Food and Hydration

Cycling nutrition and hydration is never more important than it is in Dubai, especially during the summer.  If you want to get anything like optimal performance out of your body and especially legs, you need energy and fluids.  If you are doing longer rides, make sure you eat well the day before, avoid milk based or heavy meals less than 2 hours before a ride.

if you are riding more than an hour at high heart rates, you will run out of energy.  Carbohydrate drinks replace some of the sugar in your muscles as well as enable the hydration of your body.  If you haven’t learned this lesson you will at some point, feel weak and knackered during and after even a moderate ride.  Put some effort into the science of it and you will reap the rewards.

Hydration

Fluids are crucial to your performance as we’re really just big bags of fluid—our blood contains about 50 percent water. Because water helps keep us cool, a loss of only one percent of our bodyweight as sweat means a significant loss of speed and endurance. We know you’ve heard it before—drink, drink, drink!

Suggestions:

  • Ride Early or Late. You’ll need to replace fewer fluids if you ride when it’s cooler.
  • Pre-hydrate. Make sure you’re well hydrated before the ride. For an energy as well as fluid bonus, drink 16 ounces of a sports drink about an hour before the ride.
  • Drink During the Ride. Make it a habit to reach for your bottle every 15 minutes. Most riders need one big bottle (about a litre) per hour depending on temperature, intensity of the ride, and other factors such as body size.
  • Forgot your sports drink on the way to a ride, stop in at the nearest Petrol station and get a liter of Gatorade, it will do the job nicely.
  • Hydrate After the Ride. No matter how much fluid you drink while riding, in hot weather you’ll finish the ride depleted. A great recovery drink is Semi-Skimmed Milk, protein and lactose to help replace fluids and build muscle, best taken within 30 minutes of stopping.
  • Restore Sodium Levels, o avoid cramps etc Your sports drink should contain at least 100 mg of sodium per 8 ounces (check the label).

Notes on Sugar from pacifichealthlabs.com

IT ALMOST SEEMS HERETICAL to say anything good about sugar.  Almost daily we read or hear something new about the evils of sugar. It’s true that sugar consumption is unhealthy in most contexts. But the exercise context is a major exception. Our muscles are highly sophisticated energy-producing factories that evolved over a million years or so.  Apparently, the muscles haven’t gotten the memo that sugar is bad, because their preferred source of energy is simple sugars.  There is no question that complex carbs provide many health benefits when we are not exercising.  However, during exercise the preferred and, in fact, only fuel used by muscles is simple sugars.

In spite of how muscles are hardwired, manufacturers of sports and recovery drinks that contain “long-acting” complex carbohydrates suggest that this class of carbs provides a more sustained level of energy, ultimately providing enhanced endurance.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, long-acting or complex carbohydrates actually reduce endurance and fail to deliver additional benefits that simple sugars do.

Our muscles contain a fixed amount of glycogen, and when glycogen stores are depleted, exercise performance declines very rapidly.  In the 1960s, researchers at the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State University showed that when carbohydrates, in the form of simple sugars, are consumed during exercise, there is an improvement in endurance performance.  The reason is that simple sugars are rapidly absorbed in the gut, transported into the muscle cell and converted into energy.  Providing an instant source of energy with simple sugars preserves muscle glycogen, thereby extending endurance.

On the other hand, long-acting carbs such as super starches, complex carbs and galactose are absorbed more slowly and must be metabolically converted to simple sugars before they can be transported to the muscles and metabolized into energy.  This conversion takes time, so working muscles continue to deplete their limited supplies of muscle glycogen.  A number of studies have demonstrated this phenomenon.  In one study, researchers compared the effect of simple and long acting carbohydrates on endurance performance.  They found that subjects consuming the simple sugars had 16% greater endurance than those consuming the long acting carb.

The endurance advantages alone should be reason enough to select a sports or recovery drink that contains simple sugars.  But what is often not recognized is that simple sugars also play an important role in hydration.  This was first shown in the early studies involving sports drinks.  Researchers noted that when simple sugars were added to sodium there was a significant improvement in rehydration.  The reason is that simple sugars are rapidly transported from the intestine into the blood.  Since simple sugars are small molecules they act similarly to sodium.  As they move from the GI tract into the blood, water follows.   So simple sugars not only offer an endurance advantage over complex ones, but they offer a hydration advantage as well.

The question naturally arises: Is one simple sugar better than another?  The answer here is “more is better”.  We now know that there are multiple transport systems that carry simple sugars from the GI tract into the blood.  Each of these transport systems has a finite capacity.  In other words, they can be overloaded.  Using a single simple sugar in your sports drink can quickly overwhelm the transport system. But a sports drink that contains two or, optimally, three simple sugars uses multiple transport systems simultaneously and thereby ensures maximum absorption in the GI tract.  The faster the total absorption rate, the faster the various sugars can be converted into energy and the greater the preservation of muscle glycogen stores.

The bottom line: Long-acting carbohydrates offer many health benefits, but during and after exercise you should select a sports or recovery drink that contains two or more simple sugars.

Dr. Robert Portman, a well-known sports science researcher, is coauthor of Nutrient Timingand Hardwired for Fitness.

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