Something very exciting happened just last week. I was asked to write a nutrition piece for Centurion Cycling and was featured on their website on Xmas Eve!! It's kinda like Xmas came early!
I just love what I wrote so much I wanted to share it with you by posting it to my own blog in hopes that it reaches you and as many people as possible. You will learn a little more about me and why I do what I do as a nutritionist and a cyclist. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did writing it.
I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. What were your key takeaways and was there anything you would like explained further or hear more about?
Yours in health,
Top 5 nutrition tips to help you recover faster
If you want to make considerable gains with cycling then nutrition should be at the top of your list of things to have a look at especially if you’re training for an event like Centurion.
I had no idea that when I was sitting in a café in San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala searching for bike races in Ontario that I would be racing and placing in the top 3 of my age category at almost every single Centurion C50 Horseshoe and Blue Mountain I have participated in and I had no idea how important of a role nutrition was going to play in my training and performance.
My cycling experience first started in Whistler in the summer of 2005 when, on a whim, I borrowed a friend’s mountain bike and tested out some of the local trails. From that moment forward, biking became central to my lifestyle. It started with a downhill mountain bike clinic. Yep! For the first year of my cycling career I was hucking myself and my bike down the runs of Whistler mountain! I then dabbled in some XC mountain bike races and soon learned that road riding was a way to become faster especially on the hills. And it turned out that I love riding and racing road bikes! There is something about speed, the wind in my hair and strategizing that makes me feel alive AND riding with guys that I never in a million years thought I could keep up with in the beginning.
In order to better support my new active lifestyle, I started seriously considering what I was fuelling myself with. I decided to meet with a Registered Holistic Nutritionist. Up until this point, I had led a pretty colourful few years, in an unhealthy way. For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with my weight. I tried many different diets and had many ups and downs yo-yo’ing with my weight. At the height of it, I weighed just over 200 pounds. After six months of detoxifying my body with food and swinging the pendulum WAY the other direction I had a light-bulb moment. I knew I wanted to learn more on the subject of nutrition and find a balance.
It was time to take back my life. I first learned how to eat by getting an education in nutrition at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition in Vancouver and I used cycling to help shed the pounds. What I noticed was that when my cycling mileage and intensity was increasing I needed more food to fuel myself and so the investigating and experimenting with sports nutrition began. I learned how to support myself with nutrient dense whole foods, the timing of meals and snacks and what were the most important parts of it all to make considerable gains.
There are few main components however I want to share with you the most important one in my opinion and that is RECOVERY. How you recover after training or racing determines how you will feel the next day or the next on and off the bike for that matter. If you are training on a regular basis this becomes incredibly important.
Here are my top 5 tips to help you recover faster making your next ride easier and helping your muscles feel less sore. Remember it’s all about who can recover the fastest right?
1. Recovery shake within 30 minutes post-ride/race. This is singlehandedly the easiest most effective way to restore muscle glycogen and speed up recovery. Insulin levels peak between 15-30 minutes post-training. An increase in insulin levels stimulates glucose transport into the muscle cells where it can be stored as glycogen. Taking advantage of this timing with your nutrition prepares you for your next training session.
Your nutrition intake will depend if your ride was easy, short, long or hard or a combination. If you are at a race and not near a blender within 30 minutes post-race which is usually the case, use a shake. My preference and my recommendation to my clients is to use Vega Recovery Accelerator. It has the perfect ratio of carbohydrates to protein which is 4:1 respectively. If you have a longer ride or have raced, you want to make sure you follow this up with a nutrient dense whole foods meal or snack.
2. Rehydrate for the next 24 hours. Post-race/ride drink 2 to 3 cups of fluids for every pound lost over the next 24 hours.
This does not have to be water only. In fact it is better to incorporate fluids like coconut water, broth, teas, kombucha or water-based soups. Incorporating these types of fluids is beneficial as they supply vitamins and minerals (electrolytes) that aid in your recovery.
Here is an example. Your weight is 150 pounds before you head out for your ride. You’re out for 1 hour and when you come back your weigh scales say you are 148 pounds. This means you lost 2 pounds so you should aim to drink at least 4 to 6 cups of fluids within the next 24 hours on top of your daily fluid intake.
3. Eat a nutrient dense whole foods meal within 2 hours post-ride/race focusing on anti-inflammatory foods.
These include good sources of protein (animal or plant-based) which will help repair and rebuild muscle, healthy fats to aid in the absorption of vitamins and help move substances in and out of your cells and complex carbohydrates as they are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals. Your goal is to incorporate nutrient dense whole foods that have lots of vitamins and minerals. Feel free to use good quality sea salt to replenish sodium that has been lost from your efforts and don’t shy away from carbs. Just make sure they are clean carbohydrates.
4. Avoid inflammatory foods.
What is inflammation anyway? These days it seems the words inflammation, anti-inflammatory and inflammatory foods are being thrown around quite loosely. Inflammation is a protective response to injury, pain, illness and stress and the response we see is pain, swelling, redness and sometimes that radiating pulse and sense of warmth to the area affected. Now you can imagine what our muscles are like after a ride especially an intense interval session on the bike and what is happening if you are over-training.
However, these are not the only culprits of inflammation within the body. Lack of sleep falls into this fold and it is also caused from eating a diet of highly refined and processed foods, foods we have sensitivities or allergies to and there are even healthy whole foods that are known to cause inflammation as well such as the nightshades.
Inflammatory foods that are obvious are things like candy, soft drinks, white sugar, white flour, baked goods, desserts, artificial syrups, fast food, etc. These provide calories and not much else. I like to call them “empty calories” as they provide little or no nutrients whatsoever. We want bang for our buck! Something that might capture your attention even more is that incorporating an anti-inflammatory diet is good for injury prevention.
5. Supplement with fish oil. Good quality fish oil will help to reduce inflammation and therefore recovery time. I personally use Ascenta’s Nutrasea. I would also recommend Nordic Naturals. It is important to go with high quality fish oils to ensure they are neither rancid nor contaminated.
BONUS TIP - SLEEP. You guessed it! Getting enough sleep is key for optimal performance. For me personally, rides that end later in the evening really throw me. I find it takes some time for me to wind down so I like to get my rides going right after work and end at a reasonable time. This way I also have time to get home, have my recovery drink or snack and stretch! Figure out what works for you and do that.
Paige Royal is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN), NCCP Certified Cycling Coach, TREK Cycling Ambassador, C.O.R.E. Certified Indoor Cycling Instructor, an active member of the Barrie Cycling Club, a member of the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition Alumni Association as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and founder of Pura Vida Performance. She studied at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition in Vancouver, BC and is currently working towards completing her NCCP Introduction to Competition certification.
Paige specializes in cycling and sports nutrition for athletes and also works with non-athletes to improve overall health and weight loss. She offers cycling clinics, nutrition coaching and workshops.