By Nigel Mitchell, BSC, MSC, RD
Head of Nutrition, EF Education First Pro Cycling Team
Your diet and nutrition can have a serious effect on your training and recovery. This is so easy to get right but all too often people get this wrong, resulting in a negative impact on your cycling experience. To look at this we first of all have to understand the interplay between exercise and nutrition.
The who idea of training is that it brings about adaptations in the body. As cyclists the aim is to get fitter, faster, stronger. Different types of training will have different effects.
Cycling is predominately and endurance sport, but in recent years we have gained a greater understanding of the importance of strength training to help support the on-bike work. This training provides the stimulus that influences the gene expression, while nutrition provides ingredients for the body to make these adaptions. In effect training and nutrition work hand in hand together.
During training, the key area we are interested in is ‘fueling’ the body appropriately. Cycling is unique in that we can constantly provide energy for the working body. The simple rule is the harder we work the more carbohydrate we use.
For people doing more than 90-minute rides with steady effort (meaning you can easily hold a conversation with a buddy), aim for 20-40g of carbohydrate per hour. For more strenuous ride, where you can talk but not for long, 40-60g. For hard rides, where you can manage just a few short words, 60-80g. Bananas are a great on the bike food, providing about 30g of carbohydrate.
The importance of recovery can’t be understated. Recovery is about supporting the adaption and refueling for the next session, and we tend to recommend both carbohydrate and protein. The carbohydrate helps to replete energy and protein supports muscular adaption. For endurance exercise, this tends to be 20g of protein and 1g per kg of carbohydrate (ie. a 70kg riders may have 70g of carbohydrate).
Not all proteins are created equal. Complete proteins like pistachio nuts, deliver high amounts of protein in addition to the nine essential amino acids in adequate amounts. For more information on the importance of complete proteins and how to incorporate pistachios in your diet, I have written this.