I've never been one to diet. During my skinny days, when my teenage metabolism could take a beating without my body feeling it, I always said, "I'd rather eat whatever I want and exercise it away than diet myself stupid."
As it turns out, that is the outlook of a person in better physical condition than I am currently. As I've gotten older, the relationship I have with my own metabolism has spiraled downward, becoming almost abusive on my end. No longer can I help myself to a full plate of greasy, deliciousness and hit the gym to melt it away.
One lesson I've gleaned thus far from my cycling journey is that there is a direct correlation to what goes in my body and how productive my rides are. A night of brewskies with friends can easily derail a ride the following morning. That's obvious.
Waking up dehydrated in the middle of the night to gulp down my bedside water then falling back into slumberland only to have my bladder sound the alarm makes for a rough night's sleep. It's nearly impossible for me to get out of bed the next day, let alone train for my 50-mile ride.
But less obvious to me at the outset of my journey was the relationship between food and cycling. A rich meal, a frozen meal or even a fast-food meal sits in my stomach for quite awhile. Eating unhealthy derailed my progress a few times before I took notice.
In contrast, setting out for a sunrise ride can be challenging if I don't fuel myself properly. I've found myself fifteen miles up the Fall Creek Trail with no steam left after enjoying a simple bowl of Special K Vanilla Almond cereal. As my rides have gotten longer, I've discovered that two eggs will do the trick, keeping me fueled with good protein but not weighed down by greasy breakfast meat.
Not to mention trail side snacks. Without one, making it home from the Canal Towpath is nearly impossible. I opt for more protein in this area, carrying a snack bag full of sea salt almonds to munch on at my half way points. And of course, water is a must morning, noon and night, particularly in this heat wave.
My biggest question still is in the recovery foods. After a hard ride, I come home feeling exhilarated. When I've stretched and showered, the hunger sets in as my body seeks to recover the nutrients it expended. I haven't figured this one out quite yet. Often, I want to treat myself to the foods of which I'm deprived, thinking: "I've earned this Papa Roux pulled-chicken Po'Boy." But, the energy I've derived from a healthy release of endorphins is zapped out of me when I give way to my stomach's petty cravings. I want something healthy, but satisfying, hearty but not heavy.
For now I'll keep experimenting, using my own body as a laboratory. But I wonder what other's are eating before, during and after a long periods of exercise? Share your healthy food tips below.