article by Barry Murray of A1 Coaching
Some Nutritional Commandants Cyclists Should Follow
It’s a process and a lifestyle not a “diet”
We can package everything these days and make it a commodity. That’s not what my nutrition is about. It’s not just “LCHF” or “Paleo”. I’ve spent almost 10yrs researching nutrition and there are many parts and no set defined “plan”. What I am advising is a better way of eating and a way of life. What one of the key focuses is on, is how to fat adapt. The overall aim is to improve health. This leads to an improvement in performance. To do these things, you need to embrace the process and make long term changes. You need to create new habits, educate yourself, source better quality foods, cook more and make all this the new norm. This then continues with no end point, and as you go along, you progressively reap the awards. It changes your way of living and it changes you, both for the better.
Take Home: Enjoy the process.
If you expect overnight changes, you’ll be disappointed. If you expect drastic changes over days, you’ll be disappointed. If you expect to turn into superman or superwoman in weeks, you’ll be delusional.
All I’m saying, Is that the changes, the biochemistry changes, take time to build and function. There are 100’s of different molecular components needed for all this to work. They build slowly first and then they start to work together. The longer they work together, the better the get to know each other. Then you start feeling like superman or superwoman.
Gradual changes are made to the foods you eat, the timings, the amounts, the breakfasts you have or don’t have and the foods you have around training. Those changes all depend on the individual so I can’t give any specifics. The key changes though have been outlined in the webinar presentation for the winter training series.
So it might take a few months, several months, or even a couple of years to really see the optimum gains. That being fully fat adapted, increased FTP, VO2, W/Kg, all singing all dancing.
But here’s the thing, you can still get better as you go along. Eating this way naturally improves your energy levels, your weight and your general health. So you don’t need to set the alarm clock for 6 or 12months down the line. You will naturally feel better the more you do it. As I said, it’s a process. And its gradual.
Take Home: The slower you go, the more you see.
Everything is N = 1. That means you are the conductor of your own experiment and you only have one subject, yourself. Any nutrition strategy, training strategy, or anything related to health comes down to this.
So what I am providing is a set of instructions and guidelines. It’s up to as to what way you want to put things together and what tweaks and adjustments you make as you go along.
Some people can do very well on a moderate carb/protein/fat diet, others are better on low carb/high fat. However, everyone can make beneficial changes and improvements. It’s not a case of “oh, I can’t go low carb”….. There are a tonne of other gains to be made from the quality of the foods you source to the timing of the carbohydrates you eat.
Take Home: Every man is an island
It’s not Zero Carb
Following on from the statement “oh, I can’t go low carb”…. Let’s put a few things in perspective
Low carb in this case, could be anything from 10-30% of your daily total.
Let’s say that your daily total is 3,000kcal
20% of 3,000 = 600kcal
900 / 4 = 150g of carbohydrate
That’s equivalent to
So that’s still a bit of carbohydrate eating. It’s not zero, it’s not even that low. It’s just lower than what the ridiculous outdated guidelines have been.
Take Home: you can still eat carbs
It is high fat, particularly saturated fat
You can start cutting down on the high carb foods like cereals, breads , pasta and cans of coke. You can then go further, if you are on the right path, and continue to cut down on things like porridge, fruits and potato. Once you get to this stage, you need to drastically increase the amounts of fat you eat.
From a simple energy point of view… if you have gone from 60% carbs down to 20%… then that 40% deficit needs to be replaced …. And the other fuel source that replaces it is Fat.
So eating tuna and chicken salads, on a 20% carb diet, is going to hurt you and cause problems. It’s usually one of the main causes of people stating “oh, I can’t go low carb”… as they haven’t increased their fat intake and feel low energy because of it.
The main fats are the saturated fats in mainly animal foods… meats, egg yolks, animal skins, creams, cheeses. Then there are foods like coconut with saturated fats.
