Carbohydrates for Cyclists

The optimum percentage of calories should be made up of at least 60% for all athletes. It is better to have more complex carbohydrate. Whole grain breads, pastas, brown rice and potatoes, peas and “greens” etc are the best sources of quality carbohydrates.

There are two grades of carbohydrate which are divided by the rate at which they enter the blood stream. Things like white bread, pasta, bananas, potatoes, white rice, sultanas and grapes all enter the bloodstream fast – nearly as fast as glucose itself. These types of carbohydrates are great for when you need a quick burst of energy such as when you are carbo loading before a long training session, race or immediately afterwards.

The other type – slow release- include apples, pear, whole grain cereals, brown rice, brown pasta, porridge, sweet potatoes and most vegetables. These are best for maintaining energy levels between training sessions and are least likely to promote fat storage. Honey and jam are in the first group as is sugar and sugary sweets. Fat slows down the rate of release and entry of sugar so sweet fatty foods don’t provide the energy we might think they would and are highly likely to end up as blubber. Milk sugar (lactose) is moderately fast – so good old rice pudding has everything going for it for the cyclist (but go for the low fat varieties).

On a long ride (say three or four hours) you might burn up to 1600 kcal extra – depending on your weight and how hard you were trying. Around 1000 of these calories need to come from carbohydrates. In a short race you might burn up an extra 600 cals – 100% from carbohydrates. Even a sprinter can use up to 600 cals per hour during heavy training on or off the bike – and they will virtually all come from carbohydrates!

Note these numbers and you’ll realise why it is so important for all cyclists to ensure they have a highly carbohydrate diet and avoid the low quality sugary fatty foods that do nothing for their fuel tanks and plenty for ballast.

Written by Padraig Marrey

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