Nutrition: What to drink and when to fuel your cycling

By Cycling Plus | Monday, May 24, 2010 3.00pm

Round-the-clock drinking is vital. No, we’re not talking about extended pub licences, but which drinks are best for cyclists, and at what time of day. Here are some suggestions.

6.45am: Green tea

If you need caffeine to kick-start your day, trade in your regular morning cuppa for a steaming mug of green tea. Not only is it packed with antioxidants, in particular catechins which help people who exercise to lose more weight, but a study conducted in Japan found that regularly drinking green tea could help boost endurance exercise performance by up to 24 percent.

9am: Orange juice

After riding to work, make sure you restore fluid levels by consuming something to aid recovery. Potassium-rich orange juice is perfect as the potassium lost from your muscles during exercise needs to be replaced to stop muscle cramping and cardiovascular irregularities. Also the electrolytes in orange juice replace those lost through sweating, its carbohydrate helps restore muscle glycogen, and Vitamin C helps protect cells and keep them healthy.

11am: Water

Making up two-thirds of your body weight and helping maintain the health of every cell you have, water keeps your skin clear, your blood flowing and your muscle lean, and even a small decrease in your body’s water can lead to dizziness, headaches and fatigue. Water contains no calories, keeping you hydrated without putting on weight, especially if you’ve spent the best part of the morning sitting at your desk.

1.30pm: Cherry juice

Not only is it full of antioxidants, but tart cherry juice, according to research from Oregon Health and Science University, can be an effective pain reliever. In a study, long-distance runners who drank the juice twice a day for seven days before a big run had significantly less muscle pain than those who had any other fruit juice. So whether you use your lunch break for a bike ride, a catch up with friends, or (often inevitably) to work, drinking cherry juice can be a preparatory recovery measure ahead of an event.

3pm: Coffee

Middle of the afternoon, energy lull, time for a caffeine hit to ward off the drowsiness, and with 95mg per cup, coffee will certainly do the job. A 30ml cup also contains eight percent of your daily niacin requirement, needed for the production of red blood cells, and one percent of your daily potassium needs, which can help regulate blood pressure and heart function.

5.30pm: Sports drinks

Time for the commute home, maybe incorporating a training ride, so grab an isotonic energy drink to glug en route. This type of drink replaces fluid lost through sweat and provides energy which is burned up through muscle use, enabling you to cycle further and faster. It also contains sodium which takes water directly into the blood when it is absorbed, helping to prevent dehydration. Once you get home, top up your fluid levels with a carb-protein recovery drink to restore energy and you’ll be ready and able to cook dinner or put the kids to bed before you know it.

8pm: Red wine

Containing several antioxidants, a typical glass of red wine has between 0.3 and 1.7mg of resveratrol which researchers from the University of Queensland found can kill cancer cells and protect heart cells. It also contains catechins which play an important role in lessening the risk of heart disease. However, drinking too much can have the notable side-effects of dehydration, headaches and nausea the next day, so drink in moderation.

10pm: Hot milky drink

Time to get some shuteye, but even after a tiring day this can be easier said than done. That’s where a warming drink such as hot chocolate or malted milk comes in – sweet enough to boost sugar levels and give a sense of wellbeing, warm enough to help you feel comfortable and sleepy, and lacking in stimulants such as caffeine. Plus, the amino acid tryptophan in milk can increase your body’s serotonin levels, aiding relaxation.

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