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General nutritional advice

Tips

  • Avoid sugars like white, brown, cane and grape sugar. They are rapidly absorbed into the blood, thereby increasing the level of insulin.
  • Avoid hard fats. Cutting fat and skin off meat.
  • Use low-fat or skim milk.
  • Eat more fish; Fish contains less fat.
  • Use nuts and seeds as snacks. Nuts and seeds are important dietary sources of trace elements and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
  • Vitamin C promotes the absorption of most of the trace elements.
  • Coffee, tea and most soft drinks (especially colas) inhibit the absorption of trace elements. Therefore, do not consume these drinks with or soon after meals.
  • Antioxidants prevent cell and tissue damage caused by the free radicals released during (heavy) exercise. They speed up the recovery process after heavy exercise, reduce the susceptibility to injury and counteract ageing. Therefore, often put foods rich in antioxidants on the menu: carrots, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, tomatoes and cauliflower.
  • Cooked vegetables are healthier than raw ones. Cooking softens the tough cell walls, allowing the antioxidants to be better absorbed by the body.
  • Raisins contain particularly high levels of carbohydrates, fiber, iron and potassium.
  • Caffeine stimulates fat burning.


Nutrition Advice

When how should I use sports nutrition? For many triathletes who train and compete regularly, this is an important question and the answer is not always clear. Everything stands and falls with a healthy and balanced basic diet. After that comes sports nutrition and then any supplements. 

An important build-up of sports nutrition during a training course or cyclosportive event is an essential part of crossing the finish line with ease. In the physiology section, the various energy systems are discussed. It is explained that humans only have a limited supply of carbohydrates.

When burning fats as an energy source, some carbohydrates will always be used. It is good to know that the body (on average) only absorbs a maximum of 60 to 70 grams of carbohydrates per hour.

Below is a small case study:

Couple: You participate in a training/competition lasting 4 hours. In the first hour you burn 70 grams of carbohydrates through exercise. However, in that hour you only consume 50 grams of carbohydrates through sports drinks, energy gels or energy bars. You have then built up a deficit of 20 grams of carbohydrates. This deficit cannot be made up in the next hour (if you keep exercising). Your body can only absorb a maximum of 70 grams (which was used in the 1st hour of exercise). If this happens again in the next hour, you will have a shortage of 40 grams. If you ride for more than 4 hours, you can end up with an energy deficit of more than the equivalent of one hour... And that's where you hit the wall...

If you prepare well, you can avoid this energy shortage.

For the effort

In this section there is a distinction between two different periods:

The period of months and weeks before the effort and 6 days before the main goal.

In the period of months/weeks the emphasis is on building up your overall condition and speed. This should preferably be done with regards a training schedule. This schedule should leave enough room for recovery. Use this period to also experiment with sports nutrition.

To improve your overall condition, you can use sport supplements as a support. Also, recovering well from the training and practice runs will ensure that you progress faster. Think about the use of recovery drinks and protein bars.

The six-day period before the main goal is all about reducing the intensity and duration of training sessions in combination with "stacking" carbohydrates. This is also called 'TAPERING'. The effect is that at the end of this period your body will have stored extra carbohydrates which you can use at the 'key moment' in your event...

Carbohydrates can be stacked by means of the so-called Carboloader. This is a drink made up of almost pure carbohydrates. To get the same number of carbohydrates in solid food, you need to eat many plates of dry pasta.... This drink is definitely a nicer alternative...

TIP: Do not drink any sports drinks before the effort on the day itself until you start cycling. The fast acting carbohydrates you take beforehand will make your blood sugar rise, after which a big dip will occur. You will have very weak legs and feel sluggish.... Take a thirst-quencher with only salts and minerals. 

During the effort

If a training session or race lasts longer than 60 minutes, you can significantly improve your performance by eating carbohydrates during the effort and supplementing fluids with a sports drink. 

However, carbohydrates should not be supplied in unlimited quantities, because on average the body cannot process more than 1 to 1.2 grams per minute. A maximum supply is therefore about 60 to 70 grams of carbohydrates per hour (rule of thumb is 1.2 grams/hour/kg body weight). Taking in more in this case does NOT necessarily lead to a better performance.

So there is no point in swallowing lots of sugars or drinking very syrupy drinks: it only increases the risk of gastrointestinal problems.

The period of exertion is therefore dominated by eating regularly. Take in a maximum of 70 grams of carbohydrates combined with a maximum of 750ml of sports drink or water per hour.

Do you only drink water during a race or training? You should realise that by sweating you also lose minerals and salts (called electrolytes). These are essential components in regulating your hydration.

After the effort

After you have trained hard, cycled in a race or completed a sportive, it is important that you provide your body with the right building blocks to recover as soon as possible.

Recovering quickly ensures that you can swiftly get back on the bike to do the next training session or race.

Make sure you have eaten enough recovery-enhancing drinks or bars within 30 minutes after the exercise. These are drinks and bars that contain the right combination of proteins and carbohydrates. This will aid the body in repairing broken muscles faster and producing new muscle mass. If you do not use enough proteins after your workout, you will have to take proteins from other muscles in your body in order to facilitate recovery. This will be restored in the longer term, but is not optimal for an athlete who wants to progress.

Restorative sports drinks and bars can help to alleviate this problem. The carbohydrates replenish the glycogen supply, while the salt helps retain the absorbed moisture.

Time is also an important factor in the recovery phase. Depending on the situation (the delivered effort, the muscle glycogen supply at the start of the effort and the nutrition afterwards), full recovery can take from 10 to as long as 36 hours! Thus, sufficient rest is essential to recover optimally from an effort. A sports massage can also speed up the recovery process.

TIPWhich brand of sports nutrition you use is very personal. So don't rely on your friends, but experience it for yourself. Try different brands during training so you know what you like and don't like and see how your body reacts to different kinds of sports nutrition.

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