Nutrition For The Working Cyclist – By Chris Evans Velo 21 Ambassador
Nutrition is a hard thing to get right, even more so when you are cycling to work, so once you have your bike, equipment and clothing sorted, you might want to think about what you’re going to eat both during the ride and once you are in work. Getting the right balance of the required energy releasing products and nutritious balanced diet is not easy! So here are my top tops for nutrition for the working cyclist!
Some say it is the most important meal of the day and depending on the length of your commute this may be the case! A lot of cycling commuters use fasted riding to work as a great tool to aid training and weight management, but if your commute is longer than 50-60 minutes it is not recommended to do this.
Porridge is a fantastic way to start the day be it plain or with fruit. You get a good hit of protein, calcium, B vitamins and carbohydrates. Mixing it with berries or even golden syrup for extra sweetness is a good way to not only change it up a little but also get extra vitamins from the fruit.
Other great foods if you have the time can be poached eggs on toast (A personal favourite!), overnight oats or protein pancakes. Try to avoid anything that sits heavy on your stomach or too fatty, fatty foods are the hardest to digest and anything to heavy will just cause you discomfort on the bike.
If you are eating before the morning commute also try to get your timing right – this is not easy as it involves balancing the need for sleep – time to eat and get to work, which we find is why fasted commuting is very popular!
Ensure you leave enough time for your body to digest your food before you ride to work, our advice on this is to do what’s right for you as everyone is different!
Eating little and often can help aid your energy levels, maintain blood sugar levels, aid with weight loss but also stop you reaching for the dreaded chocolate bar or cake in a bid to stave off a hunger pang! Pack your lunch bag with a healthy option such as some fruit or nuts.
Be sure to take something different each day that you know you like, this prevents you from becoming bored with the same old thing.
Some top choices would be fruit such as grapes, an apple or even the cyclist’s favourite – a banana! You can also mix this up with natural yogurt if the plain fruit is not to your liking.
Other great options would be nuts such as cashews or pistachios, but not too many as they are good for you in moderation but not in large quantities.
Let’s be completely honest here – who always has the time to prepare the night before an amazingly healthy, nutritious lunch for the next day? Not me that’s for sure! Avoiding the works canteen or the sandwich bar/van can be hard when time is precious, but in doing so you are doing yourself a big favour.
Look for quick and cheap options for lunch there are some amazing cook books out there with some of the recipes offering 15 minutes cooking time – even the hardest pressed cyclist can find 15 minutes in an evening to prep a meal! Or even make a little extra of the night before tea – bingo lunch for the next day!
Ensure you are getting the balance right of proteins, carbohydrates and fats in your lunch is also key. Don’t overdo it on the fats!
If you are lucky enough in your work place to have microwaves or warming facilities consider taking soup with a bread roll, pasta with some lean meat and sauce or even the dreaded salad!
If like most of us you get a mid-afternoon hunger pang, or a little low bout of enthusiasm towards the latter part of the working day, a small afternoon snack is a good idea not only to lift the spirits a little but also fuel the ride home!
Flapjack – who doesn’t like a nice sweet treat in the afternoon? Not you? Consider some nuts or a smoothie. Or even some homemade muffins! Try this recipe from British Cycling for Banana and oat muffins– sweet treat that doesn’t add pounds on the scales!
If you have had a particular hard ride home or used it as a HITT training session, you may want to consider having something like a protein shake or even a glass of milk with something small such as a banana to put you on till you have your evening meal, this will aid with recovery. That is unless you are lucky enough to have someone at home who has prepared everything for you!
Balance is key when it comes to evening meals and you don’t need us preaching at you about the good the bad and the ugly there are lots of articles, videos and news bulletins about what is good and not so good for you these days, our motto? Have a little of what you like and balance it with things that are good for you.
If you are looking to maintain lean muscle and aid recovery try to eat things like chicken, oily fish, lean steak combine it with lots of vegetables more so the ones that are packed with phyto nutrients and anti-oxidants as these aid recoveries. Rice and pasta are also good in moderation.
MY TOP TIPS!
- Everything in moderation – no point cutting everything out if all you are going to do is binge later down the line!
- Preparation is key! – Plan ahead to avoid last minute dashes to the vending machines!
- Don’t overload on the carbs or fats!
- Eat small and regular to maintain energy levels.
Everyone is different so be sure to do what is right for you, if you are watching your weight or trying to lose weight keep portions small but not so small that you struggle on the bike. If you are commuting every day you may want to consider supplementing your diet with protein shakes or overnight protein such as casein which can aid recovery.