As you prepare for this year’s Cycle for St. Joe’s event, whether you’ve chosen the 10, 40, or 80km route, you will need to think about how to fuel your body. Creating a fitness-friendly food regimen will ensure your muscles have the energy they need to complete the course. We asked Melissa Murray, a registered dietitian with our Family Health Team, to provide some advice and tips on the best foods to keep you energized.
Preparing for the ride
Training days are a good opportunity to test your physical endurance as well as your nutrition program so that you understand how your body will respond on the day of the race.
While you’re training, you should eat:
- Whole foods and a balance of food groups—carbs, protein, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables and fluids to cool the body. A complete meal would include: 4oz grilled salmon, ¾ cup quinoa, 1.5 cups grilled zucchini, sweet peppers and mushrooms.
- Why are healthy fats important? Some vitamins can only be absorbed with fat. Heart healthy, unsaturated fats also help to reduce inflammation in the body and keep you feeling full. Unsaturated fats include avocado, nuts and seeds and fatty fish including salmon, mackerel and sardines.
- Fluids – ensure you’re getting enough to drink the day before your longer practice rides to account for the fluids you will lose. For most people eight cups is the minimum.
- Whatever food you plan to consume during the ride!
The day before the ride
Eat easy-to-digest carbs: You want to keep your food light right before a long ride. Simple carbs combined with a small portion of protein will keep you full without weighing you down. For example:
- A banana, oatmeal or toast with peanut butter
- Homemade fruit smoothie
- An egg with a piece of toast
Drink lots of fluids: which are important to keep you hydrated throughout your ride. If you have a morning coffee or drink alcohol the night before, you need extra water because both of these liquids draw water out of the body.
Don’t forget salt and other minerals: As you sweat, your body loses water as well as key minerals, which can lead to muscle cramping for some people. To offset these losses, take a low-sugar electrolyte tab or add salt to your water to help prevent cramping.
Don’t eat this: The two main factors to focus on when choosing food before and during endurance activities are digestibility and absorption. When you exercise, more of your blood will be circulating to your muscles and less to the digestive tract. If you have undigested food in your stomach it can cause distress or cramping.
- Avoid anything high in fibre, fat, or super high in protein, like steak, as these take more effort to digest. Wait for that bacon and egg breakfast sandwich until after the ride!
- Avoid eating foods you haven’t tried before. You don’t know how your body will react and it could negatively impact your ride.
During the ride
For a 10 or 40km ride, water and fluids should be enough to take you through the entire course. If you’re doing 80km, you will need carbohydrates as well:
- Whenever you’re riding more than an hour, gradually eat 30-60g of carbs/hour and drink an electrolyte-rich beverage.
- Reach for simple carbs because they are easier to digest such as a low-fibre sports gel pack, part of a protein or granola bar or banana.
- Pace your snacks throughout the ride. Don’t wait until you are hungry or feel depleted as it will be hard to get back to optimal performance at this point.
Foods to support recovery
You made it! Eat within 60 minutes of finishing the course — that’s when muscles are most active so they are able to absorb more nutrients. Sometimes after a long hard ride people don’t feel like eating, but it is important for recovery — opt for a smoothie or other liquid nutrition if this occurs. Have a combination of carbs and protein to help repair and replace lost energy in your muscles, which could include:
- A sandwich with protein and veggies
- Greek yogurt and fruit
- A protein shake or fruit smoothie with protein
Don’t feel bad about rewarding yourself and having a treat after your event – you deserve it!
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