As a cyclist, you must hear many times that the breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and nutritionists for cycling agree that whether you want to burn fat, ride fast or both, the front-loading or the breakfast your day is essential. But trainers suggest that you’ better not to skip until after you ride, and the long ride cyclist fuels up like lumberjacks while racers search endlessly for the perfect winning fuel.
For 6 to 12 hours, a long stretch, assuming that most people eat every four hours while awake, you may find that you ingest no energy. Yet your body is difficult to work rebuilding muscle and process the information you took in during the day. It powers these efforts by tapping into your stored energy. But by morning you’re operating on a calorie deficit—and your brain takes the hit.
One research has shown that morning fueling up improves mental acuity and coordination. It gives energy to your body and your brain which lead you to make smart decisions so that you can react quickly when cycling. Also, another research has shown that it will dim your mood and mental functions if you do not eat breakfast.
Riders' training diets also need to be varied enough to provide sufficient protein to support muscle repair and polyunsaturated fats to reduce muscle damage and vitamins and minerals to aid cellular growth and repair. Considering the duration and intensity of training sessions, you can make your fuelling plans accordingly.
EASY TRAINING OR SHORT RIDE
If you’re taking an easy day for cycling, you’ll still want to have a light breakfast. For a ride that involves an easier route, you need to eat about 30 minutes before and consume 200-300 calories to replace what you lost in sleep. Skipping breakfast for a light ride will cause you to risk overeating later. You don't need to eat much for sub-two- hour ride. But don't skip breakfast. You'll go into deprivation mode, and risk overeating later. Just 200 to 300 calories will replace the glucose you lost while you slept and let you ride longer. Exercisers who eat a small breakfast are able to work out 16 percent longer before tiring, according to one study. Include foods with fiber. Fiber can also increase the amount of fat you burn during exercise, which slows digestion, so your glycogen is harder to access, which forces your body to pull energy from your fat stores.
On days when your slow-to-moderate rides are sandwiched around an eight-hour desk session, avoid fast-burning fuel. Instead, reach for protein, healthy fats, and high-fiber veggies, fruits, and grains, which will keep hunger at bay until lunchtime.
Meal Suggestion: Oatmeal with fruit or one cup of oatmeal and half a banana, scrambled eggs with vegetables, mixed berries, and a slice of high-fiber toast with nut butter
A time-trial is a race against the clock and requires you to use a lot of energy in a very short amount of time. If you have a time-trial race, you’ll want to eat but you don’t to have a big breakfast. Too many calories and eating too close to the start time will bog you down. Fatty foods, even in small amounts, could cause you problems as well. You want to aim for about 400 calories, two hours before start time. For a small boost, you’ll want to consider having an energy gel or block 15 minutes before the race begins.
Meal Suggestion: Two slices of toast with jam, an egg, fat-free vanilla yogurt, small banana and an orange juice.
Your body will be left with little energy for digestion. Top off your glycogen stores with extra carbs the night before. The real breakfast skill comes in portion control. You don’t want to eat too much or too little and run into problems on the track. You need to eat two hours before the ride, eat a low-fiber breakfast with a small amount of protein plus fast-release fuels, which clear your system quickly.
Meal Suggestion: A piece of toast and a smoothie made with berries, banana, and plain yogurt
HIGH-INTENSITY RACE OR HARD RIDE
Most racers take in too many calories from the wrong places. A little fiber is suitable, but too much can slow you down and make you sick. Aim for less than two grams by eating foods like bagels and white bread. Watch for fat, as well. Many athletes eat peanut butter, thinking they're getting protein and not realizing that it's 70 percent fat. Then they feel weighed down and can't race well.
Meal Suggestion: two slices of white bread with jam, six ounces of fat-free vanilla yogurt, a small banana and a glass of orange juice. Eat an energy gel or block 15 minutes before the start. You should eat before about two hours.
For the hard ride:
A hard ride is usually thought of as one that will push your physical ability and endurance. For example, a challenging route or a route that lasts for hours or even all day. For cyclists planning on going for a hard ride, you’ll want to aim for a breakfast with 400-600 calories, two to three hours before your start. Because this breakfast is heavier you’ll want to give yourself some time to digest or you’re likely to throw up halfway through the ride.
