May 15, 2015 § Leave a comment
Hello. I am here to talk about food, diet and race nutrition.
Here’s my advice:
Don’t take my advice. I’m not a dietician or a nutritionist. I have some experience and knowledge (I have been eating for over 45 years now) and I mean JUST LOOK AT ME! but I have no qualifications or expertise in these matters. (I wouldn’t necessarily take the advice of a dietician or nutritionist either.)
Routines are boring, but they are really, really effective. Plenty of people will try to sell you their routines in the form of diet books and training programs. What you need to do is figure out what yours are and then follow them day after day. The sooner you figure out what you can do on repeat, the better. My life works like this because it has to or the whole fragile machine with cogs labelled ‘kids’, ‘job’, ‘chores’, ‘school’ and ‘house’ will fall apart. Not to mention ‘relationship’.
Cook your own meals. This is probably the single most useful piece of advice I’ve got. It’s virtually impossible to get the sheer amount of salt, fat and sugar into food that you prepare from scratch as it is to consume it when served to you through a drive-thru window or in a high-end restaurant. I am a decent cook and it is astounding how much of those things you have to force in to get food to taste like restaurant food. Cooking also requires planning, shopping, hauling and prepping, so as well as eating fresher food and fewer calories, you use more energy getting it on your plate. Plus, who has a deep fryer? No one, that’s who. And don’t be all ‘Gah, I can’t cook for one!’ That is bullshit. I lived alone and it was awesome and I loved cooking myself dinner.
Eat fat. It’s delicious, it’s filling and it is a good energy source. Removing fat from food is dumb. It makes food look and taste bad, and the removed fat is almost always replaced with things that will harm you more than the missing fat. Like sugar, and other manufactured ingredients that attempt to do what the fat did. There is a sugar lobby angling to squeeze more sugar into food. There is no fat lobby, so stick up for fat ok?
Eat carbs. Just as all carbs are not equal, all carbs are not equally bad. A four-ingredient, just-made loaf of bread is not the same thing as a Coke but people are starting to act like it is. This is madness. Eat grains. Enjoy bread, pasta and rice. Agriculture is what made humans the tall, strapping, long-lived plague on the earth we are today. Plus they taste good.
Sugar isn’t that bad. You don’t have to Quit Sugar For Life but sticking to small quantities of it does help. Don’t substitute fake sugar for real sugar though, because that will just confuse your body and it will keep looking for sugar. I thought this was sugar. Where is the sugar? GIVE ME THE SUGARRR! (Same goes for fat.)
Don’t drink carbs, unless you’ve earned it. Knock back a smoothie after a massive gym session, or gulp sports drink during an event. It’s just a bad idea to consume soft drink, sports drink, juices, milkshakes and smoothies as a source of everyday hydration. Your go-to hydration should be tap water.
Don’t fret about protein. It is virtually impossible to have a protein deficiency unless perhaps you’re a vegan or have an actual medical condition. There is protein all over the place if you know where to look for it, and you don’t need vast quantities. Eggs, dairy, legumes, whole grains, meat. Sorted.
Eat less meat. Usually, it means that you have to eat more vegetables and other interesting and varied foodstuffs, which is bound to be healthy. I’m non-committal about whether a vegetarian diet is good for you. It’s really good for cows, pigs, chickens, sheep and deer though, who in their own small way have hopes and plans for their lives, and meaningful relationships with their peers and offspring. If you must eat an animal, try to buy one that had a good upbringing, then kill it and eat most of it. Confession: I eat fish and seafood that I don’t catch myself. Sorry fish 😦
Drink alcohol, drink coffee, if you like. I like coffee and I like alcohol, though I don’t need much of either. Sometimes, at the end of the day I need to celebrate my triumph and resilience (or anesthetise my despair and foreboding). But remember, alcohol is a decent short-term solution but a fairly poor long-term one. Caffeine has at last, I gather, been vindicated as a proven performance enhancer, so make of that what you will. It’s also a great reward.
When training or racing, fuel but don’t overfuel. I’ve seen dudes start out on a ride with more food than a picnic. If you’re going to be a while, take some snacks with you, not an all-you-can-eat buffet. Also, there is some crazy literature around regarding hydration. ‘Drink before you need to’. ‘Allow for 2-3 litres per hour’ etc. This is insane. Drink when you’re thirsty, okay? Your body is very good at figuring this stuff out.
Side note: I find running nutrition harder than cycling nutrition because running puts more stress on your digestive system. In my first 50km footrace I spent the middle-third suppressing the urge to spew. In my second I couldn’t bear the taste of the energy balls I’d spent ages perfecting. So it goes. On a bike ride I’m more likely to get hungry and hit a wall but I don’t think I’ve ever really bonked on a run. Isn’t that interesting?
Anyway, practise your race nutrition in training (this includes locating, opening, extracting and then storing rubbish from gels and bars, all while moving) and just hope that you get the quantities right and that it doesn’t all nauseate you on the day.
And now, some recipes. What self-respecting blog on diet and nutrition comes without recipes? Not this one!
For the night before: TBR, which stands for tuna, broccoli and (brown) rice. This started out as a household joke about what bodybuilders eat and has gradually become a staple meal. The basic requirements are a tin of tuna, some cooked broccoli and a packet of instant brown rice, but you can add whatever you like. Some grilled haloumi, toasted seeds and nuts, extra vegetables, boiled eggs are all really good. Put everything in one big lovely dish and mix.
In the morning, granola. I highly recommend this recipe for Maple Almond Granola. It is incredibly delicious and your kitchen will smell like HEAVEN while you make it. The serving size is one or two handfuls only, so layer it with banana, rolled oats, plain yogurt, berries and a splash of milk.
And for performance snacking, you can’t beat a protein cookie. The basic recipe is equal quantities of grated apple and/or carrot, natural peanut butter, almond (or other nut) meal, and chocolate protein powder. Just squish it all together with your hands, shape into cookies and bake just enough to give the outside some firmness. I like to add other stuff like coconut butter, cacao powder, dried fruit or chocolate (not in warm weather). Oh, and salt.
So that’s my two cents! Happy eating and good training 🙂