Nutrition matters. We all know it – but that doesn’t mean we eat and drink what we know we should. And as athletes, we suffer from these choices too. The symptoms of poor nutrition rears its ugly head in many ways: via muscle cramping, struggling to complete workouts, unsuccessful race efforts, and that nagging few pounds that doesn’t seem to drop off no matter what you do. As the Spring cycling season is right around the corner, now is the time to dial in your nutrition – on and off the bike. Here’s how.
As the weather improves, it makes it easier to increase your mileage and saddle time. Which also helps to slim down. The post,10 Ways to Manage Offseason Weight Control, offers easy options to keep the pounds off, as in, writing your food down in a food journal; consider the timing of your meals and intake; and limiting calories on easier exercise days. As we’ve written previously, there are also apps for cyclist to manage off-season gains. Another option is to opt for a different meal plan all together. Have you considered getting started with the Paleo diet? A quick approach is to add more vegetables and good fats to your diet.
Now, hydration. It seems it’s an overused word, but a post about nutrition would be incomplete without the discussion of hydration. For obvious reasons hydration is a huge topic in the summer months, but it’s also critical in the winter months as the post, Hydrating for Winter Training points out. Hydration planning is important prior to, during, and post workouts. Even more important, is dialing in your race nutrition. Early season is the time to experiment with your nutritional needs leading up the season.
As you approach your first race of the season, you may want to read the post, A Guide to Race Day Nutrition. While riding, many cyclist have different preferences as to how they prefer to get their fuel – whether that is in nutrition bars, gels, and liquids. However, oftentimes, a course may dictate other options. As in, for mountain bike riders, a technical course may present obstacles in taking solid food while riding versus taking fluids. Furthermore, as the post suggest, “having all of these different (nutrition) options can tend to create confusion and challenges for athletes as to which is ideal and which is best for them. In addition, choosing the right type of fuel depends on many factors such as duration, intensity and what type of activities such as cycling, running or multisport.” The end result: experimentation during training and early season will aid in dialing in proper race day nutrition for your “A” races and events.
But what happens when all the nutrition planning goes wrong? What if you have stomach issues while training and racing? How do you know what the cause is and what to do about it? As noted in, Stomach Issues while racing – Possible causes and solutions, poor pacing can easily lead to stomach issues, ingesting too many carbohydrates and or too much protein can be another possible cause for stomach issues, as well as too many surges within a long duration race can lead to a shutdown or at the least a slowdown of digestive ability.
Ultimately, solving the bike nutrition mystery is about using your early season training to dial in your bike, bike parts, and nutrition. Preparing well and listening to your body is the key to minimizing physical issues and optimizing training efforts for success later in the year.