I’ve always loved food, and have always done a lot of sport – so to me food is fuel but it has to taste great. Since taking cycling & running more seriously, I’ve been trying to improve my diet and get the most from my food (while also making it taste great, of course). Generally, I have four main targets for each meal I make:
1. High protein – helps the body recover, stops the body breaking down fuel (carbs and fat) to maintain muscle and keeps you fuller for longer.
2. High carb – carbs are file, they’re great! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
3. Load up on fruit & veggies – low calorie and packed with all the nutrients your body needs to function at its best
4. Reduce added sugar and processed foods – try to make things from fresh where you can, such as sauces. Everyone loves things to taste good, and if you make it yourself you know what goes into that.
Some of the meals which I love are:
• Stuffed chicken and pesto pasta with some greens
• Chilli – easily made veggie or vegan with a few substitutes, high protein, loads of rice, loads of good stuff like guacamole, salsa, lime mayo, etc
• Tomato & chilli sea bass on pasta tossed in olive oil and garlic with some greens
• Spag bol – a classic, does what is says on the tin
• Saffron chicken and giant cous cous with glazed cherries
Before an event I’ll generally stick to one of the above meals. There’s nothing worse than having an upset stomach or bonking during the event. Over the years I’ve found what works for me, but this will be different from person to person so I’d advise trying anything you have planned a few weeks before your event and seeing how it sits with you.
Personally, I avoid sugar the night before (desserts, even though they’re my favourite), and anything too rich. This includes curries, dairy based sauces, and food with high fat content. My staples are high carb, high protein and a very basic sauce (pesto, tomato, etc) as they may not sit right the next day.
If I’m racing away from home and need to eat out i often go for a relatively plain pizza (all about them carbs). However, it’s also key not to overload – I’ve seen a lot of people eat enough pasta for a family the night before… that’s never going to end well. If you’re relying on getting all of your fuel the night before it’s probably a bit late – have a few days of good fuelling and that’ll keep you topped up well…
Fuelling on the morning of, and during the event is something else which is hugely personal, but also vital to prevent that awful bonk. I avoid dairy on the morning of the event, and make sure I have something bready (toast, bagel, crumpet), smother it in Nutella for a bit of a sugar kick and have that with a banana. A lot of people opt for a coffee too due to the benefits of caffeine in exercise, but I’m not a fan so have a caffeine tablet.
During the event I struggle to stomach gels, so make sure I have carbs & electrolyte’s in my water bottles, and plenty of soreen and flapjack in my pockets. I also use bars from a company called Voom based in the Lake District – their bars have a lot of nutritional benefit, often have caffeine and give you a good carb/sugar hit.