Mountain Biking - A Complete Nutrition Guide
I am a firm believer of the fact that nutrition is beyond weighing scales. The relationship with healthy food becomes non-negotiable when it comes to Mountain Biking (MTB), because of the ever changing trail, the continuous ups and downs and the amount of power required to face these challenges by the cyclist. The nutritional requirements can vary from person to person and be specific to an individual depending upon the body composition and the load. One is to follow a diet rich in Carbohydrate, followed by Protein, Fats and Fatty Acids. However, nutritional requirements and distribution varies from phase to phase. For instance your diet is to be rich in carbs during the competition phase but it needs to be rich in protein during the recovery phase. One should see to it that their meal fulfils the nutritional requirement of the body during the particular phase.
Here’s a detailed description of different nutrients and their sources to help you prepare your meal better.
Carbohydrates, famously known as carbs, is a biomolecule consisting of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms. They serve as the primary source of fuel for the human body. Carbohydrates store energy in the form of glycogen (storage houses of energy) and not as deposits in liver and muscle.
Too much of carbohydrate intake results in weight gain, whereas, carbohydrate depletion results in fatigue, poor performance and using up of body protein.
Sources : Natural carbohydrates and not refined carbohydrates are matchless source of carbohydrates. Rice, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, whole grains, cereals and legumes are wonderful choices as carbohydrate sources. Muffins, rice cakes, biscuits, pancakes, milk (flavoured, optional) and low fat yoghurt are also good source of carbohydrates. All kinds of fruits and vegetables are rich carbohydrate sources, especially potatoes and corn. Honey and jaggery are alternate choices for carbohydrate intake.
Proteins are essential nutrients for human body. The serve as building blocks of body tissues and in muscle growth. They are also a source of body fuel by providing energy (<5%). Most important function of protein is recovery and repair.
Too much of protein intake results in weight gain and stress on kidney , whereas, less protein intake leads to slow growth and recovery resulting in feeling tired and increasing weakness.
Sources : Eggs, low fat milk (soy milk), cheese, lean meat poultry and fish are rich sources of protein. Tofu, nuts (especially almonds), beans and lentils are good for protein intake.
FATS AND FATTY ACIDS
Fats occur naturally in foods and play a necessary role in nutrition. Mountain biking also requires small amount of fats and fatty acids. They help in strengthening cells, building immunity and regulating inflammation responses. Natural, unrefined fats are better than chemically composed (hydrogenated, deep fried) ones.
Too much of fat results in high blood pressure and weight gain, whereas, lesser than stipulated intake results in increased and uncontrolled appetite, vitamin deficiency ( fat soluble vitamins).
Sources : Flax seeds, olive oil, avocado, nuts, broccoli and spinach are sources for essential fatty acids and fats.
Water plays foremost role in transporting the nutrients, blood and oxygen to cells. It enables chemical and metabolic reactions (hydrolysis and biochemical breakdown). It regulates the body temperature and lubricates muscles and joints. Mountain bike riders should aim to drink enough fluids each day to replace fluid losses, because of temperature, sweating, exercise intensity and altitude.
Electrolytes are substances that conduct an electric current through water. In human body they are minerals that maintain the body fluids and balance the acid base in the body. They also regulate the actions of nervous system and help in normal functioning of the body.
Many important minerals also act as electrolytes- some major players here are sodium, magnesium, potassium and calcium. Electrolytes are important for fluid retention in the body.
Too much of electrolytes particularly sodium, potassium and magnesium result in hypernatremia, hyperkalaemia, whereas, electrolyte imbalance causes vomiting, diarrhoea and high fever.
Sources : Coconut water, orange juice, soup, spinach, tomatoes, table salt.
Now that you know what all nutrients you require, it is necessary to understand in what quantity you should intake these nutrients to keep your body going. Nutritious diet can be mastered by dividing the nutritional requirement into three phases:
1) The training phase
2) The expedition phase
3) The recovery phase
The training phase
Training phase is a good opportunity to practice meals for the competition phase. It helps to understand your body requirements and work accordingly.
Carbohydrates- 400 to 600g (3500 kcal)/per day
Protein- 20 to 30g in one meal
Fats and Fatty Acids - 500 to 1000 mg per day
Hydration- 300-500 ml per hour
- Porridge with banana
- Sandwich with light fillings or banana
- Toast with peanut butter
- Sports bars
The expedition phase
For rides below 60 minutes, pre-event meal is sufficient, however a small amount of nutrition in the form of sports bars/gels may provide a performance benefit.
For rides over 60 minutes, consuming some amount of food every hour is necessary as it can help to prevent muscle fatigue, maintain pace and cognition and benefit performance.
Carbohydrates- 30 to 60g per hour
Protein- 5 to 10g in one meal
Hydration- 500ml per hour divided at an equal interval of 15 minutes
- Sports bars
- Sports gels
- Fruit cake
- Sports drinks.
The recovery phase
After training sessions and rides, eating a meal or snack containing a combination of carbohydrate, high quality protein and healthy fats will enhance muscle refuelling and reduce inflammation. Fluids and electrolytes should also be included to help with rehydration.
Carbohydrates- 20 to 30g within 30 to 60 minutes
Protein- 15 to 25g within 30 to 60 minutes
Fats and Fatty Acids- 10g within 30 to 60 minutes
Hydration- replace 150% of fluid lost during the race within 60-90 minutes. Reduce it to 300ml. Human body at rest can absorb 300ml of water in an hour.
- Omelette or eggs on toast
- Yogurt with nuts and fresh fruit
- A bowl of vegetable soup
Some facts that you CANNOT forget :
- Eat 1-1.5 hours prior to your ride.
- Refuel during your ride through energy bars, gels and energy drinks.
- Start on solids and work your way through fluids to avoid stomach issues.
- You should feel hungry and not ravenous after your ride.
Note : These are general guidelines to provide a framework to build on the nutritional requirement for mountain biking. Consult a nutritionist to help you prepare a diet based on your body type and by giving due consideration to allergies.
Now that you know what to eat, move towards the other piece of the puzzle, i.e. how to prepare for mountain biking, for a comprehensive preparation.