Words and photo: Julia Revitt
You’ve been out riding all afternoon, you’re home and it’s 4pm and you’re ravenous. You reach for some cheese and onion crisps, a Snickers bar and a coke. An hour later and you’re hungry again, this time you pick up the phone and order a pizza, oh and some chips and while you’re at it, plus another coke. Then it’s Monday and your trousers feel a little tight. Not to worry ‘cos you’re riding again on Wednesday. Sound familiar?
It’s easy to think that you can get away with bad food choices because you are active. But you only have to look at the percentage of portly riders at Cannock Chase on a sunny Saturday afternoon to realise that strategy is possibly not working. Strained cycle jerseys are not the only outcome of this lifestyle – think about the strain on your heart or your cholesterol levels. Stop to think for a moment and you’ll come to understand that this lifestyle is not healthy at all.
That’s the bad news but here’s the good: it’s easy to change. Eating healthily doesn’t mean boring, bland vegetables for dinner every night. How does a chicken burger sound? What about a steak ciabatta? Home made chips? Sweet and sticky flapjack? Mouth watering now?
Here are some simple steps you can take this week that will make a difference to your waist band.
If you know that you’ll be back from your ride at 4pm, have some flapjack ready or maybe some teacake. This will keep you going for about an hour so have a curry in the slow cooker or a steak ready to flash fry. Planning will stop bad food choices.
Taking food and drink out with you when you’re riding is a great way to stop feeling so hungry that you’ll eat anything. I’ve been there – at the end if the ride when you’ll happily give away a limb for some hot, salty, vinegary chips from the ride centre cafe. But now I make sure I have something tasty in the car ready for my return, my favourite being tea cake – it’s sweet enough to satisfy and contains slow releasing carbohydrates to keep me full enough for the drive home. Then it’s a home made pizza for tea – topped with tomatoes, chicken strips, red and green peppers and mushrooms – all prepared in advance ready to pop in the oven as soon as I’m back.
You can have a Snickers bar, but only once a week as a treat. I know what you’re thinking but you’ll really enjoy it and won’t have to feel guilty about eating it as it’s your once a week treat. Don’t go for the double Snickers though, just stick to the normal size, savour it – enjoy every mouthful.
Slow down, relax and enjoy your food – we’ve evolved from cavemen who had to eat their food quickly to stop it being stolen from a passing sabre toothed tiger – you don’t have to worry about that! So, slow down, you’ll notice you’ll feel fuller earlier because you’re giving your body time to notice you’ve eaten enough. Don’t be afraid to leave food on your plate – just adjust the quantities next time. Switch off the TV and chill while enjoying your food.
Change one thing at a time rather than everything at once, that way you’re more likely to stick to the changes. These changes will take a few weeks to get used to before they become new habits.
Here are 5 small changes you could make over the next few weeks:
1 Put some effort in! Ride in a harder gear faster, pedal up that hill rather than push, don’t stand around chatting at the different trail section. Burn, burn, burn those kcalories.
2 Before your next ride, prepare a meal for afterwards. Make sure you have the ingredients ready, that they are fresh and the meal is inviting.
3 Reduce your chocolate consumption. If you’re eating a bar every day, cut it down to every other day. Then next week, cut it down to twice a week, aiming to get to once a week as your goal.
4 Beer. Don’t do it unless you want to look pregnant. Once a week is enough and in moderation.
5 Cross train. Get walking, running, mowing, vacuuming, sweeping, dusting, jumping, skipping – get active at least once a day. It can be as simple as taking the stairs rather than the lift, walking the dog or cycling to the shops.
Have a look at my previous articles on Bike Magic to find out the best times to eat and drink out on a ride and the best foods and drinks. Make those changes and stick to them.
Energy in/energy out
You might be out ‘riding’ for four hours but how much of that was spent pounding the pedals or humping up hills? It’s easy to over-estimate how many calories you’re burning while riding and therefore misjudge how much you can eat afterwards.
The best way to find this out is with a heart rate monitor and software that interprets the results. I like using a Garmin but there are many other options available. Be careful if you choose a phone app for this without using a heart rate monitor as this will probably give you averages rather than actual figures.
Remember, if you’ve burnt 600 kcalories riding – you would have burnt 200 kcalories without moving from your sofa – so you’ve only really used an extra 400.
Check out my website www.findyourbalance.co.uk for some great recipes including the chicken burgers, curry, flapjack and tea cake mentioned earlier. Here’s to happy riding and comfortable waist bands!