Breakfast: Always eat before starting your morning training. Sleeping depletes the liver’s store of glycogen, which is the major store of carbohydrate for blood sugar regulation. When this is reduced, your blood sugar level drops and fatigue sets in, making concentration difficult – particularly disadvantageous if you’re using your training session to learn a new technique. Look for foods high in carbohydrate, low in protein and low in fat and, so you don’t compromise on your sleep, choose foods you can eat on the go such as a jam sandwich or sports bar.
Bioflavonoids: Bioflavonoids are naturally occurring chemicals found in foods, which have been shown to protect against heart disease and high blood pressure, and regulate blood sugar levels. However, for already healthy athletes the big benefit may be that they also stimulate the production of mitochondria in the muscle. Mitochondria are the engine rooms of muscle cells, and the more you have, the bigger the engine. Bioflavonoids are found in fruit, veg and salad, so rather than having five portions a day, you’ll need to eat double that.
Prawns: Prawns are a fantastic source of protein and omega 3 fatty acids. They’re also an excellent food source of the amino acid beta alanine, which has a number of roles in the body. It’s a fuel for the creation of a dipeptide called carnosine, which is a potent antioxidant and works in the muscle to increase the ability of the body to cope with the acid produced by exercise. Beta alanine can also increase your ventilatory threshold and improve sprint performance.
Protein: Protein improves your post-ride recovery – try a yoghurt after a short ride or a milkshake or carbohydrate-and-protein recovery drink after a longer effort. However, don’t overdo it – anyone eating a balanced diet and taking in enough calories is already likely to be consuming enough protein. (Cyclists need just 1.2-1.4g of protein per kilo of bodyweight per day.) There’s also evidence that too much protein can have an appetite-suppressing effect, which may prevent you eating enough carbohydrate to keep your glycogen levels topped up.
Milk: If there is such thing as a superfood it’s got to be milk. It’s an amazing source of protein, contains good carbohydrate and provides a range of vitamins and minerals. When you’re training hard, drink one to two pints a day. This sounds a lot, but you’ll feel the difference when you recover quicker and get through tough training blocks.