Two-Wheeled Wisdom With Matthew Busche: Riding Nutrition Basics

December 20, 2016

  • by
  • Matthew Busche

Matthew Busche, a seven-year pro road cycling veteran with Radio Shack, Trek and UnitedHealthcare and two-time U.S. National Champion, is putting his experience and insight to work in a new column for Active Junky. To ask Matthew questions, send them to editor@activejunky.com

If I'm riding for 90-120 minutes, do I need any special nutrition or hydration?

Nutrition and hydration on the bike are basic to survival and enjoyment. Regardless of the length of your ride, you need to stay hydrated. For one lasting less than 2 hours, you can survive perfectly well on just water. Beyond 2 hours you might want to consider using a sports drink to help rehydrate and maintain electrolyte balance. As far as nutrition goes, this might depend on when your last meal was. If you are fresh off a meal or have eaten a regular meal in the last 2-3 hours, you are likely ready to ride for those 2 hours without a problem. If you haven’t eaten recently, you will want to consider bringing along a banana or energy bar that you might eat after 45-60 minutes of riding to ensure you have adequate energy available to complete the ride feeling good. It is a good practice to always have at least one energy bar or banana in your pocket regardless of when you last ate because you never know when hunger might strike and riding with a “hunger bonk” is never fun.

What do I eat or drink after a long, hard ride on my road or mountain bike?

Post ride nutrition is potentially the most important facet of the total nutritional plan. This is due to its affect on your recovery, which in turn influences how quality your work the following day might be. Immediately post ride, it is pivotal to start replenishing your glycogen stores. This is best accomplished with simple carbohydrates. It isn’t an excuse to just pound candy or soda, but if there were a good time throughout the day to do it, this would be it. Better choices are potatoes or rice with a couple eggs or some beans on the side, or maybe a sandwich with a little meat and cheese. Your body’s “furnace” is likely as hot as it will be throughout the day after your ride and it takes this food directly to begin replenishing your muscles. The basic rule is to get the recovery started within 30 minutes of exercise, and aim for a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. For example, 30-40g carbohydrates and 10g protein. A personal favorite is chocolate milk, perhaps blended with a banana and oats for variety.

For daily nutrition to stay lean and keep my muscle mass up, any thoughts?

Daily nutrition is mainly about eating a balanced diet and simply being conscious of what you eat. You don’t have to get crazy about measuring or weighing food, just think about it a little bit. Try to eat balanced meals of whole, unprocessed foods containing a good number of vegetables and fruits. Look for a variety of good quality protein from red meat, chicken, and fish. Also don’t be scared to eat full-fat foods. Many stray from full-fat being concerned it will lead to weight gain. To the contrary, especially as an athlete, fat is vital for several bodily processes and you need to eat fat in order to burn fat as a fuel source. Another benefit of eating full-fat is that it is more satiating and provides long lasting energy. Many times a nonfat food will have fewer calories per serving, but you’ll end up eating more servings because it isn’t as satisfying; therefore, when you eat more servings you end up with more calories. It is also common for non-fat options to be made to taste better with sugars or other additives. A good barometer of what you need is your body. It might take time to learn what your body wants, but if you can figure out what satisfies you, there is a good chance it is what your body needs. Your body is also adaptable and smart, so as long as you’re feeding it a good balance of carbohydrate, fat, and protein, it will figure out what to do with it to operate best.

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