If you’re trying to drop some weight and reduce our body fat, eating regularly may feel counter-intuitive; it’s easy to think we ought to heavily restrict our calorie intake, however, if we restrict our calorie intake too much this can actually work against us.
We enlisted the help of Emma Barraclough, Senior Sports Nutritionist for Science in Sport to explain how eating regularly and exercising will help you to achieve your perfect weight.
Unless you’re riding for 4-5 hours a day, your metabolism is accountable for using most of your calorie intake, and the good news is that we can lift our resting metabolic rate by eating regularly throughout the day, by having three well-balanced meals and a couple of healthy snacks in between.
You might have noticed that you feel warm after eating a large meal, which is caused by the thermic effect of feeding. Even eating small meals creates this effect, and is a release of energy in itself. Skipping meals means that you miss out on this beneficial effect, and your body will slow down your metabolic rate to try to preserve your energy stores. This means that you start to burn fewer calories at rest, and will find exercise much tougher than if you are fuelled correctly.
To really increase your proportion of lean muscle mass, you need to include some resistance training in your program, However, don’t worry, you don’t have to walk around like a bodybuilder or build big heavy muscles that will slow you down on a climb.
Performing body weight exercises such as press-ups, planks, ab curls and tricep dips can help, but if you’ve got access to some weights then performing 3 sets of up to 15-20 rep can really help to improve your strength endurance which will aid your cycling, helps prevent injury and builds on your lean muscle mass. Women typically lose lean muscle mass more easily than men, and especially from the upper body if the only exercise that you do is cycling.
Mix it up on the Bike
As well as building strength by doing gym work, you can also build cycling-specific strength by riding slightly over-geared for short periods, with interval sets out on the road or the turbo trainer if it’s bad weather can really kick start your new year fitness campaign.
Long, steady rides are nice and comfortable to do, but unless you include lots of long hills, which we don’t have many of in the UK, you will only stay within one energy system. Adding in some periods of high intensity, either by putting extra gears on, increasing your cadence, or a bit of both (!) pushes you to work anaerobically, which boosts your metabolism and works the top end of your aerobic range, really pushing your fitness on.
Carbohydrate is Key
To get the best out of your training and cope with high-intensity work, such as hill reps or a turbo set, you need to have adequate carbohydrate stores before you start. In the morning, this means having breakfast 1.5-2 hours before your session, or perhaps using a carbohydrate energy drink if you don’t have time to eat and let it digest.
If you are training in the evening after work, try to have a carbohydrate snack, such as cereal bar, a banana or some toast mid-afternoon to make sure you have a good blood sugar level going into your session and have enough carbohydrate stored to get you through it.
Don’t Forget the Protein
Eating protein can stimulate the rate of new muscle protein production, particularly if you consume it from dairy. The dairy protein contains a high amount of a particular protein called leucine in it, which not only is used within the structure of muscle but also increases the signalling to produce more new muscle fibre.
To maximise the effects of your training you need to take in protein within 30 minutes of finishing your session, with whey protein being particularly good at this point due to it having the highest rates of digestion.
Outside of this you should try and spread out your protein intake throughout the day. People often eat only a small amount at breakfast and lunch, then have a large serving at dinnertime. This does not support the constant breakdown and rebuilding process that is going on within your muscles. Current sports nutrition research has concluded that feeding protein in 20-25g every 3-4 hours is the optimal way to spread out your intake over a day. If you take in more than 25g, you tend to excrete it before you can use it, as excess protein cannot be stored in the body. A 20-25g serving is an equivalent to three large eggs, a chicken breast or a fillet of salmon.
Replenish your Carbs
As well as taking protein afterwards, your stored carbohydrate also needs to be replenished. High GI will stimulate your insulin response to drive carbohydrate back into your muscles. This helps you to recover quicker and be prepared for your next training session. This could be something such as white bread or pasta, or a recovery drink such as SiS REGO Rapid Recovery which contains both fast release proteins and high GI carbs.
Of course, when it comes to diet and exercise, everything should be taken in moderation and if you require further information or guidance, contact a healthcare professional or seek advice from your local fitness centre.