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How to Recover After A Long Bike Ride

June 14, 2012

With the Menomonie Gran Fondo this past Saturday, we thought it would be nice to a deeper look at how you can recover once you are done with a ride like that.

By:  Jane Schwartz Harrison, RD, Nutritionist

MyOptumHealth.com

Congratulations! You just finished a long and challenging ride. But wait! Don’t abandon your nutrition needs just yet. The right mix of recovery foods will go a long way to helping you feel less sore, less stiff, and less tired in the hours and days that follow. A smart nutrition strategy includes a follow-up plan that will re-feed your glycogen stores and repair muscle tissue. Make sure you follow these five tips for prime recovery:

Timing Counts

The minutes immediately after you’re off the bike (when there is increased blood flow to your muscles) is when your body is most receptive to refueling.

  • Aim to eat within 15 to 30 minutes, and do not wait longer than 45 minutes.This is essential!
  • Then continue to eat at regular intervals for the next 24 hours to keep up replenishment.

Carbs Are Key, Protein Secondary

Carbs are the most important recovery nutrient. They stimulate the release of insulin, a hormone that helps build muscle and restock glycogen stores.

  • Aim for 1 to 1.5 grams of carb per kilogram of body weight in the first 45 minutes. Keep this up for about four hours after the event, or until you eat a larger meal.
  • For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, eat 70 to 100 grams of carbs per hour. One gram of carb has four calories, so that translates to about 300 to 400 calories of carbs as soon as possible after you get off the bike. You can break it up by having something 15 minutes after you stop, and again in another 15 to 30 minutes.
  • For the following 24 hours, your carb intake should be about six to 10 grams per kg of body weight (450-750 grams of carb for a 150 pound person).
  • Adding some protein to your carb can improve your recovery, but don’t overdo the protein (or fat) in the first couple hours, as that can slow the absorption of the carbs.

Smart Recovery Meal Ideas

Here are some meal/snack ideas that contain about 70 to 80 grams of carbs and eight to 15 grams of protein:

  • Large fruit smoothie made with milk or yogurt
  • Peanut butter sandwich and large carton of juice
  • Bagel and yogurt
  • 16 oz 100% juice and two ounces of low-fat cheese
  • Chocolate milk and a one or two granola bars
  • ¼ cup raisins, a large banana, and 16 oz. milk
  • Large baked potato and cottage cheese
  • Recovery drink with mostly carbs and nine to 10 grams of protein

Save higher protein intakes until at least two hours after the event. This could include chicken breast, fish, lean steak, high protein drink, etc.

Replace Fluids and Electrolytes

Replacing fluids lost by sweating is critical in order to prevent dehydration.

  • Your goal will be to drink on schedule during your ride and lose no more than 2 percent of your body weight (three pounds for a 150 pound person).
  • During training, practice weighing yourself before and after to get a sense of how much fluid you lose. For every pound lost, you need to drink 16 oz of fluid.
  • A pound of sweat contains about 90mg of potassium and 400 to 700mg of sodium.
  • As long as your recovery food or drink contains some salt or potassium, you don’t need anything special. One banana has 350 mg. Even foods like a cup of yogurt (520mg), large potato (800mg), cup of OJ (475mg), etc have plenty of potassium.
  • Sodium can also be found in most foods, from bagels and sandwiches to dairy and granola bars – just don’t choose low-sodium foods after the ride and you should be fine!
  • Don’t rely on sports drinks for potassium unless they specifically have it included. Check labels for sodium, as they vary.

With this recovery plan in place, you’ll be ready for another long ride in no time!

Resources

Position of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and athletic performance. J Am Diet Assoc. 2000;100(12):1543-1556.

Hargreaves M, Hawley JA, Jeukendrup A. Pre-exercise carbohydrate and fat ingestion: Effects on metabolism and performance. J Sports Sci. 2004;22(1):31-38.

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Training Tips for the Menomonie Gran Fondo: Part 2

May 10, 2012

By Jonas Carney, Performance Director
Optum Pro Cycling Team

Nutrition

There is nothing more difficult than running out of energy halfway through a long ride, or even worse, cramping up due to dehydration! As the Menomonie Gran Fondo and Spectator Rides approach, your nutrition becomes the critical component for a successful and enjoyable day. A few days prior to the ride you should start hydrating. Drink water frequently, cut back or eliminate caffeine and alcohol, and add carbohydrates to your diet. Practice proper nutrition habits for each training ride leading up to the event to be sure you are eating and hydrating properly.

On the day of the Gran Fondo, eat a light breakfast of high-carbohydrate foods and drink lots of water. During the ride drink before you’re thirsty. The rule of thumb should be one water bottle (20 ounces) per hour on the bike especially if it is warm weather. Water or a sports drink should be your first choice. Carry two bottles and alternate your consumption throughout the ride. Eat easily digestible, carbohydrate rich-food such as energy bars, bagels, fruit or granola bars. Don’t try something new on the ride; eat things you know agree with you. Remember, practice makes perfect so do several test rides before the Gran Fondo.

