Pedal your cycle and you realize that you are part of a machine. The cycle has the gears and spokes and wheels and you are the engine that powers it.
Cool analogies aside, engines need fuel, and the right kind, for optimum performance.
And for us, that means food.
Specifically, it means glycogen in your muscles, which means carbs. And afterwards, to aid recovery, it means a combination of protein and carbs. Where does body fat fit into all this, you may ask. It’s a good question. After an hour or so of cycling when your glycogen is finished, the body will tap into its reserves, but that comes with the feeling of hitting a wall – your stamina, energy, motivation will all take a sharp dip – which is when you would need to replenish with some fast-absorbing carbs.
We’ve put together a list of 4 things to remember when it comes to fueling up for your ride:
Yes, you would need a light and quick breakfast before setting off in the morning. A banana, half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a small oats and fruit smoothie would be the perfect boost. Most of us have enough glycogen stored up in muscles for an hour or so of riding, and breakfast half an hour before your ride would be a perfect top-up.
Eating on the go!
If cycling more than an hour, you would need to consider carrying a snack. A banana would be perfect, or an energy bar. Energy gels made specifically for the purpose also are engineered to have just the right combination of glucose and fructose to hit your muscles quickly to deliver the boost you need without the feeling of fullness that can weigh you down.
Carry a bottle of water with you for rides under an hour. If going out for longer rides, consider a sports drink with electrolytes. Generally, the warmer the weather, the more dilute you would want your drinks since you’ll be needing a lot of weather, while in the cold you wouldn’t feel so thirsty, so you’d want more concentrated electrolytes and carbs in your drink.
Immediately after your ride, try to get your hands on some combination of carbs and proteins. Peanut butter on whole-wheat bread, a chocolate milkshake, eggs on toast – these are all recommended by experts along with a fruit or vegetable juice to provide all the TLC your muscles would need as a reward for all their hard work!
What really happens, of course, is that there is a dhaba at the end of the trail with samosas and chole bhaturey and chai. Perhaps not optimal for nutrition but hey YOLO. The joy of tucking in may well outweigh the sluggish leaden feeling of lugging all those transfats back home. Have a great time!