Nutrition

Breakfast – What to Eat and When, Part 1

RBR Premium Member Steve Fenn wrote us recently, asking a series of great questions that apply to all roadies. The gist of his line of questions is, What should you eat before you go for a big ride or event? The answers to Steve's series of questions lie in the context of your nutrition both before and during a ride. Rather than thinking of a bolus of calories at 0-dark-30, think of a flow of calories starting a week before and continuing through to the end of the event. Coach John Hughes provides detailed nutritional advice both this week and next to answer Steve's salient questions.

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What You Should Know About Electrolytes

On average, if you are riding in moderate conditions each hour you’ll produce 600 to 800 ml (21 to 27 fl. oz.) of sweat! In extreme conditions, you could easily produce 32 fl. oz. (1 quart, or 1 liter) or more of sweat per hour. Sodium is the primary electrolytes lost in sweat, along with some potassium. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), if your ride is less than four hours, you probably don’t need to supplement with electrolytes unless your jersey is caked with salt or you cramp. If your ride is longer than four hours, then additional sodium and potassium are recommended.

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Energy Drinks Can Have Negative Side Effects

Energy drinks can raise blood pressure and may cause irregular heartbeats, according to a recent study conducted at Travis Air Force Base in California (Journal of the American Heart Association, April 26, 2017;6(5)). This extremely well-planned, -performed and -controlled study shows that two hours after drinking 32 ounces (four cups) of a popular energy drink, some of the healthy volunteers developed irregular heartbeats (corrected QT interval) and elevated systolic blood pressure.

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Nature Breaks and Dehydration

Watching the Tour de France, every so often you'll hear commentator Phil Liggett say that the riders have stopped for a "nature break," and the camera pans to something else. Maybe you've noticed that during a multi-hour race the riders will only stop once or twice. A reader, Andy, emailed me about nature breaks: “I learned how little time one of my friends, Mike, was off the bike during a recent 12-hour race. He reported that he was off the bike just two minutes out of 12 hours! With no scientific data, it seems to me that toxins should to be flushed more frequently.”

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Red Yeast Rice Pills May Not Deliver Desired Protection

People who take red yeast rice pills to lower their cholesterol levels may not be getting their expected protection against suffering a heart attack. North Americans spend an estimated $40 million a year on these pills. Harvard professor Pieter Cohen tested 28 brands of red yeast rice supplements purchased at major U.S. retail chains, such as GNCs and Walgreens, for levels of the active ingredient monacolin K, which is identical to the prescription statin cholesterol-lowering drug lovastatin (European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, June 23, 2017). He found that:

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How Excess Salt Affects You

Two excellent recent studies from Germany and Vanderbilt University in Tennessee tell us that us excess salt: causes hunger, rather than thirst; breaks down muscle and fat; may be a primary dietary factor in the high rates of obesity, diabetes, heart attacks and strokes in North America because it raises blood levels of adrenal hormones (cortisol) (Journal of Clinical Investigation, April 17, 2017). The common belief is that increasing salt intake increases urination and the more you urinate, the more fluid you have to drink to replace the fluid that you have lost. However, that's not the case. 

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Eating While Riding: Is Sugar Bad?

Spring is beautiful in Colorado! The hills are green from the early spring snowfalls and the lakes are full from runoff from the mountain snowpack. Last week I rode up to Carter Lake and back, a 3:30 jaunt that included exploring a dirt road variation. At the lake I kicked back at the marina, drank a Coke (not diet), ate a half-dozen fig bars and soaked in the sun and the beauty. On the way I’d eaten a banana, apple slices, a granola bar and drank a bottle of tea sweetened with white sugar, and a bottle of water. Over the course of the 3:30 ride I ate almost all carbs, much of it in sugary foods and drink. 

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What's the Best Breakfast You Can Eat?

For many years I have recommended oatmeal as the ideal breakfast food. It is filling, does not cause a high rise in blood sugar and is an excellent source of soluble fiber. You can enhance the flavor and nutritional value of your oatmeal by adding your choice of nuts, raisins or other dried fruits, fresh fruits such as blueberries, and spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg. The soluble fiber in oatmeal and in fruits helps to keep blood sugar from rising too high and to control cholesterol (Curr Atheroscler Rep, Dec 2016;18(12):75).

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Low-Carbohydrate Diets Harm Athletic Performance

Some people believe that if you restrict carbohydrates, you will teach your muscles to burn more fat and preserve their small store of sugar (Metabolism, 2016;65(3):100-10). That is correct, but burning more fat and less sugar for energy slows you down (Nutrients, 2014;6.7:2493-508). The limiting factor to how fast you can move over distance is the time it takes to move oxygen into muscles. Since sugar requires about 20 percent less oxygen than fat does to fuel your muscles, you need to slow down and have less power when your muscles burn fat rather than sugar.

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High-Carb or High-Fat Diet?

On an endurance ride a roadie is cruising along at a conversational pace, burning fat for fuel. Climbing a fairly steep hill, the roadie also starts burning glucose for fuel. The harder the roadie is going, the greater proportion of the rider’s energy comes from glucose. You can store 1,500 to 2,000 calories of glycogen in your body, which your body metabolizes as glucose to fuel your muscles. On a longer ride with real climbing, on a shorter club ride hammering with your buddies, and during an interval workout, you’re burning lots of glucose. When you run out of glucose — you’ve bonked!

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Heart-Healthy Diet: New Studies

Several recent articles provide new data on which foods are associated with both your health and your longevity. The current issue of JAMA (2017;317(9):912-924).contains a major statistical analysis of the association between diet quality and rates of death from the cardiometabolic diseases (heart disease, strokes and type II diabetes). This review of more than 700,000 deaths in 2012 from heart attacks, strokes and diabetes in the U.S. shows that almost half of the deaths were associated with poor dietary habits. The 10 specific dietary factors were:

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