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By Columnist Genevieve Whitson – Professional Cyclist:


Photo Credit: David Lewis 2005: Cycling

When you’ve been riding and racing for a long time, it can be easy to forget that what to eat or not to eat while training is not always obvious, so I thought I’d go back to the basics……

Before You Ride

It’s a wise idea to fuel up before you do exercise. I’m always amazed at people who set out for 4-hour rides powered purely on water?  How much you need to eat before a ride depends on how long you ride. But, the following are great healthy options, that won’t cost a lot:

Heading out for a long endurance ride – Get some porridge in you or some eggs.

Oatmeal is great because it releases energy slowly, which means you won’t get that massive high, then low that you would have if you were guzzling back cookies or chocolate bars for breakfast (I’ve tried that. It didn’t work). Another reason is porridge is also dirt cheap. I’d recommend eating your porridge at least 30 minutes before you head out as well so your stomach has time to settle.

Eggs – poached, scrambled or raw (I take my hat off to anyone willing to explore this 3rd option) are also a great pre-ride breakfast. Mainly because eggs are a complete protein, meaning they have all essential amino acids in them. Plus, being a protein the humble egg will keep you fuller for longer.

Note: I would try to avoid a lot of standard breakfast cereals, as they usually have a high sugar content, and they won’t fill you up for long. Plus, they will slowly eat your teeth away.

During the Ride

You should try and refuel every 30 minutes on a bike ride. If you wait till you are hungry, or even worse, when your loud, angry stomach starts complaining, then you’re already in trouble. Why? Well, by the time you start feeling hungry, your body has already begun using its resources to compensate for the lack of food.  A super easy option on the bike ride is honey on white or brown bread (a regular for me at Uni), Why? Well, because honey will give you an instant sugar hit and the bread is an excellent source of carbs. Muesli bars or Fig rolls with a high concentrate of fruit in them are a sure winner, again because of the combo of sugar and carbs.

What if I Hit the Wall? 

We’ve all been there. You have an hour before you reach a destination, it’s cold, wet, your legs feel smashed, your stomach appears to have an alien in it, and you can’t think straight – you’ve totally hit the wall -bonked. Just putting one leg in front of the other is a challenge – the question looms ‘why do I even ride bikes?’. If this situation occurs, then something has gone wrong with your nutrition, and this is when the bad foods, will become your best friend. Any of the following will give you a quick hit to make sure you arrive home safe and sound, and that is all you need, sugar in the bloodstream ASAP.

  • Coca-Cola + snickers – yes it really satisfies, just like the advert says.
  • Peanut M&M’s.
  • Mars Bar.
  • Jaffa cakes – sort of good for you!
  • Sweets – Jelly Babies, Snakes and other tasty treats.

After the Ride

Protein, protein, protein – all hail thy protein.

I can’t emphasise it enough. After a ride eat well, otherwise, a good training session can be ruined. You basically have a 30-minute window of opportunity to reload and embrace the Protein God. Don’t go and destroy those hard earned muscles, by letting your body take part in some form of self-cannibalism – not cool at all.

Why Protein?

Protein is necessary because it supports the growth of tissues, enzymes and hormones. It also helps your body fight infections. Carbs are also good, but they will mainly give back energy so that I would recommend a recovery shake with a high protein content, or for those on a budget the following will also work fine:

  • An 112-gram can of tuna contains 23grams of protein.
  • Eggs, glorious eggs.
  • Cheese & crackers (protein + carbs – bonus).
  • Coffee or hot chocolate – milk has protein in it. See café stops after rides aren’t all bad!
  • Beans – chickpeas and legumes.
  • Yoghurt + bananas (high in potassium which the body needs to replenish after exercise and magnesium and acts as fast-working carbohydrate).

About Our Cycling News and Review Columnist

Jarlath-Cross-20131-960x576_GenevieveGenevieve Whitson is a NZ born, British/Scottish cyclist, based in Edinburgh, Scotland. Gen has a raced at the highest level for Road, Cyclocross and Mountain biking, have competed in four World Championships, multiple World Cups as well as riding professionally on the road. Gen has raced all around the globe on the road bike and is currently riding for a Belgium team, Isorex competing in all the major spring classics.

Highlights of her career include gaining a top 30 finish at the World Cyclocross Championships, a stage win in a major USA road tour, and winning the 2015 Scottish National Hill Climb Champs. Gen also loves to ride a rickshaw in Edinburgh for strength training on the side and is heavily involved in supporting/mentoring up and coming female/male athletes to ride to their potential. Her mantra on the bike is: Eat the pain…

Disclaimer: The information published in this column is the author’s own professional and personal knowledge, and opinion. This information and opinion are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any manner. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition and consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional program or exercise program. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on InShape News.

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