Knowing what to give up for lent as a cyclist can be tricky, as many of the usual vices (sugar, chocolate, carbs) are important parts of your diet.
Of course other habits like smoking, drinking too much or downing several fizzy drinks a day are all things that cyclists could benefit from not doing. But for those of you that don’t smoke or drink anyway, it probably isn’t so obvious what lifestyle changes you would benefit from making this lent.
Traditionally lent is all about giving something up, going without. But there doesn’t seem to be any reason why you couldn’t use the period to take up a healthy habit instead. So long as it’s still a challenge for you and requires will power, then it counts as a Lent activity in our book.
Whether you’re eager to give something up or are enthused about taking up a new challenge, we’ve got some tips and advice to guide you through the 40 days and 40 nights ahead.
I want to stop snacking
We’re all guilty of it, popping our hands in the office biscuit jar each time we make a cup of tea, reaching for a piece of chocolate at 10am justifying it by calling it ‘breakfast pudding’. Snacking is often referred to as a vice that we should all stop if we want to be healthier. But snacking in itself isn’t actually bad for us, it’s what we choose as our snacks that are.
If snacking is your downfall, don’t try and cut snacks out all together this Lent. Instead, lent for cyclists should see you swap your usual unhealthy snacks for more nutritional, well-balanced options.
A fruit salad, a handful of nuts, natural yoghurt or a packet of vegetable crisps are all better options than the chocolate bars, digestive biscuits, donuts and salt and vinegar crisps you normally reach for.
[related_articles] We know the temptation might be hard to slip back into old habits and dip into the biscuit jar, so to help you stay on track start keeping a pack of yoghurts in the work fridge and a bowl of fruit on your desk so it’s never easier for you to reach for the rubbish than it is for the good stuff.
It won’t be long before it becomes second nature to choose a banana rather than a chocolate bar when you need something to keep you going.
I want to stop ordering take-aways
Most of us would agree that home-cooked, healthy meals are way tastier than greasy take-away food options. But it’s the lure of the convenience of fast food that makes us continue buying it regardless.
If you like the idea of cutting take-aways from your diet and in turn making yourself healthier whilst saving money, the key to making it happen is to get organised in your own kitchen.
Always have a reserve of homemade ready meals in your freezer that you can heat up when you’re in a rush or simply don’t feel like cooking. Every time you make a casserole, a curry or a tray bake – make two or three times more than you need and freeze the rest in individual portion containers to be enjoyed at a later date.
Not ordering takeaways doesn’t mean that you can’t treat yourself to the odd pizza either, to avoid the temptation of picking up the phone and ordering one in, keep a frozen pizza in the freezer as a reserve.
Then next time you get that pizza craving, pop your reserve pizza in the freezer. Yes, we know, it’s still not the healthiest dinner choice but it’s likely to be much better for you (and much cheaper) than a takeaway one.
I want to stop drinking so much alcohol
Alcohol is a hard one to give up for long periods of time due to its social relevance. No one wants to be the office bore that sips a tap water at Friday drinks or simply refuses to go to the pub at all for fear that you’ll give in and order a large G&T. But that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to cut out alcohol for lent for cyclists.
And let’s face it, alcohol probably is the one standard vice that people give up at Lent that cyclists would greatly benefit from too.
Being teetotal is very much on trend right now, with bars beginning to pop up around the capital that don’t serve alcohol, such as Redemption in North Kensington. The alcohol-free cocktails in these places are so beautifully crafted that your alcohol-loving friends are unlikely to even notice that they’re just drinking exquisite tasting fruity concoctions without the added liquor calories.
If there ever was a socially acceptable time to give up drinking for a while, 2015 is certainly the year for it.
I want to lay off the carbs
This is a difficult one to give up for lent for cyclists, as we need the slow-release energy that pasta and rice dishes give us. So, giving up carbs altogether is off the menu, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t pay some attention as to which types of carbs you eat, and what sauces you lather them in.
If jarred pasta sauces and curry ready meals feature regularly in your diet, lay off these for Lent. Sauces are so quick and easy to make (and cheap too) so take a vow to learn to make a couple of recipes from scratch, make them in bulk and invest in some good quality jars to store them in for future use.
That way you get to control exactly what goes into your dinner, consume less calories, eat more fresh vegetables and still get your carb fix too. Carbs aren’t an enemy for cyclists, let’s stop giving them so much stick.
I want to eat a better breakfast
Those of us that commute to work by bicycle need to make the time to eat a proper breakfast before we set off, to ensure that we’re not running on empty.
So many cyclists will quickly wolf down a cereal bar as they’re running out the door, helmet in hand ready to embark on an hour long commute to the office. This really isn’t enough.
If you’re morning commute is more than 20 minutes long, use Lent to force yourself to get up early enough to enjoy a hearty, well-balanced breakfast before you set off pedalling.
If your ride to work is only short, a small snack before you go should be sufficient so long as you pack a proper breakfast to eat once at your desk.
I want to up my water intake
This is something that we could all benefit from doing. The average woman should aim to drink around two litres of water a day.
We get that it can be hard to keep track of how much water you are drinking, so treat yourself to a new water bottle to help you on your way.
If your water bottle holds a litre of liquid, you know you will need to drink its entire contents and refill it once more each day. Likewise if your bottle holds 500ml you’ll need to drink it and then refill a further three times.
This has to be the easiest way to improve your health over lent and one of the most beneficial too. Upping your water intake is also likely to reduce the amount of fizzy and caffeine-based drinks that you reach for as well as putting hunger pangs at bay. It’s a winner all round.
I want to eat more superfoods
'Superfood' has become such a buzz word in the media at the moment that you're probably sick of hearing it. Truth is though, superfoods are talked about constantly for a reason - they really are good for us.
For lent for cyclists, we wouldn't recommend you to cut carbs, or give up meat for Lent, but taking up superfoods is definitely a good idea.
Kale is the most commonly talked about superfood. A leafy, green vegetable rich in vitamins A and C, kale can be bought in most supermarkets, grocer's and at farmer's markets and is delicious both as a side dish or as the main ingredient in a healthy, nutritious warm salad.
The superfood that is really in vogue this year though is bone broth. Despite it's unappealing name, it tastes delicious and is likely to have been something you've eaten unknowingly several times already at the base of hearty stews or tasty homemade soups.
Other superfoods to add into your new, healthy Lent diet are different types of grains, cauliflower, dandelion greens and coconut flour.
The best thing about taking up superfoods for Lent is that you don't have to give anything up at all, you just get to add so many new and tasty foods to your weekly repertoire.