By Deb Preller, M.D.
Training for Obliteride has the added benefit of decreasing your own risk of developing obesity-related cancers. Improving your nutritional habits also decreases your risk of developing certain cancers, such as colon cancer and breast cancer.
This article will give you a few pointers on eating a healthy, balanced diet to keep you fueled and energized when you ride. Most people don’t actually need to take in extra calories in their diet when they train. Rather, focusing on improving the quality of the foods you consume will help more than increasing the quantity consumed.
Here are some specific suggestions for eating well while training:
1. Practice eating what you will eat during Obliteride. Just as you can’t expect your legs to be ready to ride 100 miles if you have been getting fit by swimming all summer, you can’t expect your body to work on energy drinks and power bars if you have been stopping for bacon and eggs during your rides.
Make sure you find snacks and drinks that work for you during your training rides and use those same foods during Obliteride. DO NOT try something new and exciting the day of the event. Your system may reject it in a fit of nausea and cramps.
2. Whatever you choose to eat and drink, practice eating and drinking it while riding. If you intend to hydrate and refuel on your bike, make sure you can safely manage your water bottle while keeping your eyes on the road, and your right hand on the handle bar—the side that controls the back brake. The same goes for putting your hand in your pocket or wherever you are keeping your food.
Practice getting your bottle in and out of both cages, switching cages when a bottle is empty, etc. If you can’t drink from your bike bottle, you risk becoming dehydrated; and you will also be carrying two to three pounds of extra weight in water that you can’t access.
If you plan to stop whenever you eat or drink, make sure you learn to do so safely. With hundreds of other riders on the road with you, it is very important to be able to look around and make sure you are not going to cause someone behind you to crash.
Practice riding a straight line while glancing over your shoulder, signaling (either by hand or voice) that you are stopping, and changing speed slowly. If you need to stop, pick someplace safe and pull off to the right. When possible, stop at rest stations to avoid confusion.
3. Recent data show that carb-loading is not recommended for endurance athletes. The evening and morning before long rides, you should eat a balanced meal that includes fat and protein as well as carbohydrates. Fruit, vegetables and whole grains are much better sources of carbohydrates than flour-based products such as pasta and breads. Eggs, juice and uncured meats make a very hearty breakfast that will sustain you through the first couple hours of your ride.
4. Energy concentrates and powders are not the end-all of cycling nutrition! Consider dried fruits and nuts. The combination has a great mix of protein, fat and carbohydrates to provide a quick boost to your energy level (carbs in the fruit) and a more sustained source of energy in the nuts. If you prefer energy bars, choose ones that have at least 10g of protein for long rides. While riding, eat small amounts at short intervals rather than infrequent, large “meals.”
5. Remember, most of us do not need to increase our calories a great deal to ride. A woman 5′ 3” only needs about 1,300-1,500 calories a day to maintain normal body mass index (BMI). If you are already eating more than you need, simply maintain your current caloric intake and you will lose weight with your training. You will need to eat food with high nutritional value to fuel your athletic body. By eating a balanced, vitamin and nutrient rich diet, you will feel better, ride stronger, and be less hungry.
About Dr. Deb Preller
Dr. Preller practices at Overlake Medical Center in Bellevue, Wash. Her achievements on the bike include the Washington state road women’s category 1-2 champion in 2006; gold and silver medals at Master’s National track racing in 2005 and 2006; Master’s World’s silver medalist in track racing in 2005; and Master’s World’s silver medalists in road racing in 2006. Dr. Preller currently co-manages the Fischer Plumbing Women’s cycling team.
The legal stuff: The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.