What to eat to be a better cyclist?

Why am I so tired?

Fatigue… the number one factor leading people to me as a nutritional therapist. 

  • Sam came to see me for weight loss support
  • Natalie for support for her mental health
  • John for sporting performance
  • Karen for support for her IBS symptoms

Four different reasons for seeking help, but the one thing they all had in common was extreme tiredness. 

Are you tired all of the time? 

SHOP our amazing range of women's cycling gear

Are you using caffeine and sugar to keep you going throughout each day? 

Fatigue is the number one issue that I see in the clinic with my clients. It doesn’t matter whether they have come for weight loss support, gastro issues or sporting performance. 

Your body only wants one to two teaspoons of glucose in the blood at any one time

Fatigue is ticked 90% of the time. 

There can be a number of things impacting someone’s energy levels. But without a doubt, the first thing I get them to look at is balancing their blood sugar levels. 

Catherine Steel cycling nutritionist

What is blood sugar balance?

Blood sugar imbalance is a condition where your body does not handle sugar effectively.

The level of sugar, or glucose, in the blood is carefully controlled by hormones in order to minimise highs and lows and to provide the brain and the cells in the body with a constant supply of energy.

Find out more about Catherine

Glucose is the simplest form of sugar. All sugars and starches (carbohydrates) are digested and eventually broken down into glucose so the body can absorb and use it. 

Your body only wants one to two teaspoons of glucose in the blood at any one time. The body uses the hormone insulin to get the glucose into the cells to be used to produce energy. 

If it cannot be used for energy, the first port of call is to store it as glycogen in the muscles and liver for later use, and if there is any leftover this will be stored as fat. 

When we have a spike of glucose following a high carbohydrate meal, insulin with be produced to get the glucose out of the blood as quickly as possible (used, stored as glycogen, stored as fat).

Diet coke should be avoided at all costs

However, it does not know to stop when it reaches 1-2 teaspoons of glucose.

It will continue to lower glucose to the point that it has gone way to low, and you will be tired, “hangry” (hungry and angry!) and be craving carbohydrates. 

If your blood sugar suddenly drops it can lead to many physical and mental symptoms such as: 

  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Energy dips throughout the day
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches 
  • Feeling thirsty
  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Irritability
  • Sweating 
  • Palpitations
  • Mood swings 
  • Need tea and coffee for energy
  • Cravings for sweet food
  • Frequent urination in the morning 
  • Sleep issues

Blood sugar and weight

Balancing your blood sugar is the first thing that is needed if you would like to lose weight.

Every time you have a blood sugar spike, and your body works hard to bring back the balance, your body is storing this extra sugar as FAT.

By balancing your blood sugar levels you are not only, no longer storing fat, but when exercising you will then be using up the stored fat that you are trying to lose. 

 

Where to start with keeping your blood sugar balanced? 

To start with simply have protein, slow-release carbs and fat with your breakfast. 

Granola and berries - cycling fuel

This could be: 

  • Porridge made with milk, berries and a couple of tablespoons of ground seeds
  • Eggs with avocado on a piece of rye toast
  • An omelette with a little coconut oil, peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes and cheese
  • A chia pot (high in protein and essential fatty acids) with berries, nuts and seeds

 

It is not:

  • A bowl of processed cereal with milk
  • White toast with jam or marmite
  • A croissant and a milky coffee on the go

 

More broadly, if you focus on the following areas you're likely to see significant improvements:

 

1. Complex Carbohydrates

at a wide variety such as brown rice, rye, millet quinoa, oats, beans lentils and chickpeas (see below for a longer list).

Also included in this are root vegetables, however, potatoes should be avoided or eaten small amounts with a balanced meal. 

 

2. Increase Protein

... from sources such as lean chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, cheese, nuts and seeds. The average adult should be eating 0.75gms of protein per kilo of body weight.

But if you are training a lot, you will need to up this to approximately 1gm to help you support your body’s recovery needs. 

 

3. Increase the intake of fibre

You will be naturally increasing this by eating complex carbohydrates.

 

4. Stay hydrated

Your wee should be a light straw colour so monitor this as a way of understanding your individual needs.

Obviously, when you are training, you will need to take in more.

Dehydration can cause fatigue, which may make you reach for high refined carbs like bread, biscuits cakes as you think you need more energy, but in fact, you have just got a little dehydrated. 

 

And foods to avoid...

  • Processed foods as these very often contain additional simple carbohydrates.
  • Simple carbohydrates - such as white rice, white bread and pasta. Not only do you process into glucose quicker, they as also lower in vitamins and minerals.
  • The 'wrong' kinds of sugars such as cakes, biscuits and sweets but also sweetened yoghurts, sauces and some cereals.
  • Stimulants - tea, coffee, soft drinks including fruit juices. In addition, avoid sweeteners and diet drinks. 1-2 caffeinated drinks aren’t the problem. But 6 coffees, teas, or even diet cokes are going to be interfering with blood sugar balance.
  • Diet coke should be avoided at all costs.
  • Keep alcohol to a minimum.

 

Making small changes over time adds up to improving our overall wellbeing. Try this week to commit to change your breakfast. Look at getting 20gms or so in with your first meal o and see over a couple of weeks how this impacts the energy for the remainder of the day.

Catherine Steel is a Nutritional Therapist whose passion is supporting individuals health so that they can go on and achieve their sporting goals, large or small.  

Catherine runs an online clinic from her home in the Chilterns which means that she is able to support her clients from the comfort of their own home/office. Catherine supports individuals experiencing unexplained fatigue & gut issues, hormonal imbalances as well as optimising sports performance.

To find out more go to www.catherinesteel.co.uk or join her Facebook group #Superfueledcyclists.