How many times have you heard someone say they need to ‘ride off the pies’ after Christmas, ‘burn off the bunnies’ soon after Easter or just pay penance for a binge of a weekend?
Feeling the need to add in extra exercise to make up for dietary ‘failures’ is pretty common – and it’s not helped by the number of ‘eat one portion of X and you’ll need to run for X minutes’ examples that we see in magazines every day.
At TWC we see it a bit differently – everything starts with the ride. If you’re healthy and happy with your weight we’ll tell you how many pieces of cake that equates to. If you’re trying to lose weight, obviously it makes sense to swap the cake for a lower calorie recovery option to feed your muscles and take you closer to your goals.
If you eat ‘all the cake’ before the ride, and find yourself feeling guilty, does it make sense to follow the 'eat X, exercise for X minutes' method and try to reverse the effects by beating yourself up on a bike? No.
Seeing exercise as a way to ‘burn off food’ you feel guilty about eating results in negative feelings towards food, riding, and yourself.
Firstly – food is fuel – and your body needs it to function – you can’t run a car without a good serving of Diesel or Unleaded, and you can’t expect your body to complete the rides you want it to without proper food.
Some foods will provide better, more effective fuel – low GI carbohydrates will provide slow burn energy to keep you going longer, lean protein will keep you full without making you feel sluggish.
However, dividing food into categories of those that are ‘good’ and those that you should feel ‘bad’ about eating will result in unnecessary feelings of guilt when you go for options that don’t provide the best fuel.
All things in moderation is a good mantra to practice
Yes, you should aim to eat mainly food that fuels your rides, but there’s no harm in indulging your taste buds from time to time. All things in moderation is a good mantra to practice, and banning certain foods, or putting them in the ‘naughty bin’ can massively increase the likelihood of eating too much of it when you finally crack.
Aside from disrupting your relationship with food, if feelings of guilt then propel you onto the bike for a good old ‘work off the indulgence’ ride too often, you might find that you begin to associate the bike with punishment, as opposed to the fun, joy and freedom that two wheels can provide.
Riding should be about the ride – the feel of the tarmac as you swoosh into corners, or the exhilaration of bunnyhopping the spiral of roots in your path. Even if you’re aiming to lose weight through riding, the whole experience is a lot more fun if you start with the bike.
Not only that, but the very nature of trying to punish yourself for transgressing the dietary commandments will only result in negative feelings towards yourself. There's nothing to punish.
So – what should you do next time you over indulge to help you ‘work off the excess?’
Absolutely nothing different. Move on. Forget about it, and carry on with your normal, healthy lifestyle. Ride as you would have, and eat as you would have. Your digestive system will take care of the rest.