Serious about cycling – Carbs are key

Cara Cunningham, Community Dietitian

Reporter:

Cara Cunningham, Community Dietitian

Serious about cycling – Carbs are key

Its Le Tour de France time again – although this is at the extreme end of the sport with 21 stages covering a mind boggling 3,664km (that’s almost 2280 miles) on the flat, mountains and time trials.  Even amateur cyclists will cover the miles so it is important to have the right mix of fuel on board to combat fatigue and optimise performance.

Carbohydrate is the fuel source for our muscles, and so the most important nutrient for all sporting activities.  A cyclist needs to have energy stores providing a steady supply of energy to cover them for their long journeys.  Muscles store energy as muscle glycogen; importantly a person can ‘train’ their muscles to maximise this storage.

 During training it is important to eat a healthy diet rich in carbohydrates, this will provide energy to cover the increased requirements; without this increase in calories a person will just lose weight (and this includes muscle weight) which is fine for most of us looking to lose weight but in people serious about sport in general they want to maintain their weight, and gain muscle.  There are no short cuts when trying to build muscle, the only way is by hard work and training.

When training is done there is a window of opportunity to restock the muscle with glycogen; by having a carbohydrate rich meal or snack.  Having some protein with the carbohydrates does seem to help the muscle build up.  Good options therefore would be fruit and yoghurt, milkshake, meat sandwich etc. 

Hydrating the body and having enough fluids is also vital, any amount of dehydration will lead to a drop in performance.  Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink because at that point you will already be dehydrated. During exercise you should aim to drink 150-200ml every 10-15 minutes.  Your body needs to be  used to you taking on board this amount of fluid so drinking regularly should be part of your training regime. After the event you need to replace lost fluid; a great option is to go for milk as it appears to not only hydrate you but also supplies your body with protein for muscle repair.

Eating well needs to be part of training, there is no point having an ideal snack or drinks only on the day of the event.  It is only by having optimum nutrition on a regular basis that your body will be fuelled up and ready for action.

 For more information on any of the issues discussed above, or for more information on diet and nutrition, please contact Maria at:  The Community Nutrition and Dietetic Service, HSE Dublin-Mid Leinster by telephone on (044) 9395518 or email community.dietitians@hse.ie.