Your Nutrition Questions Answered by Barry Murray, Sports Performance Nutritionist.

Aug 22, 2012

What's the best recovery meal/snack with 5 mins prep?

This all depends on the duration/intensity of the ride.  A 1hr easy spin does not require any specific recovery.  However, a hard 3hr ride will have caused glycogen depletion, protein degradation and immuno suppression.  In addition to this, the physiological stress endured will have triggered adaptations to occur, which is how the body essentially gets fitter.  The recovery needed after this type of session is protein and High GI carbohydrates.  The protein and carbohydrate sources need to be easily digested and quickly absorbed.  The amounts then need to be based on the individual’s weight, as an 80Kg person will need more than a 50Kg person.  The type of protein I recommend is whey due to its amino acid profile and biological value.  Basically, this means that it has all the necessary bits and pieces to help the muscle repair and adapt, as well as being easily digestible.  The type of carbohydrate I would recommend is fruit: dried fruit, fruit juices, honeys, jam or even plain glucose/dextrose powder.  This is the one time when quick sugars are actually beneficial for the body and help to rapidly replenish glycogen depletion, as well as raising insulin which is necessary for recovery.  Fruits are probably the best recommendation since they are a natural food and are nutrient dense, as well as having a combination of glucose and fructose, which aid rates of absorption.

Is there anything in the world better for cyclists than malt loaf?

In terms of nutrition and health – yes, lots of things.  First, look at the ingredients in malt loaf.  It consists of wheat, inverted sugar syrup, vegetable fat and E numbers.  Oh, and some raisins.  Now, without making this a thesis, wheat and vegetable fat are not healthy, nor are E numbers.  A thick slice will give you about 30g of carbs and not much else.  This amount of carbs, though, is fine if out on the bike and is typically what is contained in a standard sports bar.  However, it’s not particularly healthy.  A healthier choice would be foods like bananas, dried apricots/raisins and natural energy bars, such as Nakd and Pulsin.  Or ideally, make your own bars with things like oats, honey, molasses and peanut butter.  All of these foods provide carbs (with a blend of glucose and fructose), some protein, minerals, vitamins and no crap.

Which is best...carrot cake or coffee and walnut?

That’s kind of like asking, “What’s better, a Heineken or a Budweiser” … so I’m not going to answer that one.  It’s absolutely pointless to try and choose a cake based on its nutritional value.  They’re all full of sugar, margarine and flour, so if you’re having one, have what you feel like on the day!

What to eat on the café run and is latte or espresso better?

The café run advice is similar to the response I gave above.  To elaborate a bit more on that, a natural homemade cake - with no added crap, made with quality ingredients like real butter and not margarine, good quality cocoa powder, maybe gluten free - would be a better all round choice.  It should also depend on the ride you are doing.  If it’s an easy 2hr spin, then ideally you should not be having anything, whereas I recently rode 6hrs with Steve Cummings and Max Sciandri and, after 4hrs at the top of a 10Km climb, we stopped in a café and had 2 cakes each!  On the coffee subject, there is not a huge difference.  The latte comes with about 200ml of milk, which is something that doesn’t easily pass through the stomach for some.  So, an espresso would be better in this case.

Is beetroot juice all it’s made out to be?

The research behind beetroot juice is strong with some good studies by Andy Jones research group in Exeter.  It works by reducing the oxygen cost, which improves efficiency and reduces time to fatigue.  It has also been shown to slightly reduce VO2max, though, so it may not work for some depending on the length/intensity of the race.

Is marzipan a good on bike food?

It consists of sugar and almond flour, so not the worst.  A 50g piece will give you roughly 30g of sugar, 5g of fat and 3g of protein.  Some marzipans have other ingredients, so like everything, it's best to get the most natural, pure version (to use one of my very scientific recommendations – no added crap!).

I've heard the saying 'train low, race high'...what are your thoughts?

I agree with this in general.  It’s all about putting things in context, though: what type of training is being done? what time of the season is it? what are the rider’s goals? etc.  However, in general, training more in a depleted state can lead to greater adaptations.  Again, this is a general statement and what that involves depends on many variables.

What to eat on a club run, approx. 50 miles?

All depends yet again – how hard are you going? how rested/fresh/fuelled are you? what are your goals/aims?  If it is a standard, hardish group ride, then the typical recommendation is to consume 1g/Kg of carbs per hour.  For a 75Kg rider, that would equate to a cereal bar and 300ml of an energy drink.  However, by choosing to eat less, you can improve your fuel efficiency and potentially gain better adaptations.  I know many riders (including me!) who ride 50-60 miles with no food, just water. How fit the person is obviously dictates your requirements too.  A relative newcomer doing his or her first 50 mile group ride would be advised to eat every 30-60mins at the recommended quantities. However, the experienced, fitter rider can easily complete the same ride by eating once or twice.  So, like everything, it all depends.

On the subject, I think this is a very important message that everyone needs to realise when it comes to nutrition recommendations.  There really are no blanket recommendations that apply to every single individual.  It needs to be a “no one dress size fits all approach.”  Individual recommendations need to be based on the individual.  Several factors need to be taken into account, so that the appropriate and relevant advice can be given.  That’s what I do with all my athletes.

What sports bars/gels and drinks do you think are best ?

I’ve spent the past few years learning about and examining practically every sports product on the market.  My conclusion is this: they supply nothing that you can’t get from natural foods.  Let me give you a few examples:

Sports Gel = water + sugar + some salts

Natural Food Version = water + honey + pinch of salt

Sports Bar = sugar + flour/oats + vegetable oils + sweeteners + artificial crap

Natural Food Version = oats + honey + peanut butter

Sports Drink = water + sugar + salts + sweeteners + artificial crap

Natural Food Version = water + fruit juice + sea salt

Case closed!

Category: Advice News

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