By Kevin Kolodziejski
Besides having your ride go right, what gives you delight?
Puts a hop in your step. Allows you to brush off the bad stuff. Gets you up ahead of the alarm clock. As you ponder that question, consider the answer emperor Marcus Aurelius gave centuries ago during the Golden Age of Rome: To keep a clear and untroubled mind.
Delightful Advice from the Golden Age of Rome
When I first read that, I knew that would delight me too, so doing so became a goal of mine. While I’ve found attaining and maintaining it takes even more persistence than keeping a bike clean in wintertime, just like making the bike frame shine after a slushy ride, it is indeed a delight when I do. As it is, I’m sure, for you.
But I’m equally sure you don’t share another delight of mine.
Though it doesn’t quite match the fist-pumping euphoria of pipping the best sprinter left in the break to win the crit, I get a real kick out of comprehending medical studies written not for dietary domestiques like me, but for the medical professionals contending for the nutritional GC. Reading with a dictionary by my side and figuring out orexigenics are appetite stimulants and postprandial affects occur after a meal really tickles my fancy. But after working a full day, squeezing in a ride before you make supper, washing the dishes afterwards, and putting your kids to bed before you do a load of laundry, it can’t possibly tickle yours.
Food-Order Info to Keep Your Fancy Racing Fit
So to keep your fancy racing fit and maybe even tickle it a bit, read what comes next. Even if our pleasure-reading preferences aren’t quite the same, I’ll wager a wash and wax of your entire two-wheeled armada (mine totals nine) that our overall health goals are. To wit: I bet you want what I want from a meal.
To enjoy the taste of it while satisfying your appetite. To have it provide ample energy before, during, and after you ride. And not to have it — no matter how good-tasting and satisfying it may be — create unwanted weight gain. With those ends in mind, consider the question posed in today’s title: Does food order matter?
The Glucose Goddess Says Yes
Jessie Inchauspé, the biochemist who’s better known on the internet as the Glucose Goddess and author of “Glucose Revolution,” says yes — and unconditionally so. But others equally in the know may place conditions on their answer. Some, in fact, may even say no because the research on the matter is far from definitive.
Despite that, Inchauspé tells readers in “Glucose Revolution” that the right order of eating is “fiber first, protein and fat second, starches and sugars last.” Eating a greens-only salad as an appetizer before a meat-based entree, and saving the starchy carbohydrate (like rice, corn, or potatoes) for consumption after that but before desert (if you choose to have one) is one way to accomplish that.
All in the dietary field know this pattern somewhat reduces the blood sugar increase that occurs after any meal and that minimizing blood sugar increase after meals is a solid dietary strategy. They also know your body reacts to a large increase of it — regardless of the total amount of food or number of calories consumed — by secreting extra insulin. But unless this increase in insulin comes after a long and intense workout to help restore muscle glycogen and build or repair muscle, little good comes from it. A large secretion typically removes too much blood sugar, with one of the adverse outcomes from that being a real sense of hunger 90 minutes or so later.
Why You Gain Weight
That hunger you encounter often makes you eat despite just having done so and probably not really needing to — at least according to your muscle cells. They reject the extra energy offered. Weight gain occurs because the rejected energy is then escorted by the insulin to the fat stores for eventual use. And immediate love handles.
If this pattern continues long term, it creates more than you huffing and puffing while climbing hills or noticing a bit of blubber around your belt. Eventually, your muscle cells stop accepting the energy even when energy is needed. Your liver and fat cells become insulin resistant as well. Your blood sugar levels remain high well after eating, and you develop type 2 diabetes.
Protein Before Meal, Less Blood Sugar After
But according to a study published in the September 2009 issue of a journal produced by the American Diabetes Association, Diabetes Care, this scenario can be somewhat ameliorated by specific food ordering. In the study, eight type 2 diabetics consumed added protein in the form of whey during two meals. Once it was added to a beef soup appetizer consumed 30 minutes before the main entree featuring potatoes, and once it was added to the entree. The researchers found a “marked reduction” in after-meal blood sugar levels when the whey was added to the appetizer instead of the entree, as well as when the same meal was eaten without any added whey whatsoever.
Your Logical Takeaway, My Long-Held Theory
But let’s assume you’re not suffering from type 2 diabetes, yet still want to know if the answer to the question in today’s title is a yes or no. The answer I’ll offer is consistent with a theory I’ve espoused for years and call the Snowflake Theory. Because in the same way no two snowflakes are supposedly the same, no two digestive systems are either.
If the Snowflake Theory is true, proper food order then becomes to some degree a personal matter. One based on the physiologically unique way your digestive system and the bacteria inside it react to different foods. So I will implore you to do what I tell the readers of my health and fitness to always do: experiment, experiment, experiment.
Do so and discover what foods and in which order both delight your insides, really do it for you, and allow you to ride better.
Kevin Kolodziejski began his writing career in earnest in 1989. Since then he’s written a weekly health and fitness column and his articles have appeared in magazines such as “MuscleMag,” “Ironman,” “Vegetarian Times,” and “Bicycle Guide.” He has Bachelor and Masters degrees in English from DeSales and Kutztown Universities.
A competitive cyclist for more than 30 years, Kevin won two Pennsylvania State Time Trial championships in his 30’s, the aptly named Pain Mountain Time Trial 4 out of 5 times in his 40s, two more state TT’s in his 50’s, and the season-long Pennsylvania 40+ BAR championship at 43.