As we have been told for the past 30-40yrs that saturated fats are bad, people have a hard time consuming them. So people still choose only to peanut butter, seeds and bags of nuts. These are whole foods of course but one big issue is that they are very high in omega 6 fatty acids. Consuming a large amount, which happens when you are cutting back on carbs and not eating enough other fats, leads to a high omega6:omega3 ratio. This is wrong as it cause inflammation which leads to many illnesses. So you want to be eating more pork belly, butter and cream, plenty of fish, oily type best….. and just a few nuts and seeds on the side
Take Home: Fat is your friend
I’m 75% Vegetarian
So I’m saying enjoy your eggs in the morning and homemade burgers in the evening. But that’s not all. We are great cherry pickers. We hear about something we like, ignore everything else, and then proceed to just do that one thing. What I’m talking about here is that eating healthily is mainly about first removing all the junk foods and second, eating heaps of plant based foods. That means that the eggs in the morning should come with some spinach and tomato. The burger at lunch time should come with a big Greek salad and the fish in the evening should come with a tonne of roast vegetables with lots of colours.
You don’t need me to tell you that veg is good for you. So I’m not going to explain why. All you need to know is that at least 50% of your plate, if not more, should be covered in fresh vegetables and salads with every colour of the rainbow. Simple . If you don’t do this, and still think eating steaks and eggs on their own is okay, you are not following my way of eating.
Take Home: I’m practically a vegetarian
A Burger is not just a Burger
The quality is first and foremost. A frozen burger from Tesco is not the same species as a burger made at home with fresh minced meat from the local butcher with added herbs and spices.
A fry up in the morning, with free range eggs, back bacon from the butcher with no added water or sugars, black pudding made with fresh pigs blood and no Rusk, a big handful of spinach, fresh tomato and Portobello mushroom… all cooked in Kerrygold butter….. is not the same as sausage, bacon and egg from Spar.
A could spend all day going through the nutrition arguments for all these foods. But I will simple leave it at this – go out to the right shops and buy good quality foods. This is one of the lifestyle changes I mentioned in no.1.
Take Home: we are not created equal
You can eat on the Bike
While not eating before a ride, sometimes, helps upregulate fat burning, you do not need to starve yourself while on the bike as well.
During exercise, insulin remains dormant. This means that it does not get released when you eat some simple carbohydrates and therefore does not block fat burning. There may be a threshold in that guzzling back a can of coke and a mars bar, might override the system and just flood the engine with sugars. So what I am advising is that you eat natural carbohydrate snacks like homemade bars, fruit and dried fruit. These foods help the brain supply more than the leg supply. In other words, that feeling of the bonk is mainly due to low brain fuel, so eating a banana or flapjack is all you need to prevent that.
Also, every stressor brings gains if you do it properly and gradually. So maybe pushing out the time you eat at is another training method. This might mean that your first couple of rides, you wait until 60mins into the ride…… a few months later , you can wait until 2hrs into the ride.
Take Home: in order for the adaptation to occur, the stimulus must resonate
It’s not just for people who “burn it all off”
Anyone who follows this way of eating will be hit with the same comments day after day. I’ve been getting hit for almost 8yrs now….. “but that’s okay for you as you burn it all off”
I’ll give you the comeback :
I eat in a way that is healthy and avoids processed foods. Fat is a better fuel for our bodies than sugar and all natural foods like eggs, fish and meats have got more good stuff in them also. So I eat more of these foods to have more energy and feel better. I just eat less foods that contain a lot of carbohydrates as these foods get converted to sugar easily. This is a better way to eat for anyone. The only difference is that because I exercise a lot, I can eat more that you.
Take Home: we can eat the same , you eat a bit less, I’ll eat a bit more, we’ll both get healthy
A Burger is just a Burger
“Before I learned the art, a punch was just a punch, a kick was just a kick. Once I learnt the art, a punch was no longer a punch and a kick was no longer a kick. Now that I understand the art and a punch is just a punch, a kick just a kick”, Bruce Lee.
If you learn about nutrition, educate yourself, explore and continuously improve….. a homemade burger will be the only type of burger you will ever want to eat.
Take Home: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler” Einstein.
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