Monday, May 10, 2010

Cycling Nutrition - a basic guide

Comments from my recent post on Fitting, Fitness, and Fuel prompted me to post this article (with a few edits...) I recently wrote for a newsletter. It is geared heavily toward the Hammer Nutrition products - as that's what I use and what we were emphasizing in the article; but it's still a good guide whatever your brand of choice may be. Enjoy!

You've heard that expression applied to many different topics; but it is no less true when it comes to how your fuel your body on a ride (or any exercise for that matter). Proper nutrition during exercise and endurance activities is one of the most important keys to success - and to enjoying those activities too. However, there are a few really common mistakes which most of us have made in the past or make regularly which hurt our performance - often without even knowing! With some help from Steve Born of Hammer nutrition (who's excellent article on this very topic can be found online here) I want to offer a guide to success in your pursuits in the coming season. So, read the guide; and then Steve's article, to decide which products to add to your regimen.

We'll start with my favorite product - and probably the most beneficial one: Recoverite. How many of us go out and ride hard or put in a killer workout only to spend the rest of the day sore, run down, and wishing we hadn't gone so hard? Wake up the next morning - and: POW - it's even worse! Makes it hard to feel like doing it again, but then - how do you get any stronger? The secret is in recovery - and recovering properly.

Resting and letting your muscles repair themselves after a hard workout is when you gain your strength and fitness. Giving your muscles the proper fuel to effectively repair themselves and flush the toxins which are created during anaerobic efforts is the trick to reducing soreness and fatigue, reducing your recovery time, and building your fitness faster - not to mention more enjoyably.

Recoverite (and many other recovery products); containing the critical 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates and protein, should be used within 30 minutes of completing your workout while your metabolism is still ramped up. Your muscles will receive the proper fuel, in the proper dose to help begin healthy and rapid recovery. Glutamine and electrolytes also help boost your immune system and accelerate re-hydration to help reduce that tired and run-down feeling. Because endurance activities also require far above-average oxygen consumption; you are more prone to oxidative damage issues - thought to be a cause of some degenerative diseases and impaired recovery. The antioxidants in Recoverite help buffer these reactions. Finally, proteins in these recovery products often act as an appetite suppressant - keeping you from going home and cleaning out the fridge after your ride!

So, now that we've helped you recover better - let's help you out during your activity. Most athletes make their biggest mistakes during their workouts or events. Giving your body the right fuels at the right time in the right doses is not easy, but there are a few things to avoid. Hammer's HEED and Perpetuem; used correctly, help avoid the mistakes of over-hydration and intake of improper fuels like simple sugars (fructose, glucose, or sucrose).

The long-chain maltodextrin found in these drink mixes is a complex sugar (carbohydrate) and therefore "burns" more evenly than the simple sugars found in many popular energy foods and drinks. Additionally your body can only absorb a small amount of simple sugars per hour during intense activity. This means that drinking a concentrated mixture of these fuels or drinking too much results in wasted fuel and wasted energy - as your body is still having to work to move that fuel through your system even though it cannot convert it to energy. Complex carbs can be absorbed and converted to energy in far higher concentrations than their simple counterparts; resulting in far more efficient fuel conversion and less likely over-dosage with concentrated mixtures. In layman's terms: if you find your body requires more fuel than average (mine does - I'm a big guy with a really in-efficient engine), you can mix your drinks a little heavier. This helps you take in more fuel in fewer ounces and reduce your chances of over-hydrating which can result in cramping just like under-hydrating.

HEED is an electrolyte rich mix great for efforts of up to 2 hours. Perpetuem is for two hours or more supplying the same valuable electrolytes and the added protein that you need to reduce the likelihood of metabolizing muscle tissue in your body's search for more fuel.

Hammer Gel is a useful tool to help avoid the above cited mistakes of related to hydration and quality fueling. Its composition is also one of complex, long-chain carbs to deliver higher-quality fuel in a stronger, more useful dose than the simpler sugars found in may gels. But, did you know that it is important to use solid foods carefully if not sparingly during your efforts? Solid foods require more effort from your digestive system to break down into fuel and then deliver that fuel - recruiting valuable energy from processes more useful to your endeavor. Gel provides the valuable nutrients in doses which are easy to manage and don't require as much energy to convert for use. You wouldn't give a race engine anything other than the right fuel. Sure, it can derive power from a variety of sources; but only a select few are efficient and logical.

Even though they do produce the Hammer Bar (which is remarkably tasty and easy to eat compared to many others; by the way), Hammer only recommends it for consumption before starting an activity or as a meal replacement. They do, however recognize that solid food is sometimes useful for variety or distraction during prolonged efforts, but caution that you ought to be particularly careful of what and how much you consume - your performance is at risk, after all. There are plenty of documented cases of successful prolonged endurance performances on no solid food. I myself have had 5 and 6 hour rides with nothing more than a granola bar for solid food in addition to gels and drinks and with good success.

The great thing about anyone's performance products is that they now come in a broad enough range of flavors that almost anyone can find something to suit them. While I am a big fan of Hammer's products - as they've proven themselves to me time-and-again - I've said many times that the most important thing is for you to like the products you're using; otherwise you won't use it often enough or stick with it long enough to be effective. If you need more info, check out Steve's articles on Hammer's website or pick up one of Hammer's Nutrition Guides and learn more.

And, as always, I'm happy to help answer your questions and help you to love your cycling experience. Leave a comment and I'll reply.

Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

  1. thanks for the info. all new information to me.



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