Nutrition: Fuel to increase strength and power

By Christine Bailey , Cycling Plus | Monday, September 28, 2009 3.00pm

To improve your ability to train at high intensities, increase your power and boost your sprinting and climbing, eating right is as important as riding right.

Even in ‘power’ cycling, your energy comes from a mix of aerobic and anaerobic activity, which means a huge range of nutrients in addition to protein, fats and carbs are needed. So here are some of the best foods and supplements to find them in.

Protein

Power up: The building block and fuel of muscles. Branched-chain amino acids make up 70 percent of muscle proteins and are increasingly broken down during intense exercise.

Fuel up: At least 1.2g/kg protein body weight. That will mean around four servings daily – and consider using protein shakes after training.

Find it: Lean meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, legumes, dairy foods, nuts/seeds and whey protein supplements.

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L-glutamine

Power up: An amino acid, L-glutamine aids muscle repair and is essential for immune, gut and detox support.

Fuel up: 1-4g a day as a supplement.

Find it: Available as supplement and in foods such as lean meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, dairy and legumes.

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L-glycine

Power up: Releases growth hormone and a precursor to creatine for energy and building up muscle mass.

Fuel up: Best taken as part of a protein supplement. Amount needed depends on body size, but roughly 500-2000mg.

Find it: Found in protein-rich foods – meat, dairy, fish, shellfish, soy, protein powders and amino acid formulae.

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Creatine phosphate

Power up: Used in muscle cells to store energy for explosive exercise. Also increases insulin-like growth factor, building muscle power.

Fuel up: Creatine supplementation can increase sprint performance. There are different ways to take it; try a loading regime of 5g doses four times a day for a week, followed by a reduced dose of 2-5g per day. Or just take 5g daily.

Find it: Creatine supplements come as powders, capsules and are included in drinks. Evidence suggests taking glucose (100g) with creatine (5-7g) increases muscle uptake, so it’s worth taking it with some fruit juice.

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L-arginine & L-ornithine

Power up: Amino acids are needed for the production of growth hormone and building up muscle (anabolic), as well as energy production.

Fuel up: Take it as part of a protein supplement. Around 500-3000mg depending on body size.

Find it: Protein-rich foods such as meat, dairy, fish, soy, nuts, protein powders and amino acid formulae.

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CoQ10

Power up: Naturally produced in the body; needed for energy production and a powerful antioxidant.

Fuel up: Consider a supplement after the age of 40. Take 100-300mg daily. If you’re taking the blood-thinning drug Warfarin or heart medication, check with your GP first.

Find it: Found in meat, fish, eggs, organ meats, spinach, broccoli and peanuts. Supplement also available.

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GABA

Power up: A neurotransmitter derived from glutamate that can aid relaxation, sleep and release of growth hormone.

Fuel up: Taken as part of a combined formula – between 200mg and 1g daily. Too much can cause anxiety and numbness. Take an hour before sleep.

Find it: Found in fish and wheat bran. Also available as a supplement.

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Carnitine

Power up: Aids the burning of fats for energy – useful if combining aerobic and anaerobic exercise.

Fuel up: Take between 500-1000mg as a supplement.

Find it: Present in foods including lean meat, poultry, fish, avocado, whole milk and wholegrain bread.

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Glutathione (GSH)

Power up: Made from the amino acids L-glutamine, L-cysteine and glycine, it’s used for the production of energy (ATP) in the body. It can also help protect muscles from damage.

Fuel up: Whey protein is a useful supplement to boost glutathione levels. Also available as a specific supplement. Take 250-500mg daily.

Find it: Also found in garlic, onions, meats, spinach, broccoli and walnuts.

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HMB (B-hydroxyl B-methylbutyrate monohydrate)

Power up: This naturally produced compound can protect muscle damage and may aid muscle repair.

Fuel up: Take around 3-5g a day. It can cause you to gain weight.

Find it: Available as supplements in capsule and liquid form. Found in a few foods, including alfalfa.

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ATP (Adenosine 5’-triphosphate)

Power up: Directly boosts levels of ATP, the body’s base energy molecule, so enhancing delivery of oxygen and glucose to muscles.

Fuel up: Take 125-300mg per day.

Find it:  Take as supplement.

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Ribose

Power up: A key component of ATP, it helps maintain an adequate energy pool, overcome soreness and fatigue. 

Fuel up: Typical intake 3-5g daily.

Find it: Available as a supplement. 

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Energy boosters

The following nutrients help the body manufacture the essential energy delivery molecule ATP, preventing fatigue and assisting performance. As well as a healthy diet, consider taking a regular multivitamin and mineral formula or a B-vitamin complex.

Good zinc sources: Lean red meat, fish, milk and dairy products, shellfish, wholemeal cereals, pumpkin seeds, beans and pulses, tofu

Good magnesium sources: Leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, lentils, wholegrain cereals, tofu

Good vitamin B1 sources: Beans, eggs, fish, organ meats, peanuts, milk, wholegrains

Good vitamin B2 sources: Organ meats, lean meat, fortified cereals, leafy green vegetables, eggs, milk, cheese, yeast extract, nuts

Good vitamin B3 sources: Beans, fish, lentils, liver, nuts, poultry, wholegrains, lean meat, breakfast cereals, can also be made from tryptophan (an amino acid)

Good iron sources: Lean red meat, canned sardines, fish, shellfish, wholegrain cereals, eggs, chicken, leafy green vegetables, fortified breakfast cereals, lentils

Good manganese sources: Avocado, kale, oranges, beans, pineapple, spinach, seaweed, tea, strawberries, wholegrains

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