Cycling Superfood: Black or Green Tea
Sports scientists at Rutgers University found that a nine-day supplement of black-tea extract decreased delayed-onset muscle soreness after cycling intervals. "The black-tea extract reduces the oxidative stress of the exercises and speeds recovery between intervals," says assistant professor Shawn Arent, PhD. Try it yourself: "Add four bags of decaffeinated tea to 32 ounces of cold water and steep in the refrigerator overnight," suggests Barbara Lewin, RD, a sports nutritionist who owns Sports-Nutritionist.com. Drink tea in place of water before, during and after rides.
Cycling Nutrition Tip: Lead with Carbs
The days of restricting carbs then bingeing on pasta are over, but carbs still rule the week prior to a big cycling event. Glycogen—what a carbohydrate turns into in the body—fuels your engine. "In our carb-phobic society, I don't like to tell people to carbo-load," says sports dietitian Molly Kimball, R.D. "Instead, I say to let carbs take center stage." Consume three to five grams of carbs per day for each pound of your body weight (about 600 grams for a 150-pound cyclist), suggests Kimball. "It's not just pasta and rice. Fruit yogurt, apples, even chocolate milk are great sources."
Bicycling.com: Power Up On Pasta
Cycling Superfood: Soybeans and Tofu
The branched-chain amino acids in soybeans stop muscle degradation during long rides while the antioxidants help alleviate postride aches and pains. Research published in The Nutrition Journal found that both soy and whey proteins build lean muscle mass, but soy protein also prevents exercise-induced inflammation. "Chocolate soy milk makes an excellent recovery drink," says Barbara Lewin, RD, a sports nutritionist who owns Sports-Nutritionist.com. Also, keep soy nuts in the car or at the office for a great protein-rich snack.
Cycling Nutrition Tip: Don't Skimp on Calories
You may cut back on training, but don't cut food. "Cyclists in a taper will feel just as hungry because of all the hard work they've put in over the previous weeks," says Nancy Clark, R.D., a sports dietitian and author of The Cyclist's Food Guide: Fueling for the Distance. Eating during the taper phase keeps your tank full. "Expect to gain two to four pounds in the days before the big event," says Clark. "You'll need it—and lose it—during the race."
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Cycling Superfood: Salmon and Tuna
Though we don't usually think of fatty foods as performance-enhancers, the omega-3 fatty acids in salmon and tuna go way beyond serving as an energy source. "Omega-3s generally increase blood flow," says Jay Udani, MD, an assistant clinical professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. "This may help wash out inflammatory cells in damaged muscles" that cause pain and swelling. Keep canned salmon and tuna on hand for sandwiches and salads—aim for two to three servings a week.
Cycling Nutrition Tip: Eat Often, Refuel Quickly
To keep your blood sugar from dipping, eat every three hours and refuel within 20 minutes of exercise. These guidelines are especially important during the seven days before your event because you don't want to give your body any reason to tap into energy stores. Plus, cells are most receptive to recovering glycogen and muscle immediately after activity. Eat protein, too—it helps muscle cells repair and recover. Use a 4:1 carb-to-protein ratio. For example, a cup of low-fat yogurt, with about 30 grams of carbs and 6 grams of protein, is an ideal snack.
Bicycling.com: Power of Protein
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