Cyclists, like all athletes, need a balanced diet of protein, carbohydrates, fat, minerals and vitamins. Admittedly, a diversified diet is likely to make it possible to achieve this objective. However, the cyclist who has an important practice – strong (in volume and intensity) and heavy (I am thinking in particular of mountain bikes) – will not find in his daily and usual diet everything he will need.
It is therefore worth recalling that a balanced diet includes nutrients, minerals and vitamins.
Carbohydrates are the best food for cyclists. These carbohydrates belong to the sugar family: monosaccharides (glucose, fructose, dextrose) or disaccharides (sucrose).
We distinguish between fast sugars that are quickly absorbed during digestion and slow sugars that are absorbed over a longer period.
The glycemic index makes it possible to compare carbohydrates with each other, based on the reference sugar, glucose, which is the base 100.
Slow sugars have an index of +/- 50, while fast sugars have an index of around 100. Sugar cubes, honey, jam, carrots are fast sugars.
For slow sugars, let’s mention pasta, rice, bread, potatoes, lentils, dried beans, etc.
Chain of amino acids, they allow the construction of muscles.
Protein sources: meat, game, liver and offal, fish, shellfish, eggs, milk, cheese, yoghurt, legumes, spirulina, soy, oilseeds.
Training leads to an increase in protein requirements. Beware of high-protein diets which, contrary to some beliefs, do not contribute to the increase in muscle strength needed by the cyclist. It is better to be concerned about the origin of proteins than to want to eat too much of them.
For example, it is advisable to limit the consumption of red meat because it is rich in toxins that disrupt recovery, as well as delicatessen products during periods of hardship. Prefer white meats and white ham.
They represent the most important energy reserve of the human body, located in the adipose tissue. It is the preferred fuel for basic endurance training.
A distinction is made between structural lipids (at the heart of certain foods: meat, cheese, eggs, pastries, pastries, pastries, dishes in a sauce, etc.) and addition lipids, consumed as such (food fats: butter, cream, oil, etc.).
The diet must contain a certain amount of fat. It is better to choose them unsaturated (the good fats, essential for the proper functioning of the body). They are found in vegetable oils in particular. On the other hand, saturated fatty acids increase cardiovascular risk: fatty cheeses, goose fat, bacon, for example.
On average, the human body needs 55% carbohydrates, 30% fat and 15% protein.
For the cyclist, the proportions are rather:
Proteins: 10/15 %
Fat: 15/20% Fat
To achieve this distribution, it is necessary to seriously reduce fats and proteins (meat, cheese) and increase long carbohydrates.
The amount of energy expended without producing any activity is approximately 1500 kilocalories for a man and 1200 for a woman. At this basic level, it is necessary to add the energy required for the various activities of the day, which varies greatly from one person to another and depends on many factors.
3 examples :
Man/woman with average activity: 45 kcal per kilo/day
With a high activity: 57 kcal per kilo/day,
Or, for a strong activity:
75 kg man: 4275 kcal
55 kg female: 3135 kcal
Drinking is essential to life… and the athlete. The water balance is ensured by two main minerals: sodium and potassium.
The exercise drink must contain sodium, especially in hot weather due to the high loss of sweat.
Potassium stress losses are low. The food provides for its essential need: fruits, potatoes, vegetables, lentils, dried fruits, chocolate.
Compared to previous nutrients, their respective needs are determined by very small amounts.
On the one hand, they are minerals and trace elements. We can mention iron, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, chromium, zinc, manganese, copper, selenium.
On the other hand, they are vitamins, those that will be stored in the tissues (liver, etc.) with a general regulatory role, and those that are deeply involved in muscle functioning. The first ones mentioned are: A, D, E, K. The second ones: C, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B8, B9, B12.
High content of vitamins B1 and B2 is found in cereals, wheat germ, brewer’s yeast, rice, wholemeal bread, egg yolk, liver.
For vitamin C, these are citrus fruits, kiwi, red berries, cabbage, pepper.
Foods rich in vitamin E are peas, hazelnuts, soybeans, wheat germ, whole grain bread, rice, cereal flakes.
The need for nutrients being determined (see above the distribution between carbohydrates, proteins and fats), the question arises as follows: how can we provide the endurance athlete, the cyclist, with what he will miss when his energy expenditure is much higher than that of a sedentary person?
Since we cannot double, for example, the volume of our food intake to reach the level of micronutrients we need, cyclists will have to opt for a solution that consists in seeking foods that are rich in them. This is called a high nutritional density (HND) food. In this respect, we can mention brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, spirulina, soy lecithin, royal jelly, ginseng, ginger, pollen, propolis, etc…
However, following a few simple practical tips contributes to this so-called DNA diet. Some of them can be mentioned:
Prefer complete foods: bread, rice, pasta
Avoid cooking plants in water, which causes food to lose most of its nutritional content
Once a week, think about eating:
- dried vegetables: lentils, chickpeas, beans…
- foods such as mushrooms, cabbage, rye, black radish, black currant, guavas, onions, garlic, sesame.
- seafood and offal
- Add a teaspoon of wheat germ oil to the raw vegetables
- Drink mineralized waters.
These fundamentals having been established, a next article will address how cyclists, in the face of their objectives, will be able to manage their diet.