Good nutrition and a balanced diet is important for everyone, but you could argue that it is even more important for those who are active; particularly if you’re actively trying to improve at your sport!

Having a basic understanding of nutrition is important from a health perspective, so let’s jump in!

What are macronutrients?

Protein, carbohydrates and fat are called “macronutrients” because they are needed in relatively large amounts. They have slightly different functions in your body.

As cliche as it sounds, protein really is your body’s building blocks. It is made up of 20 different amino acids – some essential, and some non-essential – and is responsible for repairing, maintaining and growing tissue, including muscle tissue.

Protein is found in almost all foods, but complete and essential amino acids are really only found in meat and dairy products. Legumes, tofu and other vegan protein sources are great dietary additions, but have a lowered ability to repair and grow muscle tissue.

Carbohydrates are your quickest energy source, and will make up the majority of the daily caloric intake for most people. Carbs, as they’re also known, can be further segmented into sugars, starches and dietary fiber.

Carbs are converted to simple sugars like glucose and fructose in your small intestine and can quickly be released into your bloodstream for a burst of energy. It can also be converted into glycogen and stored for when you need it later – particularly during exercise!

Food sources that contain carbohydrates in spades include bread, pasta, vegetables and fruits, and all sorts of sweets.

Dietary fats, like carbohydrates, can be divided into several subcategories: saturated fats, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol. It is a complex and confusing topic in and of itself.

Sources of  “healthy” fats include avocados, fish, nuts and seeds, and cooking oils like olive oil. Saturated fats and trans fats are the types that you’ll want to limit, which is found in all the tasty foods we love: chips, bacon, butter, ice cream, pies, pastries, pizza and burgers.

What are micronutrients?

The reason for micronutrients’ name is the same as macronutrients; they are needed in small doses, usually less than 100 milligrams per day. Examples of micronutrients are vitamins like vitamin A, B, C – and so on – and minerals like iron and zinc.

Multivitamin tablet may be the most common dietary supplement in the world, though it is largely regarded as unnecessary unless you have nutritional deficiencies that you cannot adapt to. If you’re a healthy individual with a balanced and nutritious diet, you are probably already covering your micronutrient needs.

Image source: Examine.com

What should I eat before a ride?

Carbohydrates are especially good before working out, as its energy is easily converted and used by the body for the energy you’ll need to get through strenuous exercise! Adding a source of protein to your pre-workout meal is also a great idea, as it will help your body repair the stress you put on your muscle tissue when exercising.

Caffeine is the most common performance enhancing drug in the world, and has a long list of physical and cognitive effects, including increased alertness and increased strength output. Consider having a cup of coffee or tea before hopping on the bike.

What should I eat after a ride?

Post-workout nutrition is arguably more important than what you eat beforehand. This is the meal that will help repair muscle tissue and replenish the energy you just spend!

A well balanced meal is in order here: protein will repair and rebuild muscle tissue, carbohydrates will help replenish the energy (glycogen) stored in your muscles, and fat will give you that long-term energy to keep you going for hours more.

As big advocates of weekend rides with friends and family, a classic Aussie cafe breakfast is pretty ideal! Smashed avo on toast with bacon or a generous helping of savoury mince should cover all of your needs and keep you going for the rest of the day!

If you want more in-depth information regarding nutrition, you can read the Australian dietary guidelines online here.

This blog is a part of our Become a Better Cyclist series. You can find the previous entries here:

 

 

 

This blog does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the cycle2city blog. Consult your GP before making changes to your exercise regimen or diet.