Many cyclists are permanently hungry. This is not surprising, since training for a time trial or riding a bike to work every day needs a lot of fuel, and those extra calories don’t come from fresh air.
Nature has designed hunger as a powerful physiological drive to seek out food and eat something. However, although cyclists are often hungry they are also busy, and often don’t have time to eat.
The temptation is to grab poor quality fast foods and eat on the run. American cyclists joke about their craving for vitamin C-3 (chocolate chip cookies).
The high sugar content of sweets, biscuits and cakes may serve the purpose of re-fuelling, but these foods are severely lacking in essential micro-nutrients.
Eating is obviously about nutrition and getting enough vitamins and minerals, but it is also about pleasure. Wolfing down a packet of custard creams after a training ride does not give the same eating pleasure as a plate of penne pasta tossed in pesto and olive oil.
Even if you do eat these types of foods and can sit back and feel smug knowing that you do eat your greens, there is still another level of balance to consider.
Feeding the soul
A balanced diet, according to Chinese medicine, satisfies hunger, but also feeds the soul. In the middle of winter, after the excesses of Christmas, there is often a need to detox in an attempt to repair the damage. This usually involves a lot of lemon juice, grated carrot, salad and grapes. These are all good foods – but not at that time of year.
According to Chinese medicine, every food has its own heating or cooling energy. A truly balanced diet means eating plenty of warming foods in winter. Going out for a ride on a chilly day and coming home to a bunch of lettuce doesn’t do much for your spirits (or to restore your muscle glycogen levels), but a bowl of vegetable soup will.
In these days of global supermarkets, it is easy to push your trolley down the aisle and throw in anything you fancy. However, radishes and mange tout grown under African sun and flown across the world don’t contain the same nutrients as fresh, local produce that was grown and picked locally.
Eating in season adds another level of balance to your diet. You are also cutting down on food miles and doing your bit for the planet by eating turnips grown in Scotland and potatoes from England, rather than green beans grown in Kenya.
Spring is on its way, but the local berries and soft fruits are not yet in season. Until they are, enjoy a fruit salad made from dried fruits and warming spices – a post ride snack or balanced breakfast, on all levels, for hungry cyclists
500ml organic apple juice
50g unrefined muscovado sugar
200g dried figs – roughly chopped
200g dried, brown,
200g dried pitted prunes
100g dried apple rings
100g dried cranberries
6 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
4 black peppercorns.
Pinch of ground saffron (optional)
Combine the water, apple juice, sugar and spices and bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Add the dried fruit and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes until soft. Set aside to cool and then remove spice pieces. Serve warm with natural yogurt and toasted, flaked almonds. Alternatively, leave to cool overnight. The fruit will be extra plump. Serve with natural yogurt, unsweetened muesli and/or chopped nuts.
Dr Chris Fenn Accredited Nutritionist www.chrisfenn.com