Top Tips for Cyclists Returning to the Saddle After the Winter Months
Nigel has previously worked with top athletes from the world of cycling sports including Mark Cavendish and the Brownlee Brothers.
March 2023: With the long winter months almost behind us, many UK cyclists will have an eye on returning to the roads and trails after an extended break from riding. It’s important during this ‘pre-season’ period that cyclists understand their physical and nutritional needs to return most efficiently to tip-top shape ahead of the warmer months.
Nigel Mitchell, who boasts a 20+ year career in supporting athletes nutritionally, has offered his easily digestible ‘top tips’ for cyclists of all levels to ensure they’re prepared for the summer season ahead.
As one of American Pistachio Growers top nutrition experts, Nigel is a strong advocate of high protein diets. The fact that pistachios are a complete protein, high in antioxidants and easy to eat on-the-go makes them an ideal snack for keen cyclists and outdoor adventurers.
Consider recovery first!
A sudden increase in exercise can result in more muscle damage. For those of us who take advantage of improving weather to exercise more, it’s key to ensure adequate protein intake for recovery when tackling a relatively sudden upturn in exercise levels.
Specifically, a sudden increase in exercise volume and intensity results in a greater requirement for antioxidants.
Nigel says: Look for convenient riding snacks that provide both protein and antioxidants. American Pistachio nuts are a great option, containing 7g of complete protein per serving plus antioxidants such as Carotenoids, Lutein and Zeaxanthin.
Not a one-size-fits-all approach
The fundamentals of nutrition are constant across all riders which is based on ensuring nutritional requirements are met. However, the application may change.
For example, a rider participating in long gravel rides may struggle to get access to top up on the ride whereas a road rider may plan to stop at a cafe for a refuel. In this instance, the gravel rider would need to plan to take their nutrition with them for the day, requiring some thinking ahead.
Nigel says: Homemade rice cakes are great for this. I’ve also developed a really nutritious trail mix that I call gravel mix which is perfect for longer rides.
Consider nutrient sources
When thinking about nutrients we start with the macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates and fats. Ensuring we get these from whole foods, and plenty of fruit and vegetables, should mean that we are getting the micronutrients as well. The potential issue today is many people are consuming a large amount of processed and ultra-processed foods which tend to provide energy but are nutrient deficient.
Nigel says: Snacking on foods such as pistachio nuts can be a great contributor for not only protein and antioxidants, but also healthy fats and electrolytes such as potassium.
Don’t forget hydration
Fluid and hydration are always important. Dehydration can not only impair performance but slow recovery. The great thing about cycling is that a rider can drink whilst enjoying their exercise. This is even the case in the winter, but people often do not drink enough.
Nigel says: My top tip here is to buy an insulated drinking bottle and fill it with boiling water and a fruit tea bag. This will keep warm for over an hour and the fact it is flavored encourages people to drink more.
Timing is key
Timing is so important. The body has a constant demand for energy and during exercise this demand goes up, especially for carbohydrates so we need to keep things topped up. Pre-ride I’d suggest something that can be slowly absorbed such as porridge, and this can be boosted on the ride with things like porridge toppers like pistachios, cocoa nibs and goji berries.
Nigel says: Depending on the intensity and length of ride, it’s good to take on regular carbohydrates and fluids; the rice cakes are great for this. Afterward a recovery meal is important. This should be high in protein and carbohydrates. If people are pushed for time, the most efficient snack is always those pistachio nuts again.