USA Cycling sat down with Bonk Breaker owners Chris Frank, cat 1 road cyclist, and Jason Winn to talk about proper fueling. They gave us their top five tips for properly fueling as a cyclist.
1. Eat REAL food
Focus on foods that will give you the biggest bang for your buck. Not all calories are equal. Nutrient dense foods are naturally packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. On the contrary, empty calories from processed foods offer little nutritional value and minimal benefit. Athletes require more than just calories in fueling, they need ‘high-octane’ fuel that replenishes muscles and increases athletic capacity.
So what to eat? REAL food. Real food is simple. It is minimally processed and is as close to how it is grown in nature as possible. Aim for your plate overflow with fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains. When you do not have the time or luxury to cook or prepare REAL food, try quick and easy snacks such as squeeze-pack nut butter with fruit, Greek Yogurt, trail mix, veggies & hummus or real food nutrition bars, such as Bonk Breaker bars.
2. Eat Consistently
Like a well-oiled machine, athletes perform better when they are sufficiently fueled. However, your body can only utilize so much nutrition in one sitting, so eating all your calories at 1 or 2 large meals doesn’t work. Think Thanksgiving dinner, sure you ate enough calories for a couple days, but could you really train for a week and have enough calories from that one meal. NO!
Start your day with a healthy breakfast that includes 2-3 ounces of lean protein, 2-3 servings of carbohydrates and 10-15 grams of healthy fat. Continue eating well-balanced carb and protein rich snacks and meals every 2-3 hours. (Bonk Breakers High Protein Bars are a quick breakfast or afternoon snack when time is tight.)
3. Fuel like you’re an athlete ALL DAY!
It is easy to focus on fueling around training hours but neglect your nutrition throughout the day. Whether you are busy at work, jumping from appointment to appointment or running the kids to and from activities it’s easy to forget to fuel like an athlete when you’re not training. However, your body doesn’t forget and is continuously recovering and preparing for the next days training session or race.
Fueling like an athlete all day means eating enough! If you are feeling consistently tired or zapped for energy, or if you’re craving sweets or constantly thinking about food – you may be in a calorie deficit which means you may need to eat more. The fear of gaining weight often results in many underfed athletes. However, keep in mind that getting to ‘race weight’ is only worth it if you are still strong and able to successfully train at that weight! Instead of restricting calories, focus on functional food choices that are nutrient dense.
What foods will give you the most nutrition and fill you up? Real foods such as veggies, fruit and lean proteins. These foods fill you up, decrease cravings and provide vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for recovery. Sufficiently fuel up so that you start the season healthy; if not, it makes for a tough year and nutrition has a lot to do with that!
For starters, drink plenty of water throughout the day. Seems simple, but it’s easy to forget. Water is a wonderful performance enhancer, it aids in recovery and helps avoid cramping. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, only you can determine your fluid needs because it greatly varies from athlete to athlete and depends on conditions.
On a daily basis it’s quite simple: If you are properly hydrated, you should urinate every 2-4 hours throughout the day and your urine should be clear or light in color. In addition to water and fluids, eating REAL food high in water content (like yogurt, oranges, lettuce, melons, and soups) also contributes to hydration.
During exercise, determine your hydration needs by calculating your sweat rate. Weigh yourself before and after a hard workout. Each pound lost represents one pound (16 ounces) of sweat. During training, replace sweat losses accordingly, and try to lose less than 2% of your body weight.
Recovery lends your body to change. Recovery is when your body adapts and becomes stronger and more resilient. Olympic silver medalist Dotsie Bausch weighs in that recovery starts before you even get off the bike, “I am a big proponent of on-the-bike eating, it helps me push my final intervals and manages my hunger after training.”
Fuel properly on the bike, so that you’re not famished after training. Immediately after training (within 15-30 minutes), consume a carb and protein-rich snack such as chocolate milk, yogurt, smoothie, protein shake, or Bonk Breaker High Protein bar. This sets you up for the next day’s training. Recovery doesn’t start until you eat, so fuel up before you put your legs up!
In short, eat REAL food consistently, stay hydrated and recover!