Eating right for those long rides

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Eating right for those long rides

Post by Admin on Sat Sep 22, 2007 11:37 am

By Monique Ryan, MS, RD

With the arrival of spring and warmer weather for many North American cyclists, longer weekend rides are an enhanced and improved part of the training plan. While you may be wisely planning on carrying plenty of sports drinks and gels for the ride itself, what you eat in the hours before and the day before the ride can also provide an important nutritional boost.

Ideally, any long ride begins with adequate fuel stores, namely muscle glycogen, liver glycogen, and even adequate muscle fat or triglyceride levels. Chances are most all of us are beginning this phase of training with more than adequate adipose fat. Rest assured that fueling prior to longer rides will only allow you to train harder and longer. This translates to more calorie burning, helping you to reach your body-composition goals for the race season.

Nutritionally speaking, preparing for your long weekend ride begins after your last ride, which may leave you a window of anywhere from 12 or 24 hours' recovery time. The shorter your recovery time, the more important it is for you to focus on eating properly and replenishing your fuel stores.

Your daily diet
Eating well after your last training ride will replenish your muscle glycogen stores at the start of a full weekend of riding. Start the recovery process within 30 minutes after your last training ride. Aim for 0.5 g of carbohydrate for every pound of body weight, about 80 grams for a 160-pound cyclist. You can also add 15 g or more of protein to the mix. Start rehydrating as well, about 24 ounces of fluid for every pound of weight lost during the ride. (This is also a good time to check on your hydration strategies on the bike - if you are losing more than 1.5 to 2 pounds per ride, your fluid deficit is high). Adding some higher-sodium foods and fluids to the recovery mix can also enhance the rehydration process. Real foods and convenient recovery drinks are both effective fuel and fluid replenishers.

Post-ride recovery nutrition simply allows you to take advantage of the accelerated rate of muscle glycogen resynthesis that occurs after hard exercise. But it is also important that you continue this recovery process by eating adequately the rest of the day. That 80 g of carbohydrate (maybe a bit more or less), only got you started on your carbohydrate intake. Before a full weekend of training, aim for 3 to 4 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight. For example, that same 160-pound cyclist would need to consume anywhere from 480 to 640 g of carbohydrate that whole day to recover from a training ride lasting 90 minutes to two hours, and to replenish for an even longer ride the next day. Aim for some carbohydrate intake at each subsequent meal or snack, with protein and fat to round out your caloric intake. Your protein needs are also moderately high, but easily met with a balanced diet. A diet moderate in fat should be adequate, though after rides four hours or longer you need to focus on consuming adequate amounts of healthy fats, about 0.5 g per pound of body weight to replenish muscle fat stores. Continue to hydrate adequately with meals and snacks as well. If your urine is pale in color, you are likely well hydrated.

The morning of the ride
Though your muscles may be ready to ride from proper eating the day before, your liver glycogen stores can be substantially reduced during your overnight fast when sleeping. Liver glycogen is the all-important fuel supply that keeps blood glucose levels steady during the night to maintain basic functions such as breathing. Eating a good meal before the ride, usually a solid breakfast, fills up your low liver glycogen stores. This liver glycogen supply, along with the carbohydrate you ingest from a sports drink during the ride, keeps blood glucose levels steady during the ride.

When you eat before the ride is a matter of practicality and scheduling. What you eat is a matter of metabolic, gastrointestinal, and personal tolerances. And how much you eat is a matter of timing. But as plenty of research shows, consuming higher amounts of carbohydrate can improve your training efforts on the bike.

Three to four hours before the ride
While weekend training may start in the early hours of the morning, three to four hours is often the optimal time to eat before hard training. You can consume a moderately large meal, and still have plenty of digestion time. This pre-ride timing is also a heavy favorite on race day, so make sure to get in plenty of practice meals. With the right timing and portions, eating right during this time period will restore liver glycogen to normal levels; allow you to store glycogen in the muscles if portions are adequate, and prevent hunger during training.

For every hour that you allow yourself some digestion time, consume just under half a gram of carbohydrate for every pound of body weight. You can safely consume 2 grams per pound four hours before, and 1.5 grams per pound 3 hours before training. At three hours before training, the 160-pound cyclist could consume 240 g of carbohydrate. Your favorite cereal with dairy or soy milk and fruit are good choices. For easy digestion try a bagel with jam, juice and some low-fat yogurt.

Two hours before the ride
Early ride times may require that you time your meal two hours before training. Keep your carbohydrate intake to 1 g per pound (160 g for the 160-pound cyclist). With this close timing, liquid carbohydrate choices become even more attractive as they are quickly digested, and hydrating. Breakfast shakes, liquid meal replacements, smoothies, and sports supplements often provide more than 50 g of carbohydrate per serving, and can be combined with easily digested solid items.

One hour before the ride
A variety of scenarios, such as wanting every last possible minute of sleep, could necessitate consuming food in this short window of time, though the amount you can tolerate is relatively limited. When you eat in the 30 to 60 minutes before training, you will have a marked increase in blood glucose and insulin levels before training. A decline in blood glucose during training follows, though this effect is short-lived and really produces no adverse symptoms or effects in most athletes. In fact, many studies have confirmed that consuming carbohydrate in the hour before training can actually provide a performance boost. Having 70 g of carbohydrate or more should maintain blood glucose levels in individuals with exercise hypoglycemia, other cyclists can consume from 50-70 g in this time period. Obviously, you must be very careful with your choices and may want to stick with gels, energy bars, and high carbohydrate drinks.

Hydration before training
Of course hydration should be part of the plan before any long ride. Pre-hydrate in the hours before you start your ride as dehydration is on the most significant performance-related problems that can occur during training - long before you feel the effects of fuel depletion. Despite your best attempts to keep up with your sweat losses during training, it is likely that you are not going to match 100 percent of your fluid losses. Rehydrate adequately from the last training session and consume fluid in the evening before bedtime. Your early morning intake should consist of 16 to 24 ounces of fluid. You can add another 8 to 12 ounces of fluid if you have a few hours time.



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