Knowledge Level: Beginner
Commuting to and from work on your bike is an incredibly time efficient way to get your weekly miles in and, for many riders, is the only realistic option for fitting training around job and family commitments. Knowing what and when to eat to maximise your commuting fitness gains is key so follow this advice from Nigel Mitchell, Great Britain Cycling Team and Team Sky nutritionist.
Breakfast and ride in
Having time to have breakfast, digest it and be ready to ride can be a push, so it can be better to just have a cup of tea of coffee to get going and ride on an empty stomach. As long as your commute is no more than 60 minutes and you ride at a relatively low intensity, such fasted riding can improve your ability to burn fat as a fuel. If you’re riding longer in the morning, you might want to consider having an energy drink to sip at on the bike.
Once you get in, porridge is an ideal way to start the day. You get quality carbohydrates to keep you fuelled through the morning, B vitamins, protein from the milk and calcium. You can add some fruit such as blueberries to get an anti-oxidant and vitamin C boost but go easy on the sugar and golden syrup.
Mid morning snack
It’s been a couple of hours since breakfast and hunger can strike. It is really important to keep your blood sugar levels up, as this will keep your concentration and motivation levels high through the working day and more importantly for the next ride. As we move through the day a lot of people do not maintain a good blood sugar level, one of the mistakes is that they often go too long before they eat. A midmorning snack will maintain blood sugar and energy levels. This snack can be very simple. A banana and natural yoghurt or a handful of nuts and seeds with an apple.
You’re far more likely to eat well if you bring your own lunch in with you and avoid the canteen or the dash to the sandwich bar. One of the things I recommend is having Bolognese or a risotto the night before, save a bit back and bring it to work the next day for lunch. This is very simple to do and it adds a variety rather than just having sandwiches. If you’re unable to do this, always look for carbohydrates, such as rice, potatoes, bread or pasta along with some quality protein like a bit of rice, chicken or some lean meat. Remember, this meal is providing you with your fuel for your ride home.
Mid afternoon snack
If you’re planning on riding home and either upping the intensity or adding some extra miles, a mid afternoon snack is essential. Even if not, you should have something to avoid an energy crash which can lead you to snacking on junk. Ideally you should aim to eat it 90-120 minutes before you’re planning to ride. It needs to be something that is easy on the stomach and can be digested easily. Again this could be a banana and some yoghurt or, if you had that in the morning, then a small piece of flapjack would be ideal. Look to take on about 250 calories.
If your commute home is under 90 minutes, you shouldn’t need any extra fuel but, if you’re going longer than this, you’ll want to take on small snacks every 20-30 minutes right from the start of the ride. You can use bars, gels or energy drink but equally real food such as fig rolls or filled wraps will work.
Back at home
Before diving into the fridge, think about the ride you’ve done and when you’re going to be eating dinner. If you’ve ridden hard or long and you won’t be eating dinner within 20 minutes of getting in, use a recovery drink or have some milk and a banana. If you’ve only done a short, under 45 minutes, ride at easy pace, it’s probably not necessary and water should tide you over to your main evening meal. A piece of chicken, fish or steak weighing about 200g is going to provide ample protein.
If people want to watch their weight then they would really want to keep pasta or rice accompanying the meat to no more than about a 100g raw weight. Part of your meal will be side of vegetables or salad. Get in your bright coloured vegetables peppers and tomatoes, these are really high in the phyto nutrients and anti-oxidants and boost recovery, health and performance.