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Old 05-14-09, 12:45 PM   #1
thewindisalady
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nutrition advice: carbs, protein, overall fitness?

hello there.
my name is jackie. this summer i have plans to do some longer biking around the east coast and canada.

lately i've been doing a lot of biking, swimming, strength training (weight lifting), cadio, etc for overall better strength and endurance. however, i've been running into problems of fatigue which i initially attributed to eating too little carbs but later was told might be an iron deficiency. since i've been trying to read about nutrition and feel somewhat confused about what i should focus on. protein is hyper-emphasized when i read about building muscle; however, carbs tend to be emphasized when looking at endurance. neither really emphasize high-fat diets. what should i be eating? why do energy "bars" emphasize protein? why types of foods do you eat while touring? when you're not touring?

i am a 21 year old female. 5ft 2in, 106 lbs.
i'm also vegetarian. i eat a diet extremely high in fruits, vegetables, eggs (and more recently, adding way more complex carbs). i know that when i start my trips i should focus mainly on carbs, but what about now when i am trying to maintain overall health leading up to the trips?
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Old 05-14-09, 12:50 PM   #2
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There is a nutrition forum on this site. Might be able to get some really good answers asking this question there?
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Old 05-14-09, 12:51 PM   #3
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http://www.bikeforums.net/training-nutrition/
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Old 05-14-09, 01:10 PM   #4
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As others have pointed out, there's a nutrition forum here that may be able to offer better nutritional information.

From a bike touring perspective, I think you may have an overly high expectation of the level of fitness and muscle mass necessary for successful bike touring. Clearly, being in good physical condition is an asset, but bike touring is different from long distance cycling (there's a forum for that too) in that the goal is the sightseeing more than the high-mileage days.

Different people plan their tours with different daily mileages in mind. I tend to plan for about 50 miles/day because I like lots of time for stopping to smell the roses, so to speak. At an average speed of only 10 mph, I can cover 50 miles in 5 hours or so on the bike. You don't have to be Lance Armstrong to average 10 mph on a loaded bike. That leaves lots of time for seeing the points of attraction along the way or enjoying a nice evening at the location I stop for the night.

There are some who measure the success of a tour by the average daily mileage or speed. To each their own, but a tour doesn't have to be planned like that. Be as fit as you want to be and just enjoy the trip at whatever pace is comfortable for yourself.

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Old 05-14-09, 02:41 PM   #5
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I have been a vegetarian (ovo-lacto) for 33 years, and have been doing bicycle touring much of that time. For most of my touring "career," I haven't paid close attention to the ratios of protein, carbohydrates, and so on. I have always tried to eat a (relatively) balanced diet; and while touring, the only dietary modification I make is to eat smaller quantities more often.

In recent years, I have come to know "better," and now I tend to focus on carbs in the morning, and protein at night. But I cannot honestly say that I notice much difference from the years I toured completely oblivious to these "rules." I am sure they make good sense, but so does the rule of drinking when you are thirsty and eating when you are hungry! (Actually, while touring in hot weather, I aim to drink before I am thirsty...)

Don't worry about having the endurance and strength of an athlete. Your preparations sound more than adequate. Just take it easy for the first few days of your trip, and your endurance and strength will grow as you go along. I have rarely trained for a tour; and the only times this caused a problem was while riding in very long an/or steep mountains. Next time I do mountains, I will prepare with more cardio-related exercises prior to going, and allow myself to take more days off.

The mindset of tourists is a little more relaxed than, say, racers and endurance riders. Eat what you enjoy, within reason. Go as far as you are comfortable in a day. It's not a race. Enjoy the scenery, talk to people, and have fun. For me, bike touring is a pastime; I do it for sheer pleasure.

If you are iron deficient, though, you should get it checked out. I am not a doctor, dietician or nutritionist, but I seem to recall that when I was in my 20s, many of the women my age who I knew took iron supplements. And may taking a simple supplement be the worst of your health problems... Just wait for your 40s and 50s!!!

