Wednesday 1 July 2015

Proper nutrition and hydration for long rides - guest article by Bharat Krishna V

Nutrition and hydration plays a prominent role in a rider’s performance and recovery. Even really talented and hardworking professional rides find it difficult to reach the podium without following a proper diet and hydration. Maintaining optimum hydration while doing long rides is very important, but many riders do not know this fact. Proper nutrition and hydration helps you overcome muscle cramps, fatigue and injuries.

It’s difficult to do this unless you practice. Hydration is one of the easiest things to do, but equally neglected. Here are a few tips that need to be practiced to stay properly hydrated and nourished.
  • You should be frequently and consistently drinking while on the move. Mainly water, electrolyte or maybe diluted fruit juices. The worst thing about staying properly hydrated is that it causes a tendency to pee. It’s normal that cyclists have the urge to pee at least once every hour. 
  • The amount of water a person loses from his body in an hour varies. But an average person has to drink about 600ml-800ml of water. Adjust your hydration according to your body needs.
  • Ensure you hydrate yourself before you eat that you won’t mistake thirst for hunger.
  • During long rides, its good to carry two bottles . One filled with water and other can be your favourite drink. If it does not contain electrolytes, you should be carrying some sodium tablets or ORS.
Calorie intake and hydration go hand in hand as each influences and facilitates the other. It’s important the you are properly nourished to attain optimum performance whilst riding.

People respond differently to different types of food. Many professional cyclists consume energy bars and energy gels which help them maintain their calorie intake. But many do not prefer artificially prepared performance foods. Many people have problems in digesting energy bars and gels.

It’s good to take along with you some bananas, chocolates, nuts etc which can satisfy the need for carbohydrates. Many people consider swapping from electrolyte to energy drinks that contain carbohydrates according to the intensity of the ride.Typically if you are planning to do 4 hour ride, its necessary that you take at least 3500 calories, 100g proteins, 80g fat and about 600g of carbohydrates. This consumption varies from person to person and the intensity of ride. Here are some of the foods that you may consider to eat.
  • Porridge/Oatmeal for break fast. This is a low glycemic index food which is really good for cyclists as they are a firm source of proteins and give a slow and steady release of energy. You can make it more tastier and healthier by adding some fruits, raisins or nuts. 
  • Coffee: A strong cup of coffee can provide caffeine that improves your endurance performance through altering muscle metabolism and increasing mental alertness. Its important that you try caffeine in training before a long ride/race to assess you own response to it.
  • Nuts and seeds: Nuts like almonds, walnuts and seeds like pumpkin seeds are a good source of protein and fat and provide a lot of calories.
  • Rice: It contains the most essential carbohydrates and its high on glycemic index which means it gets glycogen right into the bloodstream. Eat before or straight after your ride as it’s good for recovery. 
  • Vegetables: It contains the essential vitamins and minerals. It is a great source of carbohydrates and when compared to fruits, its low on sugar which makes it a great food for cyclists.
Apart from the above foods mentioned, there are many other foods that help cyclists maintain their nutrition levels. Riders have their own personal favourite foods. You should be taking the right food at the right time. As hydration and nutrition are important, recovery after a ride is also equally important as post ride exercise is essential to replace the muscle glycogen used, stimulate muscle protein synthesis and replace electrolytes. So it’s really important that you recover quickly after a ride providing your body with necessary nutrients and fluids. Remembering this thumb rule will help you in your rides “Eat before you are hungry, drink before you are thirsty”.

Ride safe. Ride responsibly !

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