they replace saturated fat found in butter, lard and fatty and processed meats, so are healthy for the heart too.

Healthy fats are found in:

  • Nuts, 
  • Avocados, 
  • Vegetable oils (such as rapeseed, olive and sunflower oils) and their margarines,
  • Oily fish. 
But all fat is high in calories, so it important to keep an eye on how much you eat.

avocado on toast

Get your 5 a day

Certain nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and minerals such as magnesium and potassium found in fruits and vegetables are important for maintaining a healthy immune system. As well as this they are great for energy production and muscle contraction and strength.

To get the most benefit from your five portions, eat a wide variety of fruit and vegetables.

Hydration

It may surprise you to know that when you exercise you can lose up to a litre of fluid in an hour. Although the amount varies from person to person and depends on how long and how hard you’re exercising.  

Make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids during the day, generally this is at least 2 litres for men and 1.6 litres for women. 

What to eat 

There's no need to over-eat the night before:

  1. Base your meal around carbs
  2. Low fat and fibre (avoid too much salad and high fibre vegetables such as peas and beans).
  3. Eat on the early side so you have lots of time to digest.

    Suggestions:

spaghetti bolognese

The morning of your training rides:

  1. Top up your energy levels with a high-carb breakfast
  2. Eat 2-3 hours before you ride
  3. Include some lean/low fat protein

    Suggestions:
  • Bagel or breakfast muffin with peanut butter and jam or honey or low fat cottage cheese. 
  • Wholegrain cereal or Porridge made with milk plus fruit. Try this bircher muesli recipe which you can make the night before
  • Scrambled or poached egg on toast
  • Add in some fruit to a yoghurt or milk smoothie

Recovery

  1. Include carbohydrates, your reserves need to be replenished
  2. Include protein, vital for the growth and repair of muscle tissue and it can reduce muscle soreness the next day
  3. Recovery meals/snacks should include 50g carbs and a smaller amount of protein, at least 10-20 grams). 

Suggestions:

  • 500ml milkshake
  • Natural yogurt based fruit smoothie
  • Sandwich with lean meats, eggs, or low-fat cheese and a large banana
  • Greek yogurt, granola and mixed berries
  • Couple of pieces of fruit and 250 ml low fat milk

yoghurt with fruit and oats