One would think if they are training for an event – actually following a scientific method to makes gains – one would start, at some point at least, to feel good, strong and capable. But that is not the case at all when your body is under constant stress. And mine is definitely under constant stress these days!
For the past 3-4 weeks I have been feeling, well… bad (for lack of a more interesting word). Tired, sluggish, irritable, foggy, fat, slow, lazy and frustrated that I am all of those things (mostly the fat, slow and lazy parts though ;p). I even so much as broke down on a particularly hard climb a couple of weeks ago. Being frustrated and tired enough to cry during riding – this is definitely new territory for me.
Fortunately this feeling seems to partially stem from my eating habits. Which, by all normal accounts, are quite good. Lots of veggies, fruits, healthy fats, lean proteins and the like. A very typical, healthy diet. Except, I am not doing typical activities these days.
One of the most beneficial things a cyclist can do for recovery is to consume carbohydrates within 30mins of getting off the bike. I however, am lucky if I eat within a couple of hours and then, frankly, the first thing that goes in is probably a beer (apparently avoiding alcohol is especially important immediately after the ride when the body is in the critical glycogen restocking period – what?!). I guess it’s time to be more aware of what I’m consuming post-ride. Especially since what I eat when I get off the bike can affect how I will ride the next day and the day after that and the day after that. Since my plan is to finish a 6 day event, I better figure this out!
I have learned the hard way (see the above crying) that from not consuming anything of value (or anything for that matter) after a ride, my body is in glycogen debt and I’m not adequately replenishing it for my next day’s efforts. Every day the situation gets worse and the riding becomes more unpleasant until by the third or fourth day of hard efforts my blood sugar levels are so low I’m suffering through it with my head down requiring a day off to physically and mentally recover. Or end up frustrated and crying on the trail… I’ve experienced both scenarios.
So whats my solution? Well, I’m still trying to figure that out. After a ride, you want to flood your system with carbohydrates that can be quickly converted to blood glucose which will in turn supply you with the glucose your body needs within the crucial 30 minutes. But how much is needed? There’s much debate on this subject. One calculation that I found on the low end of the scale says you should aim to ingest 1/2 gram of carbohydrate for each pound of body weight during the 30 minutes after you get off the bike. For me, that is 70g of carbs I should be taking in. Another calculation I found on the high end states 4g of carbs per pound of body weight should be consumed. For me, that’s 560g – or an insane amount. The way I see it is the lower end of the scale is probably good for everyday riders, weekend warriors so to speak. The high end would properly fuel a professional athlete. As I’m neither the low nor high end, my plan is to take in 70g of carbs as the bare minimum starting point.
I don’t normally want to eat right after a ride so I use a recovery drink (currently Vega Recovery Accelerator) and have for some time now. After looking up the nutritional information on it, I noticed it only has 17g of carbs per serving. So while I have been thinking I’m doing this awesome recovery step for myself, I still need another 53g!
So I started looking into some other recovery drink options. Prima is a locally made brand (major points!) and has two lactose free options (more points!). One serving of Prima has 30-34g of carbohydrates depending on the flavour. Better! It may be a time for a change. Or heck, maybe I will try to have both. Consuming both one serving each of Vega Recovery and Prima will leave me needing another 20g. BUT, if I can get in an energy bar (Prima’s Salted Chocolate Peanut Bar has 25g of carbs) as well, I’m golden.
Eating post-ride isn’t the only piece of the puzzle. Another super important part of riding a bike long distances for days on end is on-bike nutrition. When Tyler came back from Sea Otter this year, he brought home Biju Thomas and Allen Lim’s Feedzone Cookbook for me. Hallelujah!
This book is not only filled with great recipes to fuel a cyclist, but also great insights. Allen Lim is a bike nutrition and training scientist with a goal to have athletes not only survive with what they put in their bodies, but thrive on it, to use food as a weapon.
One of my favourite quotes from the book:
“Regardless of you athletic talent, the meals that fuel you are best when made, as much as possible, from scratch. However, making meals from scratch and taking the time out of our already busy schedules is hard. This fact has spawned many of the processed products we think of as sports food. Though these products are convenient and can play an important role in supplementing an athlete’s diet, this convenience belies a simple truism about athletics: Being an athlete is hard. If you want to reach your potential, it’s unlikely that the best way will be easier or more convenient.”
Since receiving the Feedzone, I’ve made a few recipes from the portables section – and they’re pretty damn good if I do say so myself. Now that bacon is a part of my trail food roster, there’s no more crying on the trail. Coincidence? I think not.
One of the reasons I chose to do an event like the Singletrack 6, and have stuck with what is required to finish it, is that I’m fascinated by training, nutrition and everything that goes along with preparing for an event. How the pieces of the puzzle all fit together, why I feel the way I do, how do I feel if I make changes, how much of this can I adapt to my everyday life? Nutrition is just one more piece of the Singletrack 6 puzzle, just like my training at Marx Conditioning is. Riding my bike with Monika for 6 days this summer is definitely the icing on the cake, but the process of getting there may be the cherry filling!