I am truly embarrassed by how little I knew about sports nutrition when I started cycling. I mean the “cover your face and hide” type of embarrassment. I started cycling to lose weight, so I thought the best way to do it would be to starve myself on a ride and drink only water. Bad idea—in fact it was just stupid. After an hour ride I was worn out—then it took me two days to recover, but I took solace in the fact I had given myself a good workout (what a fool).
After a few months on the bike my friends were telling me I was “bonking” or “hitting the wall.” I didn’t know what either of these phrases meant at the time, but they told me I just needed to eat a lot of carbs on the ride and everything would be fine. Without any guidelines to go by I began ingesting too many carbs and started gaining weight again—in spite of increasing my workout time! After reading The Performance Zone: Your Nutrition Action Plan for Greater Endurance & Sports Performance, by John Ivy and Robert Portman, my cycling life changed forever! This book is a primer on how your muscles grow, work, get fuel and recover. It explains how to calculate your hydration, carbohydrate and protein needs for your particular sport.
I would call The Performance Zone a “must read” for anyone participating in endurance sports, such as cycling, hockey, swimming, football, etc. In my situation, based upon cycling speed, weight and a few other factors, I was able to plot out a suitable course of action. I followed the instructions and started consuming 30 grams of carbohydrates every 30 minutes and my performance vastly improved (I am a Clydesdale, so your needs will vary). Not only did my speed and distance improve, but so did my recovery time. I quickly went from getting exhausted after an hour ride to riding for three or four hours before work and then doing it again the next morning.
This book is available from Amazon.com in both paperback and Kindle editions for under $10.00.