Attitude

In a large group ride, it’s only natural to feel a sense of competitiveness in our veins. Don’t let the adrenaline take over your ride! Ease into the ride pace. The Menomonie Gran Fondo isn’t a race and if it’s your first long ride, the goal is to finish comfortably and enjoy the experience. Stay positive and attentive to others around you. Safety should be at the front of your mind during the day. Here are some more tips for an enjoyable ride:

• Change your position on the bike frequently. Move your hand position, get off the saddle, stretch your arms, shoulders, neck, and calves, and arch your back. Avoid staying in one position too long.

• Take short rest breaks off the bike. The Menomonie Gran Fondo includes both water and food stops. Take advantage of this time to get off the bike, refill your water bottles, stretch, and use the restroom. Keep these stops to 10 minutes or less or you may risk getting stiff from lactate build up in your muscles.

• Find a companion or two who ride at a pace similar to yours. The ride will go faster and feel easier with a friend or two who you can chat with and provide mutual support. Also, skilled riders can take advantage of drafting and save some energy in the wind. On windy days, take turns leading into the wind with your fellow riders to conserve energy.

Attitude is everything. If you have prepared yourself well, you can sit back and enjoy the beautiful scenery around Menomonie and Dunn County (and maybe plan your next big ride). In my next entry, I’ll cover Gran Fondo day-of-ride preparation.

Get out and ride!

Jonas Carney
Performance Director

Optum Pro Cycling Team

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Training Tips for the Menomonie Gran Fondo & Spectator Rides

May 3, 2012

By Jonas Carney, Performance Director
Optum Pro Cycling Team

A milestone in the life of any avid cyclist is riding in a major event like the Nature Valley Bicycle Festival’s Gran Fondo rides in Menomonie, WI, June 16. While riding 65 or 85 miles in a day may sound extreme to a non-cyclist, you can do it too! Almost any novice cyclist can complete a Gran Fondo ride if they follow a consistent training routine. The key is to start your program early to give your body a chance to respond to the training plan and not wait until the last minute to train. If you are not up to the challenge of a “Big Ride” this year, give yourself a chance to succeed on your own terms by participating in the shorter distance Menomonie Spectator Rides, which are 32 or 15 miles in length!

There are 4 key success factors to have a fun and rewarding Gran Fondo experience:

• The right equipment
• The right training
• The right food
• The right attitude

Equipment
The right equipment means comfort and functionality. Your bike should fit you well and you should be familiar with it. If you aren’t sure about fit, have your local bike professional provide a fit-assessment. A visit to the local bike shop will also identify any mechanical issues with your bike. Don’t plan to ride a new or a borrowed bike on your first Gran Fondo ride. Consider having a tune-up before the ride, and carry a spare tube and patch kit, tools, a pump and knowledge of how to use them. Other essential equipment includes:

• A helmet that fits appropriately (must be worn to be effective)
• Water bottles and cages
• Energy drink and snacks for the ride
• Cycling clothing, including shoes, shorts, gloves and rain gear
• Sunglasses and sunscreen

Training
The core of your training should be endurance training. If you start your training at least 12 weeks before the ride, you will have ample time to prepare for the Gran Fondo. If you already ride more than five hours a week, you will need far less time to prepare. While most of your rides will be at about 65% of your maximum heart rate (MHR), add two days of interval training, where you push hard for several minutes – up to 85% MHR. Hills are a great way to add interval training to your ride. And don’t forget to allow one day per week for recovery. If you can only ride four to five days a week, don’t do your rest days consecutively. A sample training schedule may look like this:

• Saturday: 1-2 hour ride with 30 minutes of hard effort
• Sunday: 1-2 hour ride at steady pace (65% MHR)
• Monday: Rest
• Tuesday: 1-1.5 hour ride with hills
• Wednesday: Rest or 1-hour easy recovery ride
• Thursday: 1-1.5 hours with interval training
• Friday: Rest or 30-minute easy recovery ride

More Training Tips
• Maintain a cadence of 80 to 100 revolutions per minute
• Increase your mileage as you get closer to the Gran Fondo, no more than 10% at a time.
• Ride with friends, family or your local club to increase your level of comfort riding in larger group.
• Plan a 50- or 60-mile ride at least two weeks before the century to gauge your fitness
• Taper your mileage a week before the century. During that week you may even reduce your riding to one or two days of an easy five to 10-mile spin. Also, try to get plenty of sleep.

In the next blog, I’ll cover Nutrition and Attitude as you approach the day of the Gran Fondo rides. So, stay tuned!

Get out and ride!
Jonas Carney
Performance Director

Optum Pro Cycling Team

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