by DeeJay Arens, works in marketing and member/owner services at Harmony Foods Co-op
The addition of Nice Ride to Bemidji gives so many people more options for green transportation and the ability to exercise while taking in the beauty of the outdoors. To get the most health benefits out of biking, or any exercise, start with proper nutrition before and during your activity.
What kinds of food should you eat?
The majority of the experts agree that carbohydrates are most needed. The chemical structure of carbohydrates allows them to be broken down quickly and efficiently into usable glucose. Glucose can also be derived from fats and proteins, but the process of breaking down both fats and proteins into useable glucose takes a much longer time and is not as efficient. If you eat fat or protein loaded foods during a ride, the ride may well be over by the time your body gets the needed glucose. Carbs, on the other hand, can be broken down quickly and efficiently to provide the glucose needed to keep going. They are absolutely essential for the long-distance cyclist.
Where do you get the carbs?
The most thought-about high-carb foods like pasta and rice are obviously impractical to eat during a ride. You need high-carb, low-fat foods that you can easily carry with you on the bike, such as dried fruit like raisins or dates; bagels; and low-fat bite-sized cookies. Purchasing snacks from a bulk department is very economical and a great way to add variety. There are also other products specifically designed for endurance athletes that have very high doses of carbs. If you eat high-density carb supplements like energy bars or electrolyte drinks, make sure to drink plenty of water to ensure you get the quickest transfer of carbs into the blood glucose that your body needs.
When do you eat?
“Eat before you’re hungry and drink before you’re thirsty,” is often the recurring sentiment by many professional cyclists. By the time the body reacts to low levels of fuel or fluid and sends hunger and thirst signals, it’s too late. This tempts many people to stop and eat a large amount of food mid-ride, but the best idea is to snack on high-carb foods while you are active. The consensus from nutritionists seems to be ingesting some carbohydrates every 30 minutes. Snacking will provide immediate glucose and will help protect the body’s glycogen stores. If the muscles are burning glucose from the snack you just ate, they’re not depleting your body’s storage.
It’s important to remember that health and nutrition begins before you are physically active. Eating a complete and balanced diet every day will make sure you have all the minerals and vitamins in your system ready for you to get the most benefit from your exercise! If you have questions or concerns about whether or not you are getting enough vitamins and minerals in your diet, always consult with your healthcare provider. If supplements are suggested, remember that it is important for them to be of high quality and should be purchased from a reputable source.
Happy exercising, everyone!
This article was featured in the Fall 2014 issue of inMagazine.