These are important questions to ask because nutrition can have a significant impact on your ride. Although these are important questions, before focusing on how best to eat before, during and after a ride, we need to think about our regular diet. In this situation diet means what you eat and drink on a regular basis. We need to have a solid foundation for nutrition first before we can address our needs for exercising. Eating well just prior to exercising and during exercise may not offset a poor diet during the majority of the day.
The difficult part with nutrition is that there is no one right diet for everyone. Many factors influence our diet from medical conditions, allergies, intolerance, religious beliefs, personal preferences, budget, cooking ability, and the list could go on. What we do know is that we need a balance of protein, fats, and carbohydrates from a variety of sources to meet our nutritional needs.
Meat: Chicken, turkey, fish, seafood, beef, pork, eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt
Vegetarian/Vegan: nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, soy, quinoa, nut butters, hemp seeds, chia seeds, seitan
Best sources: Vegetables, fruit, whole grain pastas, cereals, and crackers, whole wheat bread and tortillas, oatmeal, freekeh, kamut, rye, spelt, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, brown rice, sorghum, teff, wild rice, beans, lentils, milk, yogurt
Sources to limit: fruit juices, sugar, honey, agave, molasses, fructose, maple syrup, rice syrup, coconut palm sugar, soda, soft drinks, cookies, candy, cake
Monounsaturated/polyunsaturated: Nuts, olives, fish, avocados, canola oil, corn oil, olive oil, seeds, nut butters
Saturated (to be limited): meat, cream, butter, cheese, whole milk, ice cream
Trans (best to avoid): hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils
Consider keeping a food journal including how you feel physically and mentally with your current diet before making any changes. If you are happy with your current results such as good energy level and focus, there may not be a need to make changes. If you notice that you are lacking energy and mental focus, pay attention to the time(s) of day and what you are eating to see if there are any patterns. Start with those areas for making changes and journal to see how your changes are affecting you. Continue to journal until you are seeing the results you want.
Once you have a strong foundation, you can use the food journal approach to improve on your diet before, during, and after exercise. Building a strong foundation in nutrition will allow you to get more out of not just your workouts but your overall day as well.
Disclaimer: My advice is not intended to treat any specific conditions and does not take the place of your medical doctor recommendations. For more individualized diet instructions, please work with your doctor and a Registered Dietitian.
Sarah Andersen, RD LD