Cycling is undoubtedly good for your health but it can be really tough on your body and that’s why it’s so important to pay attention to your diet. By eating the right foods, you can get the nutritional replenishment you need to improve your post-ride recovery and next-ride performance, but what should you eat and why? The cycling experts and enthusiasts at Formby Cycles give us a brief look at three key nutritional focus points:
Complex carbs are a rich, natural source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and glucose. As the glucose is broken down by the body, it gets converted into glycogen which is then stored in the muscles as a source of energy. As you cycle, those glycogen stores deliver fuel to your muscles to give you the muscular energy you need to overcome the resistance of the terrain, road surface and weather conditions and power yourself forward, safely and at speed. When those glycogen stores begin to deplete, muscles become tired, sluggish, dehydrated and at greater risk of cramp and injury, but they can be replenished with complex carbs. These carbohydrates contain the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants your body needs to maintain general cell health, but they also help muscles to absorb protein, synthesise and store glycogen efficiently and remove the harmful free radicals that form as a by-product of vigorous exercise.Recovery foods: Try to eat a diet that is rich in leafy green vegetables, wholegrain breads and pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, beans, peas and nuts.
Cycling relies predominantly on the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles which power your bike to propel you forward, and they’re all made of two types of muscle fiber: fast-twitch and slow-twitch. Fast-twitch fibers are responsible for the short, intense bursts of power you need to complete sprints and ascents, while slow-twitch fibers are responsible for motion and endurance; when you cycle for intense or sustained periods, those fibers can easily become damaged. Protein helps them to repair and recover. It reduces the likelihood of muscle stiffness, soreness, weakness or discomfort developing in the hours and days following a ride or race, and it also promotes muscle growth so you can continue to ride and actually improve your performance. That repair and growth is managed by amino acids, often described as the building blocks of protein, which work to transport and store water, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals around the body and keep muscles strong and healthy. Some types of amino acid, known as non-essential, can be produced by the human body but others, known as essential, are only available from external dietary sources and it is these types of amino acid that can be found in protein rich foods. Recovery foods: Those foods include lean meat, fish, eggs, nuts, soy, seeds, and legumes but recovery sports gels and powders are popular with cyclists who want to begin protein replenishment quickly.
Hydration is essential before, during and after any form of cycling but for intense or endurance rides, water alone is insufficient for quick, post-ride recovery. Healthy nerve and muscle function relies on electrolytes. They consist of sodium, calcium, bicarbonate and potassium and as you sweat, your body loses them along with water. As electrolyte levels reduce, dehydration sets in and this can have a serious impact on your health and performance. Dehydration decreases blood flow which impairs concentration and slows the delivery of oxygen to muscles. In turn, this causes the rate at which muscles burn glycogen to increase, resulting in physical and mental fatigue. Recovery fluids: Electrolyte drinks can restore hydration and help you to recover lost salts and minerals quickly, which in turn, will help your body process and absorb the valuable nutrients in your post-ride foods.
Want to know more about improving your next-ride performance? Then get in touch with the knowledgeable and friendly cycling enthusiasts at Formby Cycles for advice, information and all your cycling essentials.