This is the final episode of 4 in the nutrition and performance series where I explore the best takeaways from the past 3 episodes. Including getting your health right, nutrition timing and head over belly eating.
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I hope you have been enjoying the look into nutrition and performance. I wanted to finish of the month with a look at the how each of the three episodes worth of information can be used together.
Joelle Collard talked about getting your health right before moving on. Just like getting the body to move right before dropping weights on it, getting your internal system functioning correctly is going to help setup your body for better performance once you start loading it up with hard training.
Starting at the gut – Using your poo as in indicator of how your gut is dealing with the food you are putting into your system. If you don’t fall in the range on the Bristol Stool Chart then you need to make some changes. Joelle recommends starting by cutting out gluten – using gluten free products and foods. To trial this, you will need to give yourself 6 weeks minimum to start the change process. After that it would a case of slowly reintroducing foods into your diet to see the effect on your system and poo.
The next recommendation was to use higher quality carbohydrates – this would happen automatically if you have cut gluten from your diet, but her recommendation is things like baby food satchels. Race day is where it starts to get interesting though. The energy foods developed for endurance athletes, such as gels and bars are good source of fuel on race day because they are designed to be so jam packed with exactly what you need, that Joelle didn’t recommend the use of them. The balance is this though, you want to have your gut functioning well leading up to the event, which can allow you some leeway in using fuel that may not be the best option every time you train.
The tricky part of this is knowing how your body will react. We all know you don’t use anything untested on race day. So you will have to do meta testing, by that, I mean testing out either an entire week lead up, and race day rather or say eating gluten free at all times except when training. It will take some work, but if you can get your body to use the carbs, proteins, fats vitamins and minerals you put in – you won’t be leaking performance or recovery.
Alan took us to another place – filled with science and backed up data – but his review of certain studies lead to different outcomes than are out there in common knowledge. Things like hydration and drinking as much or as little as you like has the same can effect on performance as drinking lots more. Also the absorption rate is much higher if glucose and fructose are can lead to higher carb intake benefits endurance performance. during races the better athletes perform.
Firstly he introduced the idea of periodised nutrition – or nutrition timing. It’s an important concept that relates directly to performance and training.
Adjusting your nutrition based on your training will mean that your needs change over the course of a season. From base miles to higher level intensity – it’s important to plan out what the unique needs of your training sessions require fuel wise. Alan’s biggest takeaway was to matching your carbs to your workouts. More on a micro level, where if you aren’t exercising on a rest day, then lower your carb intake, same goes for a LSD ride.
This can help out in managing your weight which is what Matt Fitzgerald talked about. He keeps it quite simple – at least compared to the amount of time and effort you could spend counting calories. This will at least get you started in this direction, and you can add more complication as your need to fine tune your nutrition increase. Food quality is important – one of the interesting aspects of Matt’s approach was his take on managing your appetite. The reason I find it interesting is because of his distinction between belly hunger and head hunger. This not only applies to food off the bike, but food on the bike. Being able to recognise when your body needs fuel is just as important as eating just for the sake of it.
When you are on the edge of hunger and about to bonk – it’s easy to recognise – but when you are able to keep riding with low fuel sources, you may be dropping a couple of important percent in your output, and not even notice it, or think it’s related to some other aspect of your fitness etc. This could mean the adaptation of your training ride is lower than it could be.
McCubbin talked about the ability to intake 90g of carbs per hour with the right mix of carbs. I think it’s important to experiment with your intake – even to the point of bonking because at least then you will know the edge. Make notes on how much you eat, when you eat, the type of ride etc. Then play around with it, reduce or change the food – increase your intake, get some carbs from your bidon or all from your food. You get what I’m saying here. Just blinding eating on a bike may be leaking some performance.
My final thoughts on nutrition and performance. I haven’t uncovered anything groundbreaking, just solid reinforcement of eating principles many of already know. I have been introduced to some great ways to tweak the elements that are important to cyclists.
One thing’s for sure though low-carb diets have been wiped off the table for me. Not that I’ve ever done any series cycling training on them, but it’s clear endurance performance needs carbs.
Photo Credit: Andy Schleck on Twitter