4 Keys To Good Nutrition On A Cycling Tour
I recently interviewed Sheelagh Daly – a Holistic Nutritionist who also happens to be an avid cyclist and who has pedalled around Europe. Sheelagh runs a YouTube channel where she provides advice on both nutrition and cycle touring. Check out this video where she discusses the best nutrition tips for all of us cyclists out there. Watch the video and then keep reading as we expand a bit on her advice.
1. Eat Enough Food
On a bike tour you are gonna get hungry. Very hungry! You will be surprised at how much more food you need to replenish your body’s energy stores.
As Sheelagh says in the video “The biggest thing is just to eat enough. When we’re exercising our digestion slows down… it’s diverting that energy to our muscles… so we might not get the same hunger cues but our body is burning through fuel.”
So check in with yourself throughout your ride (a couple times every hour) to make sure you are snacking enough. On our fully supported tours we supply your roadside lunches so take the time to stop and fuel up. Even if your riding buddy is eager to get back on the road, grab a banana or an extra sandwich so you have a snack for the afternoon ride. At the end of the day on our tours, we gather together for a big nutritious meal.
2. Drink Lots Of Water
“Your body is using up so much water keeping you moving, and it needs hydration!.. A good rule of thumb is to take a couple big sips… every 15 minutes… and increase that if you’re still getting thirsty.”
On our tours we supply drinking water in our camps (and at our hotels if it’s a hotel tour) and at our roadside lunch stops. There is always enough water for everyone so be sure to fill your bottles when you can and keep sipping water before and after your ride.
A good way to monitor yourself to know if you are becoming dehydrated is to see what colour your urine is. It should be a pale yellow and never too dark. Darker (or brighter) yellow could indicate you haven’t had enough water. This would be a good reason to increase your intake and to speak to the tour medic (on Expedition level tours) if this persists.
3. Replenish Your Salts
“Salt is crucial for the activity of our muscles as well as the circulation of our blood. Ever felt that saltiness on your skin after an intense ride? That’s your body burning through electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals like sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium.”
Many people like electrolyte drink mixes or salt pills or other sports products to help replenish their salts. We supply energy drink mixes on our Expedition level tours but some people forget that you are also replenishing your salts through the foods you eat – so add some salt to your dinner! It might sound strange but simply adding some salt to your Coca-Cola or water or juice also works.
It’s a good idea on a bike tour to carry with you some salty snacks. Pick them up along your ride, or on an off day, so you always have something to snack on to help replenish your salts.
4. Eat A Lot Of Whole Foods
“Try to consume as wide a variety of whole foods as you can, especially fruits and vegetables, .. it’s just gonna help you feel and ride your best.”
Getting your macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) and micronutrients (minerals and vitamins) by eating lots of whole foods is ideal. Whole foods have not been processed at all. Eating a banana or an avocado (for example) is a great way to get these nutrients into your body when you have burned through a lot of them while cycling and exerting yourself.
On our tours, we always have fruit (and often fresh vegetables) at our lunch stops and we shop in markets and stores for fresh ingredients for our camp meals as much as possible.
Sheelagh has an excellent downloadable guide to nutrition that summarizes the keys to good nutrition and gives examples of foods you can eat to make sure you are getting all the nutrients your body needs. You can find it here.