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Commuting and eating

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Article posted: 27/08/2013

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It's widely acknowledged that cycle commuting is a great way to squeeze exercise into a busy daily routine. However, it's easy to make the mistake of thinking - "I ride my bike three miles to work five times a week - I can eat what I like."

Calories in, calories out

Moderate paced commuting (10-11mph average) will burn about 400 calories per hour - so your steady paced three miles each way (30 mins) won't compensate for that grande latte and double choc muffin you grab on the way in. However, if you've got a commute of 10 miles or more each way, then you can probably get away with the odd indulgence.

Low v high GI

It's also important to consider where your calories are coming from. Many cyclists make the mistake of thinking ‘carbs, carbs, carbs', quaffing energy drinks and bars before and after each ride. However, if you're watching your weight and your commuting pace is slow to moderate, you will primarily burn fat and won't need the instant access high-GI carbs you get from bread, energy bars, chocolate and the like. For ‘take it easy' riders you're better off getting your energy from low-GI sources, such as wholewheat pasta, wholegrain rice, nuts, oily fish or oats.

When you get home, resist the temptation to park the bike, walk straight to the cupboard/fridge and ‘inhale' all available snacking items

If on the other hand, you ride for a longer distance and higher intensity, your body will demand fast access, high GI energy sources. If you're riding twice a day, you're also wise to consider the timing of your meals and portion sizes. Always try to leave a gap of at least 30 minutes between breakfast and leaving the house and don't be tempted to have a huge breakfast. Your body will be caught between a rock and hard place, with both your legs and your stomach demanding adequate bloodflow to do their thing.

Top up your tank

When you're headed home, it's wise to have a small snack around an hour before you leave and a smaller evening meal when you get home. Mid to late afternoon is the classic time to get an energy low, and there's nothing worse than riding home from work with the needle on empty. If you haven't eaten much through the day, it's scarily easy to flatten your battery even with a short, spirited blast home through the traffic.

When you get home, resist the temptation to park the bike, walk straight to the cupboard/fridge and ‘inhale' all available snacking items (this is a lot easier if you've had your pre-ride snack). Instead, take time to prepare a healthy, tasty meal to refuel.

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