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Nutrition Plays Role in Preparation for MS 150 Bike Tour

Armen Hareyan's picture

Proper Nutrition

You don't have to be an athlete or athletic to participate in this year's MS 150, but nutrition researchers say it is important to prepare your body for such a strenuous event.

"Intense exercise for long periods of time can take its toll on your body if you don't prepare correctly," said Dr. Deborah Thompson, assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. "It's not only important to train your body physically, but also to make sure that you give your body the proper nutrition to sustain itself during the event."

The night before the race, you may have the pre-race jitters, but it's important to get a good night's sleep and adequate fuel and fluid for the next day.

"Limit high fat foods and excessive amounts of caffeine and alcohol," said Thompson. "The meal the night before should be high in carbohydrates and low in fat. Be sure to drink several glasses of water with your meal to help ensure your body is hydrated."

On race day, ideally, bikers should get up early enough to eat breakfast three to four hours before the start of the race. Thompson, also a nutritionist at the USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center at BCM and Texas Children's Hospital, offers these suggestions: cereal with skim milk and fruit, low-fat yogurt with fruit, or a low-fat, low-fiber muffin and a glass of skim milk. Avoid foods high in fat, fiber and/or sugar immediately before an event.

Thompson warns bikers against experimenting with different foods and fluids the day of the event; your body may react in unexpected ways, causing gastro-intestinal distress that could limit both your performance and enjoyment of the event. Experiment during training to find foods that work best for your body.

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Fluids are also important for optimal performance.

"When your body is dehydrated, even slightly, you will not perform your best," Thompson said. "It's important to consume fluids before, during and after a ride, especially long rides."

For rides exceeding 60 minutes, Thompson recommends drinking sports drinks, but for those less than 60 minutes, water is usually adequate. In situations where dehydration becomes severe, heat exhaustion or heat stroke may occur.

Once you've crossed the finish line and the race is complete, Thompson suggests drinking fluids immediately and eating as soon as your body can tolerate food, preferably within two hours.

Immediately after an event, try drinking water or a sports drink, and eating a piece of fruit, like a banana or slice of melon. Eating a high carbohydrate meal, like pasta and salad, a little later will help your body replenish its glycogen stores.

A rule of thumb to help you replace fluid losses is to weigh yourself before and after the event. For every pound lost, drink two cups of fluid. For example, if you weigh two pounds less after an event, drink four cups of fluids. Try to replace losses over the first four to six hour after the event if possible. Water, sports drinks, and/or juice are all good choices to replace fluid losses.