Fuel to perform and the rest will take care of itself!

fast fuel pizza 0

Here's a another great blog post from coach Lawrence, this time we're focusinig on fuelling for performace, I hope you enjoy it! 

Recently I was chatting to guy I met out riding. He told me he had raced Cat. 2 in his day and was cycling at a decent pace despite being in his fifties. It was about two o’clock and he was ten miles from finishing a seventy mile loop. Shortly after we started chatting he said ‘I’m doing a bonk ride, I haven’t eaten today, I need to lose this belly.’ My first thought was that is a terrible idea! Then my second thought was I’m going to have to wait to pull out my MASSIVE cherry bakewell flapjack as that would be really rubbing it in! Instead of lecturing the poor hungry guy on how he could lose weight by just eating regularly and probably improve his cycling at the same time I bit my tongue and saved it for my February article.

Let’s use some rough figures to work out what is happening to this cyclist’s body. Say he ate his last meal at eight o’clock the previous evening. His next meal would be nearly eighteen hours later! He’s used around 400kcal in his sleep and then more than 2000kcal cycling. OK, so a good proportion of these calories are going to come from fat stores but it’s the body's reaction to this ‘shock’ that negates the benefits of fasting in this way. Firstly, was this guy going to get home sip a recovery shake and later eat some lean meat, quality carbohydrates and veg? NO, he was going to have a massive fry up, I know this because he told me. This sort of fasting causes the body to go into what is known as ‘famine mode’, If it doesn’t know when the next meal is coming the metabolism slows down and takes more time to absorb as much of each meal as it can, not ideal for weight loss. Secondly, fasting can really affect your ability to make sensible food choices. When glycogen stores are low you will be attracted to quick fix sugary solutions. Blood sugar spikes, then insulin spikes, the sugar high passes and the next energy slump follows and the cycle continues when you are drawn to another quick fix food. Using some more rough numbers I can suggest that this cyclist’s BMR (essentially calories required during a day of lieing in bed) to be 2000Kcal, add the cycle and that equates to a 4000+Kcal deficit. OK, so this is a pretty extreme example (I hope), so what is the better alternative?

  • Eat Regularly - Your metabolism likes regularity and consistency. Aim for 5-6 meals a day; breakfast, lunch & dinner with 2-3 snacks. This will keep your energy levels more consistent and decrease the cravings for quick fix foods. On long rides aim to consume half the calories you burn to maintain performance, eat little and often (every 20-30 minutes).
  • Make breakfast a priority - Albeit as inactive as it gets you are still fasting while sleeping. Kick start the metabolism with some slow release carbs such as porridge on training days and aid recovery with high protein options such as scrambled eggs on rest days.
  • Have a sensible deficit - If you are looking to lose weight then aim for no more than a 500kcal/day deficit. Anymore is unsustainable whilst trying to maintain sporting performance.
  • Time your intake - Try to limit high GI foods (those with simple carbohydrates) to the hour before and during training when your body needs easy to digest fuel.
  • Use the recovery window - Start the recovery process straight after a training session. Getting a recovery meal or drink on board within 20 minutes of finishing a session not only aids muscle repair but it will hold off those sugary cravings until your next meal.   
  • Sleep - Get enough of it! Studies have shown that lack of sleep affects our cravings. Sleep is the ultimate form of recovery. Plan ahead and prepare food in advance, then when you do have those tired days you should have premade well balanced food at hand to keep you on track.
  • If in doubt write it down - Keep a food diary for seven days. The commitment to recording your diet can be enough to sway your choices it is also a great way to highlight any bad habits.    

In a nutshell, make improving your performance the priority. If you balance consistent training with good quality nutrition and optimal recovery you not only enjoy your sport but you will achieve a suitable body composition.