Last edited by acantor; 05-14-09 at 02:51 PM.
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Old 05-14-09, 03:19 PM   #6
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If you get tired, it might be that you're not getting enough calories in total. It could also be to do with water intake. However, I don't think you need to deviate much from standard eating patterns. That means (roughly):

55% of energy intake should come from carbohydrate
30% from fat, of which 1/3 (of the 30%) should be saturated fat (that's the naughty stuff)
15% from protein

Be aware of the amount of energy (calories) you get per gram of each food:
carbs - 4 calories per gram
protein - 4 calories per gram
fat - 9 calories per gram
(incidentally: alcohol - 7 calories per gram!)

Basically, it's difficult to get enough calories if you don't have your 30% fat, as fat has more than twice the amount of energy per gram as carbs and protein. So protein is important for building muscle, carbohydrate sugars (like in fruit) are important for short-term energy boosts, carbohydrate starches like potatoes (which take slightly longer to digest) are important for building up glycogen stores (which give you relatively fast-releasing energy stores that'll last about a day or so if you don't eat) and fat is important to get enough calories in.

Basically, eating a normal, balanced diet with as broad a range of food groups as you can will provide you with nutrition approaching those numbers I listed above. You don't need to overthink it, it's just useful to know the numbers so you're not eating massively too high or too low portions of some things.

The main thing is that you'll need to be eating way more than the average number of calories given all the exercise you're doing so be sure to make yourself eat lots! (Also, you can pretty much ignore the "2000 calories for women, 2500 for men"- it's way too general to apply to anyone except a 70 kg Caucasian male who is 5 ft 10 and does moderate exercise for 30 minutes three times a week, and the equivalent woman)

(Oh and if you think you might be lacking iron, try eating iron rich foods like fortified cereals, most types of beans, nuts, wholemeal bread and even spinach. And don't drink tea because it reduces iron absorption and do drink orange juice and other drinks rich in vitamin C because they aid iron absorption!)

Sorry if I sound condescending and you already know all this, but many people don't and a good friend of mine was really struggling with feeling fatigue until she deliberately started getting a balanced diet and eating iron-rich foods. Now she's running rings around me!)
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Old 05-14-09, 04:22 PM   #7
Niles H.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thewindisalady View Post
hello there.
my name is jackie. this summer i have plans to do some longer biking around the east coast and canada.

lately i've been doing a lot of biking, swimming, strength training (weight lifting), cadio, etc for overall better strength and endurance. however, i've been running into problems of fatigue which i initially attributed to eating too little carbs but later was told might be an iron deficiency. since i've been trying to read about nutrition and feel somewhat confused about what i should focus on. protein is hyper-emphasized when i read about building muscle; however, carbs tend to be emphasized when looking at endurance. neither really emphasize high-fat diets. what should i be eating? why do energy "bars" emphasize protein? why types of foods do you eat while touring? when you're not touring?

i am a 21 year old female. 5ft 2in, 106 lbs.
i'm also vegetarian. i eat a diet extremely high in fruits, vegetables, eggs (and more recently, adding way more complex carbs). i know that when i start my trips i should focus mainly on carbs, but what about now when i am trying to maintain overall health leading up to the trips?
lately i've been doing a lot of biking, swimming, strength training (weight lifting), cadio, etc for overall better strength and endurance

Over-training is a common problem among certain athletic subgroups. Coaches talk about this -- they have noticed that quite a few people fall into this category. There is a point of diminishing returns, and after that there comes a point where you are actually on the downslope of the curve.

More isn't always better.

And there is a certain area where you can sustain and maintain your energy levels, where you are not passing your limits of fatigue.

It is also worth being aware of the fact that even extremely fit athletes get exhausted after long events. Sometimes it takes them weeks to recover. People usually aren't privy to this part, though -- usually you just see the tip of the iceberg. The impressive performance is put on a pedestal for everyone to see; the downtime behind the scenes is not so photogenic (and not so superhuman and impressive), and it tends to be swept under the carpet (or kept behind the curtain). Many of these people want to show off their wizardry and impress others. The catch is that it misleads people into thinking they can be superhumanly athletic too.

i've been running into problems of fatigue which i initially attributed to eating too little carbs but later was told might be an iron deficiency.

