A survey conducted by Merlin Cycles has shown that 49% of cyclists said they ‘would steer well clear of carbs’ in order to lose weight. Interestingly, the 18 to 24-year-old group were the LEAST likely to eradicate carbs from their diet (61% said they wouldn’t do so).
This food group tends to get a bad rap, although a recent study undertaken in Italy showed that pasta – when eaten sensibly – can help to stimulate weight loss.
George Pounis, who co-authored the report, said: “Our data shows that enjoying pasta according to individuals’ needs contributes to a healthy body mass index, lower waist circumference and better waist-hip ratio.”
Removing carbs from your diet in their entirety isn’t sensible. They help to fuel our body and give us the energy needed to stay active. That being said, many of us struggle to strike the right balance.
What to eat before cycling?
If it’s a particularly long-haul trip, Florida-based sports nutritionist Barbara Lewin (R.D) told ‘Bicycling’ that a meal “rich in mixed carbohydrates, plus a little protein and healthy fat” is the way forward. It’s important to note that the harder you ride, the more glycogen (carbohydrates) you require.
Farah Fonseca – England’s Strongest Woman in the under 63kg category – gave us some dietary pointers:
“You want to try to make sure you consume a protein source of some kind, whether it be fish, eggs, legumes, meat or beans to prevent any blood sugar fluctuations. People are now noticing how much more affected by wheat and gluten they are, with bloating and fatigue being one of the major symptoms. Sticking to quinoa, root vegetables, brown rice, oats and rice pasta is what I would recommend.”
You don’t want to feel bloated when you’re trying to beat your personal best – for this reason, avoid refined sugars and stick with whole wheat carbs instead.
What to eat after cycling?
Callum Melly, fitness and nutrition expert from bodyin8, told us that it’s important for post-workout food to promote lean muscle growth as well as prioritising recovery.
“Immediately after exercising and depending on the intensity of your workout, I would consume 30-60g worth of starchy carbohydrates e.g. half (125g) or a whole pouch (250g) of basmati microwavable rice and combine this with a lean protein such as chicken or white fish in order to restore muscle glycogen and promote lean muscle growth, repair and recovery.
“Liquid nutrition is perfect post-workout as solid foods can take up to six to eight hours to digest, whereas liquids are between one and two hours. The body can absorb about 1g of carbohydrates per minute, so 30-60g of carbohydrates is a good amount to ensure we replenish muscle glycogen with little excess that could be stored as fat. Again, the quantity of carbohydrates required is all relevant to the intensity of your workout on your muscles.”
Farah Fonseca added: “Carbohydrates for most people are a worry. When should I consume them and what type of carbs should I be eating? For most people I always recommend to try and keep carbohydrates after you’ve been most active or ‘post workout’. It gets utilised in the body quicker and more efficiently at that time.”
By combining carbs with your proteins post-workout, you ensure a more exponential recovery time, allowing you to get back on the road as soon as possible.
What shouldn’t be in a cyclist’s diet?
In terms of supplying pure energy, it’s important for cyclists not to waste their time with empty foods. While a salad may shout ‘healthy eating’, it does very little for a cyclist as it’s extremely low in carbohydrates and won’t take you that far in terms of energy. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with eating greens on your rest days – especially if you’re trying to shed a few pounds.
Although cereal might not seem like an obvious red flag, the most popular brands have high GI ratings, meaning that they won’t sustain you for too long before burning the energy off. Instead, go for a wholegrain breakfast that will release energy slower and steadier.
A more familiar culprit, carbonated drinks have been known to undermine many a healthy eating regime – don’t let it be yours. Fizzy drinks are particularly bad for cyclists, as they’re very bloating and can leave you sluggish and lethargic.
Now you know what to avoid, you can stock your kitchen cupboards with the most beneficial, effective and supercharging foods to fuel your rides.