I love riding my bike and love eating food; these are two of my favourite activities and take up a lot of my time. Obviously, the two things go hand in hand; the more I ride, the more I tend to eat as I burn through a lot of energy doing so many miles each day. The problem I sometimes face though, is eating enough to sustain all that activity. After all, when I’m not on the bike I’m still pretty active at work or doing other things away from riding.
I struggle particularly in summer to take on enough food to match all my activity. At 6ft tall and 67kg there isn’t a great deal of spare capacity when I run out of fuel and the margin for weight loss is very small; I’m more concerned with weight maintenance to keep healthy and strong.
At the height of the season, between June and September I can be riding up to 400 miles a week, working 40 hours and squeezing in games of tennis, walks and other activities that mean I burn through a lot of fuel. Getting that back in can be difficult. I’m a small guy and don’t have a massive stomach so quite often feel full before I can eat enough food. I take the approach of eating smaller amounts more frequently rather than three enormous meals and that helps slightly, but I still get full whilst the body tries to digest what it’s already received.
I’m not calorie conscious either; I don’t really believe too much in calorie counting as it’s a dangerous game to play. If you eat everything in moderation and put a bit of thought into the fuel you require then there is little need. To me, carbs, protein and vitamin intake are more important indicators of quality than calories. I need to get plenty of carbs for fuel, plenty of protein for recovery and lots of nutrients to sustain a strong and healthy body with which to consistently function through all the miles. I eat a lot of cake too, but the foods that are going to sustain me always come first; it's just easier to take a photo of food before you eat it in a cafe than at home.
People always tell me to eat more nuts and seeds and other dense foods but I already do. Again, there is only so much you can eat in a day before you feel like you’re about to give birth to the baby Greek yoghurt god with a nutty crown. It’s also worth pointing out if I didn’t eat correctly then there is no way on earth I’d be riding quite as many miles on as many days as I currently do. The simple matter is that I just can’t get enough in at some points in the year!
We leave very little to chance. A nutritionist called Sally from fitnaturally prepares our meal planner for the week. Despite the name, pretty much nothing is off the books if you want to include it in the plan. The key is getting Sally to give us a meal plan that provides the necessary fuel for each day based on the activity we have planned. She looks after some pro-athletes so knows her stuff. Unlike most athletes though, my concept of a rest day is still 30 miles so the fuel burning never stops...
I tend to supplement my protein intake with Science in Sport Rego+ around the heaviest riding days; these tend to be on a weekend. Getting in a good solid meal and some supplementary protein and vitamins goes some way to helping solve the conundrum. Even so, I sometimes still slip towards that 66kg mark, which I deem to be a red flag.
To most people, the thought of being able to eat whatever they want and not put on weight is a wonderful thing, but when you’re close to the wire and it’s the line between being strong and healthy or weak and skinny then it matters a lot. I eat as much of the right things as possible as often as possible but sometimes my body just can’t keep up.
I found my way of regulating it has to be the level of intensity which I ride at. If I start to lose weight but can’t get anymore food on board then I’ll back off the intensity and make sure I’m not burning as much.