Simple Diet Tips for Cyclists and Endurance Athletes

If you are heavier than your ideal race weight, this is the time of year to do something about it. When you are racing or doing higher intensity training you need plenty of good quality food to support rapid recovery. If you cut calories then, training quality suffers or you lose races. Ideally you lose weight slowly enough to never feel run-down from under-eating, but it is very hard to find that exact amount of food each day that will allow you to be energetic but still lose weight. Unless you are focused on cyclocross, this time of year you can afford to short yourself a few calories or to be a little tired occasionally.

Your coach can help you figure out if losing some weight would enhance your competitiveness. If you are ready to drop some pounds you coach can give you a Wenzel Coaching handout with proven effective guidelines for how to eat to lose weight but maintain energy.

Meanwhile here are a few ideas to help you start losing weight or maintain a good weight.

1. Starch is fuel. The dense carbohydrates found in whole-grain breads, pasta, yams and brown rice are very valuable as fuel sources for exercise. Include them in your diet when you are exercising more than an hour per day. On days when you are not doing a longer exercise session, and not recovering from or preparing for very sessions of three hours or more, you don’t need this fuel. On short exercise days, skip the starchy stuff and get your carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables only. Starch eaten when you will not be using it for immediate fuel or for glycogen restoration will be converted to fat.

2. There is no place for high-glycemic index foods in the diet of an overweight athlete except when he or she is currently exercising. White bread, cookies, sweets, energy bars, white potatoes, white rice, soda, energy drinks, recovery drinks, sweet cereals, cakes and muffins are great fuel when you are exercising. Consumed at other times, they make you fat.

3. Stop cleaning your plate. Stop eating when you are close to full. If you set cleaning your plate as your goal, you eat too much if the plate is too full. Get in the habit of always leaving at least little bit. Then if you are served too much you can leave more. Food that your body does not need is no less wasted if you eat it than if you leave it on the plate.

4. Nibbling all day long is okay, and probably better than having two or three large meals, but the nibble foods must be low glycemic index. Ideal nibbles include nuts, fresh fruit, fresh veggies, cheese, non-sweetened yogurt, and not much else.

5. I can’t say enough about vegetables. In my dictionary, “doesn’t like vegetables” is a euphemism for “fat”. If the majority of the bites and volume of food you eat during a normal day is not vegetables, correct that.

Good luck. Happy eating. Happy riding.