Six golden rules of nutrition
Nigel Mitchell, of the English Institute of Sport, has guided Bradley Wiggins on all matters dietary during his work with British Cycling. “It varies from individual to individual and diet should adapt according to the amount of work the body is doing, he says.
"Because Bradley is tall we have to make sure he is not overfuelled. We try to get a good mix of carbohydrate, macro-nutrients such as protein and the right mix of amino acids to promote the best possible muscle recovery.
“A highly trained athlete is likely to be more efficient, so they may need fewer calories to do the same amount of work as an amateur rider. The important thing is to put back into the body what is being used. The difference in calorie intake during a heavy racing period and a rest spell can be significant.
“We aim to get Bradley to the Tour very lean, around 75 to 76kg. The goal is to come out of the Tour at roughly the same weight he went in. If he comes out only a kilo lighter, that’d be a good job.”
If you dehydrate you can die. One of the ways to ensure you are hydrated properly is to take one of the sports drinks on the market, they contain sodium and other nutrients that are lost primarily through sweating. They help push the fluids into muscle spaces. Drink little and often. If you wait until you are thirsty, it’s too late.
2 Pre-event fuelling
The key at breakfast is to ensure you’re maintaining a good blood sugar level and eat foods that will release energy slowly. Porridge is a good low GI food. By maintaining a good blood sugar level it will help to preserve the muscle glycogen. A combination of protein and carbohydrate is important too.
3 Eat adequate protein
Protein is often overlooked by cyclists who think they need to carbo load. But protein is important for amino acids. I advise one to two pints of milk a day — it’s cheap and a good source of minerals such as calcium. I also recommend a cod liver oil capsule, to ensure the correct amount of fatty acids are maintained.
4 During the race
Feeding in a long race is very important. Most riders tend to prefer solid food until the latter stages when the racing gets more intensive, when they’ll switch to gels. In shorter races run at a higher intensity it’s best to stick to the bars and gels.
After a race or hard training ride it’s important to get back as much as you can as quickly as you can. A specialist sports recovery
supplement can be absorbed quickly but it doesn’t have to be a specialist drink, a normal milkshake would also be suitable. For a rider in heavy training, the days off are when the muscles are recovering and it’s important to eat properly then too.
6 Regularity of eating
Eat three main meals a day with small snacks in-between and a bit of supper in the evening if you are doing a lot of training.
“If you put on weight you’re overfuelling, but it may not just be the amount or type of food that is causing you to gain weight,” says Nigel Mitchell. “It could be that you’re eating at the wrong times. If you eat nothing before or during a long ride and then eat loads afterwards you’ll put weight on. There’s a difference between eating because you’re fatigued from exercise as opposed to eating all of your calories after a ride. Eat little and often and ensure you have a good, balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables. Stick to a sensible diet.
“A lot of the myths you hear can have a basis in truth,” adds Mitchell. “One of the worst things I’ve heard was from a former international rider who told me recently he’d eat nothing but grapes and olive oil for three days in order to lose weight. I hope no one does that these days.
“Cyclists can get obsessive about bodyweight, but if you lose too much weight you can sacrifice power. Sometimes we have to work with a rider and do something extreme to lose weight, but it’s always done in a controlled and measured way. Radical weight loss should be avoided Unless you have proper guidance.”