Like many, you've probably spent the winter not getting out on your bike as often as you would like and eating more lazily than you should, so now in the final pre-season push it is worth putting some freshness back into your eating habits.
However, at this time of year, most of the berries and fruits available in supermarkets, have been grown on the other side of the world and stored for months. So if your energy levels are low and you need to put some life back into your body, sprouted shoots are what you're looking for.
One of the best things about these nutritional superstars is that they contain plenty of living enzymes. Your digestive system produces a range of enzymes, which are essential in breaking down the muesli and fruit juice you enjoyed for breakfast, into the carbohydrate, protein and fat molecules ready to be absorbed into your bloodstream. Food enzymes can help with this process. All raw food (such as fruits, vegetables and nuts) will contain these, but live, sprouted seeds have much higher levels.
Sprouts are simply the very earliest stage of young, growing green plants, and they're full of vibrant energy and nutrients. They can be grown from any seed, nut, bean or grain that you encourage to germinate. The easiest to grow are Chinese bean shoots sprouted from mung beans. Alfalfa sprouts are a bit like fresh, baby peas while sprouted chick peas, lentils and soy beans have a slightly nutty taste.
Since each seed or bean is the starting point for a new plant, you would expect them to contain a powerhouse of nutrients. They do, but nature has designed the package in such a way that the nutrients are formed as a result of the germination and sprouting process.
Consequently, from a plate of beans you get a good range of nutrients and a dose of carbs to fuel your muscles for your next ride, but sprouted grains will supply your body with a different package.
The process begins with soaking the grains, beans or seeds in water. The moisture activates the enzymes, which trigger germination. Once germinated the seed rapidly takes up water and swells to at least twice its original size. At this time, the nutrient contents swell too. Studies have shown that the B vitamin content increases by as much as 2,000 percent, and the vitamin C levels are 500 percent higher in sprouts compared with the unsprouted version. The protein content of any seed also increases by up to 30 percent. In the final stages of the germination process, enzymes pre-digest the carbohydrate and protein content of the seed, creating an ideal food for the cyclist to eat before a ride because it is so easy to digest. In fact, if you want to add a powerhouse of a food to your system, sprouts with their active enzymes, incredible range of vitamins and minerals, along with fibre and protein are it...
Get your sprouts
There are plenty of seeds and sprouters available in health food shops, garden centres or via mail order catalogues (The Organic Gardening Catalogue has a big range ? 0845 130 1304). One system involves three trays, each with a layer of seeds. Water is poured into the top twice a day and filters through the layers, kick starting the germination process. Or seeds, beans or nuts can be sprouted in a large jam jar with muslin or net cloth stretched over the neck with a rubber band. Rinse the seeds well and place in the jar. Add enough boiled, cooled water to cover the seeds, and leave them overnight. Rinse the seeds again the next day with fresh water and turn the jar upside down so the seeds are moist, but well drained - leave the seeds in water too long and they will rot. Once they've germinated, use the sprouts in a sandwiches, stir-fry or salad. Sprouted seeds are living food and will keep only a day or two in the fridge. But start a new batch soon after the first is germinated, and you'll have a regular supply of this incredible, powerhouse food, when most other foods have lost their vitality.
Dr Chris Fenn Accredited Nutritionist and motivational speaker www.chrisfenn.com