Type “nutrition for cycling” into Google and you’ll come up with almost 26 million results. No wonder we are confused sometimes!
Consider antioxidants to be like the cleaners of your body. Antioxidants are important for mopping up free-radicals which damage cells. It’s for this reason foods full of antioxidants are sold as “youth-boosting” or “super foods”. You know the ones - blueberries, goji berries, dark chocolate....
But, did you know that antioxidants should also be considered an essential part of your post-exercise recovery? Antioxidants have been shown to speed up the recovery process and reduce muscle soreness after a hard session. More importantly, research has shown the best results come from using antioxidant-rich whole foods, rather than supplements. Blueberry and dark chocolate recovery smoothie anyone?
The performance enhancing drug you can buy at the café
Caffeine has consistently been proven to improve performance with some studies showing an improvement by up to three per cent in the lab. It is thought caffeine alters our perception of how hard we’re working, so we can pedal harder for longer when we take caffeine compared to when we don’t.
The recommended dosage for performance improvement is usually 1-3mg caffeine per kilogram of body weight (e.g. 70-210mg for a 70kg rider). Be careful you don’t overdo it though; taking more won’t offer an extra benefit and may lead to negative side effects like shakiness, increased heart rate or gut trouble.
Sports drink: a marketing gimmick?
Not necessarily… Drinking fluids with high sugar content like fruit juice, energy drinks or soft drink (usually around 10% carbohydrate) during a ride can cause diarrhoea and cramping as they draw extra water into the gut. Sports drinks on the other hand are usually made with 4-8% carbohydrate and contain electrolytes that help with absorption into the body. This means you have less liquid sloshing around in your gut, leaving you feeling less in need of a Portaloo on route!
Your dentist is probably crying…
All this talk of sports food and drink leads to your dentist’s door. Regularly using sugary food and drink on the bike for fuel can increase your risk of cavities. It’s not just the sugar - the acidity of sports foods and the fact that you have less saliva (due to all the huffing and puffing), leads to the perfect environment for tooth erosion.
Instead? If you use sports food and drink, sip water between mouthfuls of sports drinks and after you’ve had a gel, and try to rehydrate as quickly as possible so you have lots of saliva to help reduce the bacteria in your mouth. Most importantly, make sure you see your dentist regularly.