You may be tempted to eat a breakfast even larger than that but doing so will make your calorie intake over the course of the day uneven and you may find yourself overeating. For longer rides, you will, of course, need to take plenty of food and drinks with you.
Meal Suggestion One: Oatmeal, an egg, toast with nut butter, and a glass of orange juice. Have an energy block or a portion of a sports drink 30 minutes before you start.
Meal Suggestion Two: Two pancakes, half-cup berries, one cup fat-free yogurt, and one slice of Canadian bacon or one scrambled egg. No need for syrup! It’s too full of sugar and empty calories!
CENTURY OR OTHER LONG RIDE
The general long rides call for the slow-release energy offered by protein and whole grains.
Meal Suggestion: an egg burrito with sweet potato, spinach, and salsa. Include water-dense fruits for hydration and anti-inflammatory foods such as walnuts and berries, which help repair muscle tissue and alleviate soreness.
For a century, it takes about 400 to 500 calories, and you should eat before two hours.
Century riders are often tempted by a Denny's All-American Slam (at 1,000-plus calories). It's better to have half that amount--about 500 calories--and eat throughout the day for an even stream of energy. Because you likely won't go full throttle, you can eat a wider variety of foods. Lewin suggests a breakfast rich in mixed carbohydrates, plus a little protein and healthy fat. This will give you an energy boost for the start of the ride but will prevent bonking before the first food station.
Meal Suggestion: Two pancakes, half a cup of berries, one cup of fat-free yogurt and one slice of Canadian bacon or a scrambled egg. If you plan to ride easy, you can replace the egg with a slice of frittata (see recipe next page).
For Hard Shop Ride, it takes about 600 calories and you should eat before three hours.
A two- to three-hour Hammerfest will burn more carbs than a long recreational ride or even a one-hour race. Consume about one gram of carbohydrate per pound of body weight. The harder you ride, the more glycogen (carbs) you require. "You need plenty of energy, which means more food and calories, so eat early enough that your body has time to fully digest them," says Lewin. "Top off with a gel or a few bites of a bar right before you start to ride." Research shows that athletes following this eating strategy can push 20 percent harder near the end of rigorous exercise than those who don't eat before and 10 % harder than those who have just a snack.
Meal Suggestion: A bowl of oatmeal, one slice of toast with a tablespoon of nut butter, a cup of yogurt and glass of orange juice. Have a gel, a few bites of bagel or some sports drink 30 minutes before you start.
Note that: calories are based on a 150-pound rider. Add or subtract portion sizes proportionally based on your body weight.
For a weekend ride under 3 hours, you should have a high carbohydrate meal the evening before, followed by a high carbohydrate breakfast. It will be sufficient to start the ride with muscle glycogen levels adequately topped up. A two- to three-hour weekend ride on flat and rolling roads will burn through most of your energy stores, so eating a carb-rich breakfast is essential. Pair grains with fruit advises Boulder, Colorado-based coach John Hughes: "You can digest more carbs per hour if they're from mixed sources."
Meal Suggestion: Oatmeal (not instant) with milk, berries, and banana
When it comes to weight control, the role of breakfast is complicated. Skipping it has been associated with a higher risk for obesity. But according to a recent Cornell University study, some people who passed on the morning meal actually consumed 400 fewer calories by day’s end. However, that savings doesn’t always translate to weight loss. Skipping breakfast can lead to a decrease in your ability to burn calories efficiently because your body is used to conserving energy stores. That may explain why breakfast eaters tend to be slimmer than skippers. Researchers at Israel’s Tel Aviv University found that women who ate half their daily calories at breakfast lost almost 20 pounds on average over 12 weeks, while those who ate more of their calories at dinner lost just eight pounds (even though all participants consumed 1,400 calories a day). The 2013 study also reported that those who ate a bigger breakfast dropped more inches from their waistline and lowered their body-mass index nearly twice as much as those who skewed their calories toward dinner.
Starting off with a variety of healthy fats, protein, and unrefined carbs, such as oatmeal and whole-grain bread, delivers sustained energy that curbs cravings. The key is to tailor the meal to the kind of riding you’ll do. Use the ideas below to fill your plate wisely.
Fuelling properly for exercise is vital to get the most from your workout. The main fuel for exercise is a carbohydrate, which is then stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen. The body is only able to store a relatively small amount of carbohydrate, which is why keeping it topped up is so important.