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Eating for cycling

by Carl Brewer last modified 2006-07-10 04:18

An overview of eating strategies for endurance cyclists

A few of you have been asking for dietary advice for riding, so I thought I'd post out the current aboc thoughts on healthy eating to fuel riders :

The key to this is to eat sensibly. Bola gets boring every night. As long as you're eating a balanced diet - lots of veggies, nothing too high in GI or fat, then you'll be just fine. I only worry about carbo loading close to major events, the rest of the time, I just eat lots! Donuts aren't, unfortunatly, the endurance cyclists best friend ... neither is beer (*doh*) or chips. We're not professionals though, so in moderation, everything is ok :)

If you're unsure about GI, it's the glycemic index, basically a way of telling how quickly a food increases your blood sugar levels. In general, high GI is bad, as it spikes your insulin levels, and causes your body to convert excess blood sugar to fat - which in general we want to avoid. Foods that are high GI are the obvious ones, such as anything with sugar in it (which used to be called 'simple carbohydrates). And suprisingly, ordinary potatoes (which used to be called 'complex carbs'). Sweet potato, on the other hand, is generally low GI, and therefore good.

Most rice is fairly high GI, except for Basmati rice, most pasta is lowish GI, except for couscous, and so on.

An excellent resource for this is the website

There are times when we as cyclists specifically do want high GI foods - during or immediatly after rides that have run down our muscle glycogen levels in particular. That's why I recommend a packet of snakes and glucose (c4p) in your drink bottles. When we're burning sugar, we need to put it back. For the rest of the time, we want to maintain a normal blood sugar level.

Carbo loading is a pretty specific eating pattern, designed to raise your glycogen stores for sustained glygogen burning activites (eg: a long, hard ride, like a race, or the Alpine Classic or Round the Bay). In the old days, it was thought that you had to starve yourself for a week, then chomp into tonnes of potatoes the day before your event. Not much good for maintaining fitness, all that starving!

Common practice these days for carbo loading is described in our guide to carbo loading

Carbo loading only works for trained athletes - the exact definition of I'm not sure of! I'd say that if you're doing the sort of training that you need to do to do a big event, that carbo loading is worth doing. It certainly won't hurt your performance.

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