I’m Pav Bryan of Direct Power Coaching and I’ve picked my top ten most misunderstood cycling nutrition “facts” below and give you the low-down on what the truth actually is!
The theory of nutrition can be a bit daunting and when you combine this with an array of pseudo-science laid across the internet, it becomes a bit of a minefield.
So, let’s get started!
Cycling nutrition: There is no perfect diet for everyone
FACT: This is entirely correct! In all my years working as a coach and helping people with their cycling nutrition I have never found a diet that works 100% for everyone. Some people respond well to one, and others might not. Sometimes it can simply be put down to nature, such as allergies or intolerances restricting certain important food groups. But other times it can also be mental; not all of us like sticking to one regime, we might not like the taste of certain foods and this might lead us away from certain diets.
The best bit of advice here is to try them out, giving them a good go and stopping only if something feels really wrong. Make notes on how you feel, how your cycling performance changes and do this as far away from your key events as possible, where any issues won’t affect your performance, or any losses in performance can be regained with ease.
It has healthy written on it; it must be healthy
MYTH: I’m unaware of any country who has yet to stipulate that certain terms like ‘healthy’ are to be used in a factual manner. Besides that, I’m sure most companies would find an argument for their product being ‘healthy’. Not everything you buy in a health food store will be healthy neither, learn how to read labels and use your common-sense.
Remember that companies need to make money and if marketing a product as healthy improves their sales, they will almost certainly do it. There are ethical companies out there, but even they have to bend to certain market influences, demand dictates a lot of what is available.
Eating vegetables will improve your cycling
FACT: Yep, this is true. The more fruit and vegetables you can eat, replacing starchier or processed carbs like; bread, pasta and rice the better you will perform on the bike.
They contain a very similar number of carbs, dependent on your portions, but fruit and vegetables are digested slower meaning you’ll not flood your body with sugar, which in turn may be stored as fat or give you swings in mood or energy.
If you’re going to have some, save those starchier carbs for pre or post-race.
Fat makes you fat
MYTH: Nope, not at all… Fat is essential to life and we need to consume certain amounts and types of it, see below for the only one we don’t need.
It’s all about picking the best ones, avocados, olive oil, and other plants contain the right fats your body needs. Some fish contain omega fatty acids, which most people lack, but again, you can get this from plant sources.
Trans fats are the only fat to be avoided
FACT: Seriously, you don’t need them. These are the man made ones hiding in processed foods. Simply removing them from your diet will have a great affect in your performance and general health.
A calorie is a calorie
MYTH: If you eat your calorie intake in donuts every day, will you ride your bike better, even if you eat the same number of calories in fruit and vegetables? No, simply no!
Supplements will never replace food
FACT: I can’t see a day where this will ever be true. There is a place for taking supplements, allergies or intolerances might force you to take some. Convenience is a great reason to have a protein shake. Even vegans might consider taking an amino acid supplement. But in reality, you can meet your cycling nutrition needs from eating real food, plus it’s more enjoyable!
Skipping breakfast is ok
MYTH: Nope, you’ve just gone a whole night without eating – this might be at least 8 hours, why would you want to skip a meal in the morning?
Your body needs fuel; your brain needs fuel. You might lose some weight in the short term, but it’ll come pilling back on in the end and your bike performance will suffer in the meantime.
Diets only work when lifestyle changes are made
FACT: This is so true! If you’re looking at a diet as a short term change then you’re also looking at your weight loss or cycling performance as such. As soon as you stop dieting, which usually is very fast due to the nature of going to quickly with your diet, you will pile the weight back on and lose any gains you may have gotten on the bike.
Diets simply only work if you’re in it for the long run. It’s not that hard, it’s just mentality. Don’t tell yourself this is going to be hard, this will be easy. Take it one small step at a time and know that the closer you get to being perfect, the easier it becomes!
Water is all I need to hydrate after exercise
MYTH: Nope, and the way I can prove this is by asking you to taste your sweat next time you train. Tastes salty right? That’s the sodium you’ve sweated out and like all things that you lose through training, you need to replenish it too. A good electrolyte tablet will work, but so will a pinch of pink Himalayan salt.
Hopefully, with this information at hand, you’ll be able to make smarter eating choices. I’m almost certain that, out there in the nutritional wilderness, there are many more myths that need busting so please drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you need your questions answered.
Responsible for a team of five coaches, Pav is a well-respected coach within the cycling community. Pav is experienced in public speaking and has presented numerous times around the world including being the 1066 Cycling Festivals Guest Speaker.
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