10 really useful fuel and focus foods or drinks that can help in your day-to-day training diet and even in your events.
In this article we are not looking at performance branded foods but at foods we can buy from supermarkets that have hidden positive properties. There is a lot of spin at the moment about “do energy products really do what they say they do?” - Well for this article just forget about those products and get creative.
Research has been done into all these nutrition choices, we must remember though that we can all react differently to nutrition and so make sure you try these foods out and see if they work for you.
- Spinach - most of us relate this food to Popeye but is it really any good? In a word; yes. Spinach is high in Iron which plays a central role in the functioning of red blood cells which help in transporting oxygen around the body. While we train, we increase the demand for energy in our muscles and so having efficient, working red blood cells means more energy which is also gained quicker when needed on those climbs.
The great thing about spinach is you can easily add it to normal meals or blend it into smoothies.
- Peanut butter – this is packed with muscle fuelling protein and healthy fats for slow release energy. A table spoon spread over some wholegrain bread is a great way to fuel a ride at short notice, allowing you to make the most of your ride. On event day people even use peanut butter sandwiches as a riding fuel! Give it a go, it’s cheaper than a gel.
- Chocolate Milkshake - this is a great reward post-ride which will actually help your body recover from the stress of training. The balance between carbs and protein is spot on to work as a recovery fuel and tastes great so while out on your ride you have the thought of a yummy shake on your return. It’s a lot cheaper than sports specific recovery drinks and sometimes tastes better.
- Beetroot - the power of this food is great, if you can deal with the taste! Many studies have been done into super foods and this one keeps coming out at the top. The nitrates allow your body to hold off exhaustion for longer so add this into your daily diet or take a drink for 5 days leading up to your event to get the gains.
- Salmon - get some Omega-3 in the system. Salmon is a great source for these which help with protein synthesis, allowing to build good muscle strength and tone. Adding 2-3 servings of salmon a week will greatly improve recovery as the Omega-3 works as an anti-inflammatory helping joints and muscles recover.
- Chai seeds - now this new energy source is still undergoing studies but early results are showing positive results in the endurance world. With the Omega-3 we can get similar gains as to eating fish, but the seed is so small and easy to add to any meal and also not overly expensive - small seed packing a big punch.
- Hard Boiled Eggs - this is one of my favourites. The hardboiled egg offers us lots as they are full of amino acids and if we eat one or two before bed we help with our body’s recovery as muscles recover from the source of protein. We can also get energy from these mighty fuel-packed eggs. Give them a try before bed and see if your legs feel better in the morning!
- Bananas - these need to be on the list, packed full with energy but also potassium which helps reduce cramping in our muscles. Studies have been done extensively on the banana and results have shown that you can perform equally well on bananas as you can with sports products! It’s perhaps just a little harder to carry a bunch of bananas around on the bike with you…
- Flat Coke - the ‘food of champions’ as it’s known in the cycling world. This red can, can be the difference between finishing a long sportive or not! Coke has an incredible mix of vital ingredients, that our bodies call out for when fatigued. Caffeine, sugars and electrolytes all come in this little can; the caffeine gives a mental lift and it also allows more energy to be absorbed whilst the electrolytes help with hydration. Check the back seat in any grand tour team car and you will find Coke cans ready for the pro riders when they hit that point of fatigue.
- Water - we will finish on this very simple and obvious drink which is often forgotten about. We are approximately 50-65% water and when we exercise, we lose water. Our body’s ability to perform is significantly lower when we are dehydrated and this does not just relate to while we are training but also during the day. If you start your evening session already low on water, your body will not be performing as well as it could be. Carry a small bottle around with you all day, perhaps 500ml, and top it up twice as this will make a big difference.