Nutrition - It all adds up

By Dr Chris Fenn | Tuesday, July 3, 2007 11.53pm

A cereal or chocolate bar is convenient and can provide an energy boost before or during a ride. The food inside is often very concentrated - providing a lot of calories in just a few, quick bites. This can be useful when out on a long ride, but just one too many of these concentrated foods on a regular basis can quickly add up.

A study by American scientists recently revealed that teenagers who consume a can of sugary drink a day are likely to be up to a stone heavier after a year - making them 60 per cent more likely to suffer from obesity.

But fizzy drinks aren't the only culprits. I have calculated the effect of what eating just one a day of a list of popular snacks and drinks does for your body if you don't change any other habits.

Usually found in sports hydration drinks can accelerate re-hydration by speeding intestinal re-absorption of fluids and improving fluid retention. The key electrolytes are sodium, potassium and magnesium.

Often you will find that your thirst mechanism is insufficient in motivating you in your quest to restore your fluid and electrolyte balance. You must be aggressive in drinking fluids containing electrolytes throughout and after the ride. Set your heart rate monitor alarm to go off every 15 minutes to remind you to take a sip. Never find yourself feeling thirsty!

Secondly, begin to replenish depleted muscle glycogen stores with high glycemic carbohydrates within 30 minutes after the ride to optimise recovery. Sports drinks are ideal for this as they are easy to drink and are convenient. Early research studies have demonstrated the success of carbohydrate supplementation both during and after exercise on the replenishment of glycogen stores. The regulator of glycogen replenishment is the hormone insulin, which increases the transport of glucose from the blood

1 large double chocolate chip muffin

This has 250 calories from sugar, the starch in the flour and fat. These large muffins provide a sudden hit of sugar which gives a sugar high, usually followed by a sugar low about an hour later that typically sends you searching for your next sugar hit. Increase in weight after a year - 30 lbs (just over 2 stones)

1 Banana

This provides 60 calories in the form of natural sugars. As they are combined with fibre, the sugars are absorbed more slowly into the bloodstream. This gives an energy boost, but without the sugar highs and lows associated with processed sugary foods. Compared with a kit- kat, bananas are more filling and likely to help prevent over eating.

Increase in weight after a year = 5lbs in theory, but probably less as it reduces cravings for other foods

2 finger Kit - Kat

This has 130 calories - the same number of calories as a sugary fizzy drink. However, while all the calories in fizzy drinks come from sugar, the Kit- Kat calories come from sugar and fat. The term 'vegetable fat' appears in the list of ingredients for the chocolate coating and the water filling. Unless the term 'non- hydrongenated vegetable fat' is used it's fair to assume the fat is artery clogging hydrogenated fat under another name.

Increase in weight after a year 12lbs

Regular Latte

Made with a half pint of semi- skimmed cow's milk, this provides 60 calories from a mixture of lactose (natural sugar in cow's milk), protein and a mere 2g of fat. Organic milk is higher in essential omega - 3 fats. the caffeine content is around 100mg - enough to stimulate the brain to produce two stress hormones- adrenaline and cortisol. These give a small boost to the metabolism, which can help burn off excess calories. However, this effect is small and the long-term energy draining effect of caffeine far outweighs any benefits of drinking a lot of coffee each day in an attempt to avoid putting on weight.

Increase in weight after a year = 5lbs

Bag of crisps

One plain, regular 34g bag contains 185 calories, mainly from fat with only a trace of sugars. At 34g fat per 100g crisps this is a high fat food. (The UK Food Standards Agency defines a high fat food as containing 20g per 100g). Crisps are usually eaten with high sugar foods and the fat/sugar combination makes the body store fat.

Increase in weight after a year = 22.5 lbs (1.6 stones)

Hot chocolate

Made with one sachet of Cadbury's instant break chocolate powder and half a pint of semi - skimmed cow's milk, this provides 200 calories and 4 teaspoons of sugar. The fat in the milk is mainly saturated fat that the body can deal with, but the chocolate powder contains hydrogenated vegetable oil. The hydrogenation process increases the shelf life of the oil but creates damaging trans fats. These affect your immune system and interfere with energy meatbolism.

Increase in weight after a year 24lbs (1.7 stones)

Nutri - Grain bar

This provides 120 calories and a cocktail of highly processed, health depleting carbohydrates including glucose syrup, sugar and maltodextrin. According to the shoppers guide to GM - a report based on results from a survey carried out by Greenpeace even the healthy sounding cereals may contain GM soya or maize derivatives, even though Kellogg does not use GM ingredients in its breakfast cereals.

The term vegetable oil refers to any vegetable oil (apart from olive oil) but is usually corn or sunflower oil. These are polyunsaturated fats rich in omega - 6 fats. These are essential, but must be balanced with the omega- 3 fat. Too much omega-6 can cause hormone imbalance and disrupt the immune system. the sprinkling of vitamins and minerals added to the bar mask the fact it is unhealthy and could cause poor skin, low energy and mood swings - plus weight gain. Increase in weight after a year = 16 lbs (just over 1 stone)

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