When I started training for this trek I weighed in at about 79.8 kilograms (175.5 pounds) in the morning — I could push 81 by the end of the day. Biking is a lot about power-to-weight ratio, particularly in the mountains. So this gives me a power to weight of 202/79.8 = 2.5. I set my goal at 222/74 or exactly 3.0 (163 pounds). That’s losing 6 kg and gaining 10% more power.
I think we all know the basics of a good diet (although it is true that “the right diet” has evolved a bit over time — for example, are eggs good for you?). My diet is a pretty simple outline of “5 Do’s and 5 Don’ts”.
- Eat a lot of fruit. This is easy for me, as I love fruit. But I’ve really increased the variety — I probably eat 5 different kinds of fruit a day — so that I eat more. On my business trips I often take a cutting board and a knife so I don’t eat the chocolates in the hotel room (you have to check your luggage is the downside)
- Eat 2 cups of vegetables a day. I try to have a cup of vegetables at lunch and at dinner. Increasingly, I try to eat the vegetables first. The trick with vegetables is to learn how to flavor them. There is nothing worse than plain steamed vegetables. You need to learn how to use the spices of different countries — Scandinavia, Japan, Morocco, Italy, Greece, Mexico, Peru, …. To make vegetables that taste good (either cooked or raw). These next two weeks I’ve set a goal of trying 20 new salad recipes where I compete two recipes against each other to find one I like (e.g. two kinds of gomae — one with spinach and one with kale, or two kinds of cucumber salad — one a simple marinade and the other with sour cream and dill). By the way, lettuce doesn’t count IMHO.
- Eat a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack. Of course, I’m training pretty hard right now, so I consume a bit more calories than an office worker. But I find if you never get hungry, you never grab the unhealthy stuff. My standby’s include:
- Smoothies. I just mix up some yoghurt, fruit juice, banana, avocado and whatever expiring fruit there is in the refrigerator
- Dried figs and dates
- Dried nuts
- Cheese and crackers
- Peanut butter on toast
- Granola bars
- Eat half the calories you need on a ride while riding. I read a good article on trying to get the body to burn fat on a ride versus just the sugar in the muscle tissue/ liver. This is really the only way to ride those 8-10 hour days. If I am burning about 700 calories an hour ( a reasonable guess) than I need to consume 350 calories an hour. This requires very steady eating to avoid stomach upset
- Eat a reasonable amount of protein within a couple of hours post-ride. For me this is often drinks — milk, soy milk, smoothies — as well as eggs and stews. Yesterday’s lunch is in the picture — a 12 bean stew and lots of fruit. Only two hours earlier I’d had a full breakfast of muesli, fruit, two eggs and juice. I know within a couple of hours I was opening up the peanut butter…
- Eat things with refined sugar. This basically means almost all deserts. Of course, I violate this 1-2x a week. It also means you have to make more of your meals yourself — for example, store-bought granola is always heavily sweeteened.
- Drink alcohol. OK, this is easy for me because it gives me really bad headaches (it didn’t used to). But now that I can’t drink I realize how over-rated it is, particularly that glass of wine every day after work to just “relax.” It’s a lot of empty calories, and I used to find even that small amount kills the motivation to get up early in the morning to ride. Try to keep the alcohol to 1-2x a week
- Eat deep fried food. Again, this is easy for me because I lost my gall bladder about 15 years ago and just can’t digest oily food
- Eat highly processed food. We all know that this kind of food has a high glycemic index / leads to a quick sugar kick
- Eat the amount of simple carbohydrates you would like to — pasta, bread, rice, potatoes, you name it. For some reason our bodies just love this stuff. I’d say I eat 2/3rds of what I used to; that’s as low as I can go.
Before and during the ride.
I’m still experimenting on before the ride. It used to be just a banana, but my coach asked me to add more carbohydrates, so I added a couple of slices of raisin bread. This week I’ve added a cup of coffee diluted with a cup of ice (two cups) and I feel a lot better in the first hour — more energized and awake. I’ve had good and bad days after a bowl of cereal — I think the milk is a bit harder to digest.
On the ride itself I drink as much water with electrolyte supplements as I can handle (Nuun effervescent tablets seem to be the most common — I can’t really say what is better than what). I don’t drink Gatorade or other sports drinks because they have way, way too much refined sugar. I’ll also drink fruit juices. I eat bananas, dried fruit and nuts, apples. I sometimes drink soy milk if I don’t have a hard climb in front. I have these great raw vegan bars from Hammer Nutrition that I think really taste good and are pretty healthy. Each has 250 calories.
So where am I now?
I dropped below 76 this week (167.2); I’ll probably fall 1 kilo short of my goal of 74 (my guess is I will fall just below 75 in two weeks) but that’s okay — the shock of the first 600 mile week will take care of that. I’m not worried about it; it is just a means to the end — getting over those Rocky Mountains.
Wednesday, 16 May 2018 Training: Rode 105 kilometers in just over 4 hours today. High cadence, no breaks. Last hour was a bit slow as I had rush hour traffic to deal with. I felt strong and all drivers were nice. Went to the doctors for a flu and tetanus jab in the afternoon, so tomorrow I will have to go easy.