Recovery – Optimise nutrition to maximise adaptation

Nutrition is an essential part of any serious training plan, not just what you eat but when and how much. It's a potential minefield, and some of the biggest gains by Pro cycling teams in recent years have come from embracing science-based nutrition programmes rather than the traditional mix of received wisdom and superstition.

Our friends at New Body Osteopathy recognise this, and here their Nutritionist, Richie Barclay, takes a look at nutrition and how it relates to post-ride recovery:

Nutrition for Cycling

Pro cyclists have nutritionists to fuel their performance and training to get the most out of their time on the saddle. For example, Team Sky employ Dr James Morton to periodize their nutrition based on training blocks to drive the adaptations that make their performance the way it is.

Without this nutrition support and scientific knowledge, they wouldn't be the team they are. You may have read about Chris Froome's recent performance at the Giro and it was highlighted how pivotal his nutrition was to this win, especially during stage 19.

Are all carbohydrates the same?

Carbohydrate after exercise have two purposes. The first is to replace used energy in the muscle and secondly to increase the response in muscle to adapt. To reap the rewards of the post exercise effect in the muscle, high glycaemic index (sugary) carbohydrates are best at this time. DO NOT TAKE THIS OUT OF CONTEXT! These types of carbohydrates should not be eaten all of the time, they lack fibre and spike blood glucose - a favourable process after exercise, but arguably not at other times during the day.

Examples of Sugary Carbohydrates:

White rice, white pasta, potato, white bread, jelly babies and fruit.

Eat 20-60g depending on your body mass and intensity of session.

e.g. Hard sessions with a lot of work done should have ~60g (200g white rice) carbohydrate meal whereas a shorter low intensity session may only require ~20g (a banana). In some cases we may restrict carbohydrate to drive a metabolic adaptation favourable to performance, but this is not to be attempted without the guidance of a qualified sports nutritionist.

How much protein do you need and when do you need it?

When we exercise, we stress muscle fibres and stimulate physiological processes that allow us to adapt to get stronger, faster and have greater aerobic capacity, depending on exercise mode/intensity.

To recover optimally, you must consume some protein after training at around 20-40g depending on your body mass, or in other words 1 - 2 chicken breasts. It is also important to eat whole food sources as opposed to supplements, with recent research showing this is a superior method to adapt due to nutrient availability.

How to prevent cramp

When you sweat, you lose electrolytes which are vital for muscle contraction. To prevent cramp, have electrolyte tablets at the ready for after the sweatier and longer sessions, especially if you are prone to cramping. If you are caught short, salt water or Lucozade sport usually do the trick. Remember, you must replace sweat loss with water 1.5x the amount lost during exercise.

Nutrition Optimisation at New Body

New Body Osteopathy's SENr registered nutritionist, Richie, will analyse your diet and then optimise it based on your lifestyle and training - to get the most out of your sessions and prepare you for peaking in competition. We then measure body fat using skinfold callipers to track over time in conjunction with adapted diet.

Richie is experienced in sports nutrition and has worked with many professional endurance athletes in the past to enhance performance nutrition both in training and during competition. To get more out of your training and be the best athlete you can be, get in touch with