How to Eat Like a Cyclist (or any endurance athlete)

Monday, August 2, 2010 by Courtney K

I woke up ridiculously early all weekend. For once, I was happy about that because it meant I was awake to watch the end of the Tour de France. It’s anticlimactic the way you know who the winner is before the final day, and I was disappointed that I missed all the big crashes of the early stages, but still – I got to see a lot of recaps and listen to Phil Ligget. Love that guy’s voice.

 

In any case, while I’ll never be a serious cyclist, Bicycling Magazine recently put out an article with a bunch of great health tips and nutrition tips that anyone can use: 14 Ways to Eat Like Cyclist at the Tour de France. (Sadly, the ‘France’ part doesn’t involve baguettes and cheese and wine.) You can read the whole thing here, or just enjoy my quick recap: 

  1. Green or black tea. Studies say it may help delay the onset of muscle weakness. Personally, black tea wrecks my stomach and I have yet to find a green tea I think is palatable, so thanks, but no thanks. But there's no denying the natural health benefits of tea, so if you can, brew up a cup every now and then ... and be sure to buy organic tea when possible.
  2. Carbs. We’ve heard for years now about bad carbs and how they just turn to fat. And they can ... if you don’t use them. If you’re active and you’re going to burn them off, they’re a source of energy you’re going to need. As I’ve been tracking my calorie intake, I was surprised to see how many carbs are in fruit. So pasta and fruit? I’m on board with this one.
  3. Soybeans and tofu. Bicycle mag says “The branched-chain amino acids in soybeans stop muscle degradation during long rides while the antioxidants help alleviate post-ride aches and pains.” I love edamame, but all the salt on there probably makes that a no-no. Lucky for me I love soy milk and tofu.
  4. Calories. They’re energy. You need them. Keep eating—just make sure they’re useful, healthful calories and not empty ones.
  5. Salmon and tuna. Fatty fish are a great source of omega-3s. Reports on the benefits of omega-3s and other essential fatty acids benefits are innumerable, including (according to WebMD) helping to reduce joint pain and inflammation.
  6. Refuel. You need to keep you blood sugar stable – no huge spikes or drops. You’ve heard it before: smaller, more frequent meals rather than skipping breakfast and having a huge meal later.
  7. Turmeric. This subtle, earthy spice contains a compound called curcumin which may help reduce muscle inflammation and increase endurance. For me, this makes frequent appearances in veggie stir-fries.
  8. Don’t experiment. Ten miles in to a 50-mile ride in the middle of nowhere is not the time to find out that new energy drink makes your stomach turn or your heart race. Stick with energy drinks or snacks that your body is familiar with.
  9. Berries. The antioxidants are great for muscle health and recovery. A handful of raspberries or strawberries make a great snack (see #6).
  10. Color = nutrients. Vibrant colors (or lack thereof) can give you a clue to the nutritional value of what you’re eating. Just for starters: red for lycopene, orange and yellow for carotenoids, green for folate, blue for anthocyanidins.
  11. Cucumbers. They may not seem like the most substantive food around, but actually they provide silica (to support connective tissue), vitamin c, potassium and magnesium.
  12. Real food. The list starts to get a bit redundant here (see #4, and later, #14). Point is, eat something with real nutritional value. They suggest a turkey sandwich (protein, fat and carbs). I’m thinking sweet potato & black bean burrito (see pic).
  13. Papaya. These are full of vitamins, enzymes and fiber. Unfortunately for me, I hate the taste and texture of papaya, so I’ll have to look elsewhere.
  14. Essential nutrients. Iron, B12 and folic acid enrich the blood which supports your endurance. Since I’m not going to gnaw on a big ol’ steak, I’ll go back to that sweet potato (folic acid) & black bean (iron) burrito … with a side of B12 supplement.

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