The crisp morning air filled my lungs and awakened all of my senses. I squinted as shimmering sun rays peaked through the pines and splashed across my face. Before me the trail wound up a looming hill that was narrow, rocky and downright gnarly. It was perfect, just what I needed that day. Knowing my bike could handle it, I leaned forward and peddled harder as determination took over.
I destroyed that hill (and my legs) that day. Fortunately for me, I had mindfully made smart nutritional choices the days and week prior to my ride. Had it not been for my maintaining the delicate balance between carbohydrates, protein, good fats, vitamins and minerals, I may have been in more post-ride pain. Also, as a woman who is bent on getting “back in the saddle” as soon as possible, I do everything I can to avoid a long recovery time.
As women, we actually do have different nutritional needs than men. Getting out and being bad ass on that trail is one thing, but sustaining yourself so you can finish (and enjoy) your ride without bonking….well Ms. Badassity, that’s smart nutrition.
Want to show up to your next excursion fully fueled and ready for the ride of your life? Check out my list of nutritional winners below.
- Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich
Call it the kid in me, but this is still my all-time favorite pre-ride and mid-ride snack. It’s the perfect blend of carbs, protein and good fats. Carbs are especially important for the serious female cyclist. They enhance cycle performance by delaying fatigue and allowing you to ride at higher levels for longer times, whereas other nutrients, such as fat or protein, are utilized to make energy.
An interesting fact - did you know that women and men use fuel differently? A 2003 study by the University of Toronto found that women process carbohydrates more efficiently than men. Researchers have also found that women store fat more effortlessly than men, thanks to the role of fat in reproduction. Women have between 6 to 11 percent more body fat, with higher oestrogen levels resulting in more fat being stored by the body and a reduced ability to burn energy after eating. This is why women excel in endurance events and are simply better at pacing. Science also suggests that higher body fat percentage = an endurance advantage. So, load up on those carbs and let our apparent "extra fat" be your friend.
Have a pre-race PB&J 2 hours before your ride in order to stock up your energy stores. Also, pack a couple sandwiches for the ride. They make the best mid-ride snack ever!
Looking to get a little crazy with your peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Check out this recipe for Grilled PB&J with Bacon, Apple and Pomegranate.
Want to learn more about good carbs? Check out this article on The Best Carbs to Eat For Cycling - What to Eat and When
Ever experienced muscle cramps mid-ride or post-ride? I'm diligent about pumping myself full of bananas and potatoes. Why? Because both are rich in potassium.
Like sodium, potassium is an electrolyte, which is a mineral compound that dissolves into electrically charged particles called ions. Ions produce electricity when dissolved in fluids. Electrolytes are essential for nerve and muscle function, and maintain both the body's fluid balance and acid-alkali levels in cells and tissues. Our bodies require a balance of just the right amount of fluid inside the cell, as well as outside it. Potassium helps to maintain this balance. And since a balanced fluid levels help to regulate your heartbeat and prohibit muscles from cramping, potassium is particularly important to cyclists.
Take things up a notch with The Best GV, Vegan Paleo Banana Bread ever.
Whole eggs - the real breakfast of champions. The versatile food that is packed full of protein. I try to eat at least an egg or two (from free range hens) every day because along with protein, I know I’m getting a healthy serving of omega 3 and vitamin B-12, both of which are are essential for serious cyclists. . When you think about it, eggs are kind of magical.
Eggs offer a lot of good things, but my main purpose for eating them is to get the protein I need to build, feed and recover muscle. You see, if you skimp on protein, your body will start to borrow from muscle during your rides to meet its needs, which completely sabotages the fitness you've worked so hard to achieve. "Getting enough protein protects your lean mass," says Roberta Anding, RD, a sports dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. "And that's where the power in your ride comes from."
Also, protein slows digestion, which prevents high-energy carbs from sending your blood sugar soaring, then bonking hard. This is important for those long rides and races, when slow and steady, easy-release energy keeps you from bonking. If you find yourself in a spot where your feeling extra tired, your body will send protein to the liver, where it gets turned into backup carbs.
Be assured, there’s more to protein than meets the eye. Its amino acids act like a fueling and recovery agent that refresh your body for the next ride/race. Consume high quality protein pre and mid-ride to prevent muscles from feeling like they’ve been shredded. Protein gives you solid energy stores and rebuilds tissues, getting them prepped for more. Protein also bolsters the immune system because our bodies require protein to make infection-fighting white blood cells.
Need to grab some protein on the go? Check out these adorable (and delicious) mini frittatas.
Almond trail mix. Almond granola bars. Almond butter cookies. It’s allllll good. Packing a bag of almonds for your ride is one of the smartest things you can do for several reasons. Not only are almonds high in protein and antioxidants, they are also rich in vitamin E. This antioxidant vitamin protects your cells - especially those in your muscles and lungs, which take a beating during an intense ride. Vitamin E also improves lung health as well as your ability to breath at higher altitudes. For those of you ladies who are on a low-fat diet, I say STOP NOW!! You’re skimping on essential nutrientS that are found mainly in oils like olive oil and nuts.
Check out one of my favorite breakfast recipes - Almond Flour Paleo Pancakes.
There you have it my friends. My top 4 foods all women cyclists should eat. Try them. Share them with your cycling buddies. Get creative with them. Bottom line, keep that body of yours healthy, strong and on that bike.
See you out there.