From the power of protein to the conundrum of carbs, we’re overloaded with nutrition advice. Here, we sort the fact from the fiction:
I can ride on just coffee
YES BUT NO... In truth you probably can but unless you’re planning on cycling at a snail’s pace, it won’t be a pretty ride. “Our bodies have an almost unlimited supply of fat which we can use as a source of energy, but only if you exercise at a very low intensity,” says Annie Simpson, a performance nutritionist at OTE Sports. As soon as we hit a hill or someone shouts ‘go hard or go home’ we move immediately out of that fat-burning zone. “At this higher intensity we rely on our carbohydrate stores to fuel our ride but these will only last for around 90 minutes of moderate to intense riding. If you continue working hard once these carb stores have been exhausted, you start to compromise the quality of your training and your health,” adds Simpson. So, unless you want to limp home like a wounded soldier have more than a flat white before you sit in the saddle.
Recovery is all about protein
NO. Remembering the three Rs of recovery should help dispel any myths about relying solely on protein after a ride. Rehydration is important for regulating our body temperature and transporting important nutrients around our body. Refuelling means replacing the carbohydrate stores in our muscles in preparation for the next training session. And repair is about eating sufficient protein to help our muscles rebuild and adapt. “After a training session or ride you need something that ticks all three of these boxes, not just one,” says Simpson, much like an OTE Recovery Drink.
Water is the best way to hydrate
NO. Cycling is a sweaty business. Fact. Whether it’s an indoor Wattbike training session or a coffee shop ride on the road, when you exercise you perspire even when it’s cold outside - let’s face it, winter layers can leave you in a hot, red-faced mess. When we sweat we not only lose fluid but salts such as sodium, chloride, and potassium too. So, when it comes to rehydration you must replace the fluid and those salts - they are essential for muscle contraction, preventing cramp and they help your body retain the fluid you ingest. Adding an OTE Hydro Tab to your bottle is a great way to stay on top of fluid and salt levels, in and around your training sessions.
Carbo load before every event
DEPENDS. There’s to more maximising performance than just troughing tagliatelle the night before a race. “For an event under 90 minutes it is not necessary to increase carbohydrate consumption in the hours before you ride. But for longer endurance events it’s been found that increasing your carbohydrate intake to 8-10g per kg of body weight per day, in the two days leading up to an event, can be effective,” says Annie Simpson. (For a 70kg person this would mean eating 560g-700g of carbs a day - one large serving of cooked pasta contains around 75g of carbohydrate). Simpson adds, “Equally as important though, is to reduce your training loading. This allows your glycogen stores - our muscles store glucose as glycogen - to increase rather than continue to be depleted through training”. So in summary, slightly more carbs and a little less exercise is the key to a successful event.
Fasted training makes you lean
MAYBE BUT BE WARNED. Morning training is great - it gets it done and out of the way and leaves the rest of the day for work, family and friends. And whilst there’s some research to support the idea that working out in a fasted state can burn more fat and in turn help you lose weight, the evidence for exercising before eating is mixed. On the one hand, after your overnight fast your glycogen stores are depleted. This means your body could flip to using fat as a fuel leading to a leaner you. That said, it’s likely that because you’re low on glycogen you actually won’t be able to train as hard and if you really push it you could hit ‘the wall’ - cue your legs feeling like concrete and your pace dropping to a plod thanks to depletion of glycogen stores in the liver and muscles. This can leave you feeling wiped out for the rest of the day. “For those exercising regularly breakfast should be something you make time for every day so you don’t compromise your training sessions.” says Simpson.
Annie Simpson is a performance nutritionist at OTE Sports. For more information on OTE Sports and their range of sports nutrition and healthy snacks visit OTE Sports.
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Hargreaves, M., Hawley, J.A. & Jeukendrup, A. (2004) Pre-exercise carbohydrate and fat ingestion: effects on metabolism and performance, Journal of Sports Sciences.
Hutchinson et al. (2017) Matching Meals to Body Clocks- Impact on weight and glucose metabolism. Nutrients.