What are the basic nutrition rules for a cyclist? Both during training and races, or a simple ride, it is important that the muscle work is supported by the right choices at the dinner table. Here they are.
The cyclist, to avoid being halfway in energy shortage, or hungry, or thirsty, must be well aware of how nutrition affects the level of its performance. The food is nourishment but also fuel for the organism, and knowing this it should be well managed before, during and after a cycling effort.
The rules which can be considered always valid for cyclists are: consume up to five meals a day, depending on the workload. Diet of carbohydrates and proteins: whole grains, low-fat white meat and fish. Fruits and vegetables are very important too. To be avoided the so-called « junk food », highly caloric, poorly nutritious and low quality: avoid also overly processed foods and too seasoned ones, high in saturated fats and refined sugars, or fried.
Carbohydrates, better simple or complex?
Starches are complex carbohydrates mostly found in cereals (pasta, rice, bread, oats, barley, spelled) and tubers (potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes); they are transformed by the body into simple sugars, and then used as a source of energy. They are therefore very important for the cyclist. While complex carbohydrates are slow in assimilation, the simple ones (sugars found in fruits, vegetables, milk and dairy products or sugars added during food storage and preparation) are a source of energy more immediate. For the cyclist, complex carbohydrates are critical because, being absorbed slowly and gradually by the body, they provide lasting energy. Simple carbohydrates instead provide immediate energy, thus they are great when an energy peak is required, but their effect is short-lived, therefore they are less effective than the complex ones.
The value of the proteins
In addition to the fact that they are fundamental in the composition of all tissues and blood, proteins are an energy source of which cyclists can take advantage. They also help the body to build new muscles. They are consisting of amino acids; some of them are synthesized by the human body but others, needful, must be in the diet: they are the so-called essential amino acids. The proteins with an higher range of essential amino acids are called « with high biological value » and they are provided by eggs, milk, fish and meat. The proteins of legumes, such as beans, lentils and chickpeas are plentiful but « incomplete » because they lack some essential amino acids. It must be said that amino acids missing from legumes are however present in cereals: eating cereals and vegetables together provides the body with all the necessary elements for the formation of proteins of high biological value.
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