FRIDAY, March 25 (HealthDay News) -- People looking for a
cardiovascular workout that doesn't stress or put weight on their
joints sometimes turn to biking. Rather than a 30-minute jog or a
quick pick-up game of basketball, they can spend hours on the bike,
with little or no joint strain.
Though great for the joints, such extended periods of physical
activity raise a new problem: How to keep the body properly fed and
hydrated during long-distance rides.
Fitness experts and dietitians say that bicyclists who ride for
two hours or more need to put a lot of thought into what their body
will need during the outing. For starters, they need to eat and
drink before, during and after the ride, said Todd Galati, an
exercise physiologist and spokesman for the American Council on
That's not as easy as it sounds. "You can only get so many
calories into your pre-ride meal and still feel comfortable on the
bike," Galati said. "And while you're exercising, you can only take
in so many calories and utilize them."
About two hours before a ride, bicyclists should consume 17 to
20 ounces of liquid to prepare themselves for the sweating they'll
do during their ride, Galati said.
Amy Jamieson-Petonic, a registered dietitian and director of
wellness coaching for the Cleveland Clinic, said that people
planning on a long ride probably should get that liquid in the form
of a sports drink or watered-down fruit juice. Either, she said,
will contain extra carbohydrates to help feed their muscles while
Riders also should focus on eating some sort of healthy
carbohydrate-rich snack before riding, said Jamieson-Petonic, a
spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.
"If you're eating within an hour of your ride, you should eat something light that amounts to about 60 grams of carbohydrates, like a banana," she said. "As you back up from the start of your ride, you can eat more. For example, two hours before the ride you could eat a banana and a couple of pieces of toast."
Long-distance bicyclists should pack food and liquid with them
on any ride expected to go longer than an hour, Galati and
Riders should drink about 20 ounces of water for every hour
they're on the road, downing a quarter of a 20-ounce bottle every
15 minutes. That's a minimum standard. "The hotter it is, the more
you'll sweat and the more you'll need to replenish," Galati
He recommends a sports drink over water if the ride will last
longer than an hour because the carbohydrates such drinks contain
are rapidly absorbed by the body and made available to the muscles
because they are in liquid form. A drink that provides 30 to 60
grams of carbohydrates for each hour of training is ideal, he
Eventually, bicycle riders need to eat real food, however, as
the exertion makes them hungry. But that's a double-edged sword:
Food will make a cyclist feel more full, but it will not absorb
into the body as quickly.
"The liquid can be absorbed very quickly, but when you add the food, you're going to slow down the absorption," Galati said.
A mid-ride snack should have lots of carbohydrates and a little
protein, Jamieson-Petonic said. She prefers fresh fruit, but admits
it's tough to store. Dried fruit and trail mix are good
alternatives, as are low-sugar energy bars and gels.
Keeping the body fed with carbohydrates is important for the
mind as well as the muscles, she said.
"Your brain only wants glucose or carbohydrates for energy. It doesn't want protein. It doesn't want fat," she said, adding that the body needs more. "You need to be able to be coordinated. You need to make quick decisions and be able to stop and start. A lot of people don't think about the effect on cognitive function."
After the ride, it is important to eat and drink as soon as
possible to replenish what's been lost and give the body the
materials it needs to recover.
Jamieson-Petonic recommends that people weigh themselves before
and after a ride and then drink 20 to 24 ounces of fluid for every
pound of weight they've lost during the ride.
It's also important that a bicyclist consume some carbohydrates
within the first half-hour after their ride. "That's when your
muscles are most readily able to replenish their glycogen stores,"
she said. "They are more readily able to take in those
carbohydrates as efficiently as possible." Some options include a
bagel, a banana, pretzels or chocolate milk, which has another
benefit, as well.
"You need to get some lean protein into your body because that protein will help you repair the muscle fibers that have been torn during exercise," Jamieson-Petonic said. She recommends eating about two ounces of protein, the equivalent of two low-fat mozzarella string cheese sticks or two ounces of chicken.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has more about
healthy activity for adults.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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