By Sam Aplin
Sam Aplin is one of Great Britain’s top female athletes at Exterra and Duathlon. Having won a Silver medal representing GB at the 2015 World Duathlon Championships in Australia, Sam gives the low-down how nutrition plays such an important part in fuelling her winter training schedule.
For me, nutrition is one of the essential aspects of the training trio: Ride, Fuel and Rest, that is so often overlooked. For many cyclists, training generally only happens between the first and last turn of the pedals; however, the food that we eat before, during and after our rides should play an equally important part.
Sports nutrition is an enormous topic in itself, so I’ll keep it short and sweet to combine a sprinkling of my favourite natural carbohydrates, proteins and antioxidants that should provide your body with the boost it needs to stay healthy this winter.
1. Oats: Hot porridge oats are perfect to fuel a long ride. Oats will keep you full for much longer than other breakfast cereals as their very low glycaemic index means they are slowly absorbed into the body’s bloodstream and provide a long gradual release of energy.
An excellent source of carbohydrate, calcium, potassium, iron and vitamins, porridge oats also have the highest protein content of any cereal making them an ideal recovery food.
Tip: Use milk for extra protein, mix in fresh fruit for natural sugars, and top with nuts and seeds for added vitamins and minerals.
2. Blueberries: The King of antioxidants! Blueberries are among the most nutrient dense berries and have the highest antioxidant capacity of all commonly consumed fruits and vegetables. Often labelled a ‘superfood’, they help to protect the body from oxidative damage caused by exercise, so stock up for a deliciously sweet treat before or after your ride.
Tip: Top your porridge with a mix of wild blueberries and fresh strawberries, or mix with yoghurt and banana!
3. Quinoa: Cook some quinoa for a bowl of highly nutritious carbohydrates. Gluten-free, quinoa is also rich in fibre and protein and will fill you up for your ride without that bloated feeling. Weigh out 60g of uncooked quinoa (it doesn’t look like much) but once cooked just mix in some vegetables for a filling pre-ride lunch or dinner.
Tip: Get yourself a bag of tri-coloured quinoa, and chop in some peppers, courgette, chestnut mushrooms, almonds, a clove of garlic, a sprinkling of fresh ginger, and a runny egg on top!
4. Chia Seeds: Chia is the ancient Mayan word for strength. The little black Chia seeds are a wholegrain food that provide sustainable energy that’s perfect before or during a ride. They can be eaten raw as a topping, or cooked as part of a hot meal or homemade energy bar.
Another ‘superfood’ Chia seeds are high in antioxidants, they are expensive to buy but well worth it as a small bag will go a long way.
Tip: Sprinkle on top of hot porridge with sunflower and pumpkin seeds, mix in to salad, or make some of your own banana and chia seed flapjack to enjoy as a mid-ride energy top-up!
5. Ginger: Ginger has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and can help reduce exercise-induced muscle soreness. Ginger has a powerful but delicious and very refreshing taste, so only a small amount chopped or grated then stirred into your quinoa will have the desired effect.
Tip: Just got in from a cold and wet winter ride? Put your feet up with a mug of hot lemon and ginger. It may even help to fight off any cold or flu viruses picked up on route!
6. Nuts: Take a look at the health benefits different types of nuts have to offer. You will often find them written on the front of the supermarket packets, and this information can be used to choose the type of nut most appropriate for you and the timing of your meal.
Walnuts, for example, are a rich source of healthy fats and antioxidants, but also help to reduce inflammation, making them a good muscle recovery snack after a ride.
Whereas almonds are a good source of iron, important for cell growth, regulating body temperature and immune function. Almonds are also a good source of vitamin E, so don’t let the winter weather ware away that soft, healthy glow girls – eat almonds for silky smooth skin!
Tip: Eat a handful of nuts for a post-ride snack, or as a breakfast porridge topper!
7. Sweet Potatoes: One of the easiest vegetables to cook with, sweet potatoes make a great post-ride snack. Full of Vitamin-C, Iron and antioxidants, they are also extremely high in magnesium and potassium which will help to diminish those unwelcome cramps or muscle spasms.
Sweet potatoes are also a complex carbohydrate which means they take longer to digest and supply the body with energy over a longer period of time. So if you have an early morning ride or commute to work before breakfast, put a sweet potato on your plate the night before!
Tip: Eat (hot!) as a recovery food to help restore depleted glycogen levels after a long (cold!) ride.
8. Greek Yogurt: Greek yoghurt is one of the most enjoyable foods here to eat as it’s thick and creamy, and makes you think you’re eating something naughty. But it’s just the protein your muscles need after a ride, so you can enjoy it guilt-free! The plain variety (which is still very tasty!) has the fewest carbohydrates and the most protein.
Tip: Try with honey or fresh fruit for a pre-ride snack or mix with muesli as a milk replacement – delicious and very filling
9. Bananas: Stick a banana in your jersey pocket. Perfect for re-fuelling on the go, not only are bananas rich in antioxidants and easy to digest, they have a high potassium content which is important for maintaining the fluid and electrolyte content in the body. So grab a banana and avoid cramping up in the saddle!
Tip: Pick a ripe (yellow-brown) banana for easily digestible ‘on-the-go’ energy. Pre-ride: chop an unripe (green-yellow) banana into a pot of Greek yoghurt for a convenient, sustaining and healthy option for those needing to satisfy a sweet-tooth!
10. Avocado: Not only does it look interesting on your plate, but avocado’s contain healthy fats, promote lean muscle growth and keep you satiated for longer. They are also full of critical electrolytes like potassium (60% more than a banana – but I wouldn’t recommend eating a ripe avocado on-the-go, unless you’re already wearing a green jersey!) which contribute to proper muscle function.
Tip: Delicious with quinoa and egg!