Coach's Corner - How Your Diet Affects Your Cycling
For many people, riding is an attractive form of exercise that offers many health benefits, not least of which is weight loss. However, lots of riders struggle with choosing an appropriate diet that is conducive to weight loss but also supports the rigorous physical demands that cycling requires.
A current trend in dieting is one that restricts carbs. But how will this affect your cycling? We have recently read the results of a formal clinical trial sent to us from a cyclists who happens to also be a PhD. The trial compares the results of a low carb diet to those of a low fat diet. The results are very interesting.
A common question from cyclists is why after 90 minutes or so of riding they hit the wall, or run out of energy. A review of their dietary changes may be in order - that is, have they switched up their nutritional intake lately? Typically, the answer is yes.
Most likely, the cyclist has started a low carbohydrate diet. Of the three sources of calories in the foods we eat, carbs, proteins and fats - only the carbs provide the energy that is essential for riding, especially at higher heart rates. When a cyclist has a restricted carb diet, the carbs available in the body are limited, which means the energy available to cycle efficiently is limited. All boiling down to less time a rider can push hard and ride far. Interestingly this does not happen with low protein or low fat diets.
The study referenced above is titled Effect of Low-Fat vs Low-Carbohydrate Diet on 12-Month Weight Loss in Overweight Adults and the Association with Genotype Pattern or Insulin Secretion. The findings indicated "there was no significant difference in 12-month weight loss between the HLF and HLC diets, and neither genotype pattern nor baseline insulin secretion was associated with the dietary effects on weight loss."
The bottom line: carbs are the fuel for the cyclist. If you find you are running out of steam earlier than you think you should, take a look at your diet. Are you getting enough carb fuel to power up your rides? Take a look!
Author Credit: Darryl MacKenzie