The importance of proper nutrition

As a competitive cyclist, I’m following a very strict diet. It’s the eat-everything-I-can-get-my-hands-on diet. It includes all the ingredients in the food pyramid. For convenience, I have included the food pyramid here:

I made that pyramid in SketchUp, since that seemed to be the closest I had to a drawing app on my computer. I’m not going to use SketchUp ever, ever again. I don’t know what the dude is doing standing in my food, but he better not steal it or I’ll punch him with my front wheel! And I’m a measly cat 3, so mine is made of metal!

As would have been seen in the pyramid if I hadn’t given up on writing legible text in SketchUp, it’s important to get an adequate supply of food, recovery drink, and caffeine. Beth investigated what happens if you fail at this a few months ago: “i think the slow and negative race really came down to peoples’ breakfast choices. on the start line, i did a poll, and was shocked to hear what people had. oatmeal, cheerios, a cliff bar and some fruit. (those were separate answers, one person didn’t eat all of that).”

So, now that we’ve established that poor nutrition results in slow and negative races, let’s take a look at the different sections of the food pyramid.

Food

This part of the pyramid consists of several different subgroups, e.g. Clif bars, breakfast, lunch, dinner, afternoon snack, second lunch, second dinner, 21 gels and a deep fried turkey, and so on. These groups could get further subdivided, but that’s a whole different story. Let’s look at a few items that at a first glance may seem as they are part of the ‘food’ group, but that are deceptive.

Pitfall #1: "Yogurt"

This may look like delicious yogurt — in this case the even more delicious Greek variant — but look closely. “Total 0 %”, the package reads. According to my careful investigations of these products, I can say with certainty that the 0 % refers to the amount of yogurt inside this container, and thus this is not food. Do not be fooled. Real yogurt contains fat.

Pitfall #2: Products sold at WinCo

One may be led to think that the items sold at WinCo Foods may be food, but do not be fooled by the treacherous store name. I encountered this establishment during the Kern stage race, when Jill, Kat, and I wanted to go grocery shopping for some food to eat while at the race sites. Since my whole strategy for stage races is to stuff my face, I was excited by the prospect of acquiring some tasty calories.

WinCo was not the place to go. Walking through the doors was like stepping into a parallel universe, where items sold were almost completely, but not entirely, unlike food. And between these products were customers that were almost completely, but not entirely, unlike people. A quick glance at the labels (of items sold, not the customers) would reveal food imitations made out of hydrogenated oils, food coloring, high fructose corn syrup, hexacyclobenzoateaspartametriphosphates, and plastic – akin to those showcase meals that you may see in food courts in Eastern Asia, except looking even less appetizing. Actually, if the customers had labels, they would probably turn out to contain the same things.

I was terrified and proceeded to do the rest of my grocery shopping for the long weekend at Starbucks.

Recovery drinks

Recovery drinks are different from the other two food groups in the pyramid in that we generally want to have them after rides, and not before. They can be further subdivided into recovery drinks that you may want to have during a ride, especially if your ride happens to be a cyclocross race:

And the other kind, strictly reserved for post-ride consumption:

Caffeine

Ah, caffeine. This cornerstone of bike racing. During the last couple of days, I’ve come across a couple of interesting articles telling about its wonderful benefits. “What Caffeine Actually Does To Your Brain” says that caffeine “boosts your speed, but not your skill”. And who doesn’t want to be fast?

Furthermore, “the Buzz Vs. The Bulge chart also shows how many calories you’ll be cutting if you start scaling back”. This is truly thought provoking. It’s somewhat disconcerting that a large latte will only help me to play tennis for 30 minutes. I don’t know how that translates to cycling, but I don’t think that will even get me through a crit! The upper right corner, which would be the maximum of calories and caffeine content, is gaping painfully empty. Perhaps the key is to combine elements from different parts of the graph. Large hazelnut mocha & whipped cream with Caffe Americano, anyone?

This Swedish newspaper article will unfortunately be unreadable for many, but you’ll just have to trust me on this one. It focuses more on the health benefits than the previous article. To summarize, studies have shown that coffee has positive effects on Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, type II diabetes, and decreases the risk of certain types of cancer. In addition it increases the ability to burn fat during endurance exercise.

Somewhat smugly, I will also announce that Swedes are the second largest coffee consumers in the world, only beaten by the Finns.

And finally, after all this talk about a proper diet, here’s a fan photo of me climbing at Wente Road Race:

Photo by Dale Tapley

“Does my power-to-weight ratio look low in this kit?”

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2 Responses to The importance of proper nutrition

  1. Lisa says:

    I second everything.

  2. Pingback: Grasshoppers | ?!

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