In this era of hectic lifestyle, long working hours, frequent business travels, intake of processed and junk food and a persistent habit of skipping meals, your decision to step up as an enthusiastic endurance cyclist may demand some lifestyle changes. While an inherent zeal for fitness and athletic perseverance are the underlying need for endurance cyclists, there are a series of other important factors that play an important role.
1. Never Skip your Breakfast
An early and healthy breakfast comprising of protein, fat and carbs literally recharges your biological batteries and helps your body generate the right blend of energy. Remember, a cyclist could actually burn more than 5000 calories in a single day of dedicated cycling.
Aim for a fist sized portion of low-glycemic carbohydrate with every meal. Intake of fruits, raw vegetables, cereals such as oats, wholegrain sandwich or a moderate serving of wholegrain rice. The small servings ensure adequate balanced supply of energy. High glycemic food creates an abrupt spike in insulin and blood glucose level. This in turn creates a sudden energy spike and eventually leaves you very lethargic.
Processed and packaged food such as rice cakes, bagels, doughnuts, crackers and packaged breakfast cereals comprise of artificial sweeteners such as High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and have High glycemic index.
2. Mindful Eating is the Key
While the need for adequate breakfast is paramount, endurance cyclists should choose their overall meal diets with utmost attention. Your body needs a balanced intake of quality carbs, fluids, healthy fats and lean protein.
The selection of “good” fat over “bad” fat is important. Good polyunsaturated fats such as omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats are great sources of energizing fuel, deliver fat-soluble vitamins and helps in lowering cholesterol levels and reduce heart diseases. Vegetable oil, starflower oil, fatty fish such as catfish, salmon, trout and mackerel, flaxseeds and walnuts are good sources of Omega-3s. Saturated fat or the “bad” fat found in high-fat dairy, meat, eggs and all processed food are the key reasons for decreased HDL “good” cholesterol and increased LDL “bad” cholesterol.
Protein helps your muscles grow and recover. You could choose from a regulated intake of whole grain bagel, hard-boiled egg, lean meat, beans, pulses, baked potato, peanut butter sandwich, glass of chocolate milk, or whey protein shake. The source doesn’t really matter as long as you intake around 20-30 grams of protein.
While fat-soluble vitamins E, D, K and A are stored in the body, the water soluble vitamins need to be supplied with our regular diet. Choose an ensemble of dark colored fruits and vegetables is recommended. To sum it up, mindful intake of the following 5 things is important:
- Low fat
- Moderate portions of protein and carbs.
- Low fiber
- Lots of fluid not too high on sweeteners and artificial colors.
- Food that your body can tolerate well. (Doesn’t contain bloating or acid refluxes)
3. Drink enough Fluid to keep yourself hydrated
Hydrate yourself well before starting your cycling trip for the day. Sip 12 to 16 ounces of water at least three hours before the start. While cycling, drink enough water to match the humidity of the day, rate of sweating, intensity of your pedaling and your body’s overall demand.
One 16 ounce bottle per hour in cool weather and up to four bottles per hour in extreme humid conditions is recommended. To replace the fluid and electrolyte loss, a wisely chosen Sports drink comprising of calories, potassium and right amount of sugar could help. However, a whole range of processed sports drink contains high levels of sodium, artificial sweeteners and caffeine which could have a negative impact.
4. Getting the right Bike
For beginners, selecting the right bike with components and frame is very important. An expert will measure your proportions, flexibility and might swap out some components, such as the stem, handlebar, and seat post. Components and frame materials vary by performance, weight, and durability, so it’s wise to educate yourself in advance.
Although it seems counterintuitive, you should avoid cushy saddles with lots of padding. That’s because your weight will sink through a soft model and press against the hard bottom. Instead, plan on using a firmer, narrower model common to sportier road bikes that will support your sit bones and muscles.
5. Know Your Limits and Act in Advance
As beginner endurance cyclists, one often fails to interpret the early-signs of over-exhaustion which could lead to complicated situations miles away from your home or locality. You must correct your cycling intensity, targeted travel distance per day or regulate your diet to stay on track.
- Cycling leaves you exhausted and totally drained of energy.
- You are falling sick too frequently.
- You are unable to sleep and experience certain “discomfort”.
- You have the “heavy legs”.
Watch out for symptoms such as weak feelings, headache, nausea, faster than normal heartbeat, etc. Yoga and Pilates have been found to be very effective in boosting energy. Avoid alcohol and smoking. It is always recommended to go to bed early – you’ve got to give your broken muscle tissue enough time to recover!
While cycling could be a great way to build up your endurance, a proper blend of nutrition, exercise and bike equipment is essential for achieving that goal.
John T Lyons grew up riding the canyons of San Diego on his single speed Huffy. After a stint working for Shelby American in automotive and then in the Aerospace industry, JT started Moment Bicycles. He developed a “better way to buy a bike” using his engineering problem-solving skills. Learn more at http://momentbicycles.com
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