We’ve all at some point in time grappled with a very critical response: what kind of diet must one follow during or after cycling. The concept of supporting your workout with nutrition seems like an alien thought. While the internet is loaded with a number of articles and videos suggesting just what is right, it is rare to actually put it into practice. Therefore, on most days, you will find yourself eating whatever you can lay your hands on at home with little knowledge of the nutrition value you need to intake.
We care about cyclists and nothing gives us more joy than imparting knowledge on the mechanism of energy generation in our body, what role each of them play and what foods one must consume to help us perform better.
Energy is produced when food is burned in our body, calories being a measure of the energy produced. There are mostly three forms in which energy is produced in our body – carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. The body uses these basic units to build substances it needs for growth, maintenance, and activity.
Here’s how each of them helps:
Carbs are converted into sugars in our body. It can be divided into two parts,
- Simple carbohydrates: They are small molecules, which can be broken down and absorbed by the body quickly and are the quickest source of energy. They quickly increase the level of blood sugar. Fruits, dairy products, honey, maple syrup contain large amounts of simple carbs.
- Complex carbohydrates: These are large molecules that must be broken down into simple carbohydrates before they can be absorbed. Thus, they provide energy to the body more slowly than simple carbohydrates but still quicker than proteins and fats. Since they are digested less slowly they are less likely to be converted into fat. They also increase blood sugar level more slowly and to lower levels than simple carbs but for longer periods of time. Complex carbs include starches and fibers which occur in wheat products ( bread and pasta), other grains such as rye and corn, beans and root vegetables like potato.
Proteins are converted into amino acids in our body. They are a much slower and longer lasting source of energy than carbohydrates. Because proteins are complex molecules, the body takes longer to break it down. The body needs proteins to maintain and replace tissues as also to function and grow. Proteins are not usually used for energy. However, if the body is running low on calories from other nutrients or from fat stored in the body, protein is used for energy. If more protein is consumed than is required by the body, it will be stored as fat.
Fats are complex molecules composed of fatty acids and glycerol. The body needs fat for growth and energy and also to synthesize hormones and other substances. Fats are the slowest form of energy but are also the most efficient form. The body stores excess energy as fat.
Our body is one complex store and to be able to perform any activity effectively, it is essential that we monitor the nutrition we provide to our body keeping in mind our daily routine. In the next blog we will discuss about foods that give us the required energy in the right amounts of carbs, proteins and fats.