From a fitness pro's perspective, cycling is particularly interesting because it's the rare sport that can offer an intense, sustained workout of the largest muscle groups – glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calfs – at the same time as a robust cardio workout. (No wonder bikers tend to develop a great balance of strength and endurance.) Physiologists who study cycling have found that pedaling at about 90 rotations per minute is the ideal workout pace, because it evenly distributes the burden of work between cardiovascular and musculature systems.
So when looking for the best foods to fuel a biking workout, one needs to take both systems into account. There's also the matter of intensity to consider. The harder you push, the more your body burns glycogen (the stored carbohydrate in the muscles), while lower-intensity workouts use fat as the prime fuel source. The ideal is to fuel the body with the right amount of easily burned glucose (not too much) as well as fats so that your engine runs smoothly, powerfully, and efficiently. Here are a few simple and healthy natural foods that are easy to introduce into a regular diet.
Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of natural, unprocessed, unrefined complex carbohydrates. Also known as starch, complex cabs are burned cleanly by the muscles for fuel. But unlike simple carbs derived from fruit, whole starchy carbs also help maintain body weight – a common concern for avid cyclists who can easily end up burning more calories than they take in (which results in muscle loss and therefore a decline in performance).
If cycling in excess of two hours for four days a week, make sure to have a minimum of three large sweet potatoes a week. For recreational riders, two medium-size sweet potatoes per week should do it. Since starchy carbs take more digestive energy than simple carbs to process, taking a starch-specific digestive enzyme known as amylase (found readily as capsules in most health-food stores) along with them will help reduce the workload required of the digestive system, enhancing recovery time between workouts.
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