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    Eating right on the bike

    Taken from the Blazing Saddles Column in the Tayside Courier Weekend Supplement 15.9.12

    Scot Tares finds out that the key to a happy cyclist is filling the engine on your bike with the right fuel.

    “The food that fuels me as an athlete is incredibly important. On any given day I will only feel as good as the food I have eaten before, during and after my ride. Garbage in, garbage out”.- Timmy Duggan

    Often the thoughts of a cyclist will revolve around food and rightly so; as a cyclist, you are little more than the engine that powers your chosen two-wheeled mode of transport and any engine needs fuel to function. You would think, nowadays that fuelling yourself for a bike ride was a lot simpler, than in days gone by; my Dad still tells me of hundred mile rides he did on nothing more than a “jammie piece”; but now it seems that the plethora of energy bars, carbohydrate drinks and gels have diet and nutrition more confusing to the modern cyclist, instead of make things simpler. Nutritional science is ever-changing but the advancement of knowledge is often both informative and confusing. Articles in magazines and marketing campaigns directed at cyclists can often pressurise us into thinking that it is impossible to pedal a bike without consuming the latest carbohydrate bar with added caffeine. Unfortunately, usually they are just what we don’t need as without the necessary work-out we end up consuming more calories than we have burnt. As the engine on the bike the cyclist needs to think in terms of their power to weight ratio i.e. their body weight based against their ability to propel that weight forward on a bike. Put another way; if two cyclists, one heavier than the other, both ride up a hill and they are both travelling at the same speed, the heavier cyclist is the one exerting more power to get up the hill and therefore more energy in the process.

    Most people start with enough energy stores in their body to last for a 60 minute work-out. With this in mind it is advisable to drink nothing more than water on such short rides as otherwise you will be adding more carbohydrate to your body than it can manage. The average intestine can only process a half to one gram of carbohydrate per minute, no matter how much you consume, so over consumption only leads to all this extra carbohydrate sloshing around in your body, which can result in stomach cramps and ultimately weight increase. It is also very important that you do not under or over dilute any energy drink you are making. The manufacturer has specifically designed the powder to mix to a drink that will be absorbed most efficiently. Under diluting, or worse, drinking a carbohydrate drink, whilst popping back carbohydrate gels, can lead to the rider actually dehydrating as the excess carbohydrate leaches fluid from the blood stream.

    Overall, I am a great believer in eating a wide range of quality natural food and steering clear of processed food whenever possible, and only falling back on processed energy foods for emergencies or convenience in long events or races.

    For an interesting Blog about cycling and food check out

    Scot Tares

    Twitter: @SkinnyTyres

    Where to Ride: A Mountain bike ride in Strathtay

    Location:Castle Dow – near Balnaguard

    OS 1:50,000 Map 52 Start – NN935524

    Ride type:Off-road moderate ride with a steady climb
    Distance:8miles/ 14km return – The route can be extended beyond Castle Dow
    Details:A small parking area can be found on the B898 between Grandtully and Balnaguard. The route climbs steadily on forest track to the iron-age hill fort of Castle Dow.

    Copyright DC Thompson 2012