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Training & Nutrition

Do-it-yourself nutrition for cycling

Go into any bike shop, and you will invariably be greeted with a display of sports-specific nutrition products, promising increased performance, greater power output, and rapid rehydration. Convenient, portable, and ready to use they are a great aide to cyclists of all disciplines and levels.

However, this convenience usually comes with a price tag, so in these times of austerity, why not try and make your own? With a bit of preparation and careful shopping, you can create you own bars, snacks and drinks to keep you fuelled for your ride.

Chocolate banana milkshake, and oats – tasty, easy to make, and great for exercise.

Sports specific products usually fall into two categories;

Energy products – These provide fuel for the body, usually in the form of simple carbohydrates like sugars.

Recovery products – As the name suggests, these help your body recover after exercise, providing the material needed to build and repair muscle.

The Ingredients

Whatever brand you go for, sports specific products are usually made up of 5 main types of ingredients. You’ll use different combinations of these, depending on what you need your DIY nutrition product to do.

1. Carbohydrate: The energy source. Some types of carbohydrate release energy in the body quickly, others more slowly making them better for endurance. Examples of sources of slow-release or complex carbohydrates include oats, beans, pulses and nuts.

2. Sugars: These are the quick-release, ‘simple’ carbohydrates that are easily used by the body. They provide a rapid energy boost. Examples include glucose, fructose (fruit sugars) and sucrose. Maintaining your sugar levels during exercise keeps your performance steady, so try to avoid that ‘crash’ by keeping them topped up.

3. Salt/sodium: One of the electrolytes lost in sweat during exercise, which is essential for muscle function. Others include chloride, potassium, and magnesium. These help regulate lots of processes in your body. Having this in a drink can also encourage you to drink more.

4. Protein: Proteins are what your muscles are made of, and they in turn are made up of amino acids. Consuming protein just after exercise helps your body build and repair muscle, which should also mean fewer aches and pains the next day. Good sources of protein include lean meat, eggs, nuts, tofu and seeds.

5. Water: You loose a lot of water when you exercise, and this needs to be replaced. Generally speaking, you should drink regularly throughout exercise when you get thirsty.

Nuts are a great source of protein, and great for snacking on the go. Copyright Hellebardius

Make your own!

You may want to have these made up and to hand, so you have them ready to grab on the go.

Flapjacks

Essentially, DIY energy bars – you can make a massive quantity at a fraction of the cost of shop bought versions. Perfect for long bike rides, the oats have complex carbohydrates to give you that slow release energy, the sugar from the fruit and honey gives you an energy kick, and you even get protein from the nuts. Oh, and they taste delicious.

We’ve chosen this recipe from the recipe section of our forums – it gets the Total Women’s Cycling thumbs up! (Thanks KHColleran)

Ingredients:

  • 100g of porridge oats
  • 60g whole meal self raising flour
  • 60g of granola
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon or a full teaspoon of ginger for variety
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 4 tablespoons of apple puree
  • 4 tablespoons of honey
  • 3 tablespoons of dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of veg oil
  • 300g of a selection of the following: chopped mixed nuts, chopped brazil, pistachio or walnuts, seeds such as sunflower or pumpkin, almond flakes, cherries, dried fruit like sultanas or apricots, or dates.

Method: Pop all the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix. Add in all the rest and give it another good mix. Put the mixture in a greased silicone or lined square tin, and pop it in the oven for 30 mins at 160 degrees or gas mark 3. When it feels firm and looks  browned you can take it out, cut it into squares while warm, allow to cool and enjoy!

Isotonic Drink

Energy drinks are mostly made of water to rehydrate you and electrolytes to replace the ones you have lost. If you are making this yourself, you essentially want to make up very very slightly salty water. This would taste horrible though, hence the addition of squash.

Ingredients:

  • Water
  • Sugar-free squash – lemon or orange works well
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt

Method: Mix up the ingredients in a large sports bottle.

Energy drink

If you want a drink to give you a boost as well as rehydrate you, then bring some sugar into the mix. An easy way to do this is with fruit juice, which is packed full of the fructose. You’ll also get some vitamins and minerals as a bonus.

Ingredients:

  • Water
  • Orange (or other) juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt

Method: Mix up the ingredients in a large sports bottle.

Chocolate and Banana Milkshake

Milk is a brilliant exercise drink. It’s a source of protein, making it perfect for recovery; in particular, it contains an amino acid called leucine which helps build muscle. It helps you rehydrate. Bananas are also a sport super-food, containing carbohydrates and sugars. Chocolate in the form of cocoa powder makes this drink taste indulgent; its almost more of a treat than a post-exercise recovery drink.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 ripe banana
  • Cup of skimmed or semi-skimmed milk
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder, or light drinking chocolate powder.

Method: Bung it in a blender and hey presto! Quick, easy and tasty. On a hot day, add some crushed ice to cool you down.

In your cupboards

If you don’t have time to make up our suggestions, there are lots of things you can grab and go from your kitchen.

Biscuits

Full of sugar, these will provide quick easy energy for your body. Not all biscuits are created equal for these purposes, mostly because not all of them will survive several hours in your back pocket. Some also contain fruit or fruit jelly, a good option to look for.

We suggest: Fig rolls, Jaffa cakes

Good for: Energy during the ride

Dried Fruit

Great for snacking on as you ride, cheaper than sports-specific sweets, and with loads of natural sugars to give you an energy boost. Keep a bag in your back pocket to graze on.

We suggest: Sultanas, raisins, dried apricots, pre-stoned dates, figs – there’s lots to choose from!

Good for: Energy during the ride

Nuts

Nuts are packed with protein, with almonds being a particularly good option to go for. Just a handful will give you the protein dose you need.

We suggest: Almonds, cashews, pistachios.

Good for: Post-ride recovery (washed down with a glass of milk)

Got some more ideas, recipes or suggestions? Share them in the Recipes and Meals section of the Total Women’s Cycling forum or in the comments section below.

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