Maybe, maybe not on the iron deficiency. Recent studies have found that many people are actually doing harm to their systems by adding iron. These supplement manufacturers and nutrition "experts" are full of an utterly amazing amount of BS.

since i've been trying to read about nutrition and feel somewhat confused

The more you read and swallow, the more the confusion will grow. You can't believe everything you read. There are completely contradictory theories out there in books and online.

I'm tempted to say that you will feel healthier, lighter and freer if you simply toss it all overboard: If you visualize a ship's deck with a large bulldozer on it, shoving all this stuff over the side until you have a nice, clean, beautiful, sun-drenched deck to sail with.

Simply jettison the gullibility and all the collected junk that it has wrought so far.

***

Also, it might be good to find the right books, if you are going to read -- a two-pronged approach of shutting down the gullibility and the listening to experts who aren't true experts, coupled with finding people who really do have some legitimate expertise. Even these people can be wrong or misleading, though. At least they aren't as bad.

Major university nutrition departments, and the information they provide would be a step in the right direction. You could probably find out which universities have the most reputable and highly regarded nutrition departments, and then either find books from them or online material.

There is just too much nonsense floating around in the area of diet and nutrition. Don't buy into it.

***

Energy is also related to psychological factors -- placebo/nocebo effects, beliefs, auto-suggestions, etc.

what should i be eating? why do energy "bars" emphasize protein? why types of foods do you eat while touring? when you're not touring?

Eat nutritious natural foods. You don't need all these energy bars and supplements. The manufacturers want your money. That's why all the hype gets floated.

There is a leading MD whose family was among the first manufacturers of vitamin supplements. He saw what went on behind the scenes; he knows this field from the inside; and he keeps up on the recent scientific research that has clearly shown harm rather than benefits from these supplements. He advises eating a wide variety of nutritious natural foods. They provide everything you need.

He also debunks the protein myths. Most of that hype comes from people who are selling products, and others who have bought into the mythology.

***

I used to spend a lot of energy and money dwelling on these products and approaches, and reading all the popular books and theories, and taking many of the supplements and other special health products.

I feel *way* healthier now that I don't take a single supplement, eat maximally nutritious natural foods, get away from false paths (including living to eat, rather than eating to live -- this morning I got a boost out of a new turn: I was "craving" some kind of treat or dessert after breakfast -- partly because some self-proclaimed expert on the subject had turned me in that direction -- and instead I had a tablespoon of kelp powder. It feels great to get away from some of these food habits and myths. Breaking habits can release energy).

types of foods do you eat while touring? when you're not touring?


Robustly nutritious natural foods: Bananas, figs, oranges, apples, non-fat yogurt, buttermilk (1%), salads, wheat sprouts (raw and cooked, high-protein hard red spring wheat especially -- you can buy it in bulk), olive oil, natural sourdough and essene breads, avocados, sunflower seeds (raw and soaked), soaked almonds, mueslis, honey, soymilk and soy yogurts, pumpkin seeds and oil, oats, kelp (a little bit blends in nicely with many dishes, and it provides many trace elements; plus there is great experimental evidence in its favor -- both kelp powder and granules, and other forms of sea vegetables -- dulse granules are good, they go well on many dishes), sesame seeds (mainly raw), tofu, cabbage of various sorts (cooked and raw-shredded -- on a list of the ten most nutritious vegetables, seven were in the cabbage or brassicaceae family), legumes (esp. lentils), cauliflower, tomatoes, broccoli, greens, carrots, beets, other produce, nuts, whole grains and seeds, sprouts and wild foods.

I'm also learning to make more salads, and to put all kinds of nutritious things in them. It's amazing how far beyond the usual lettuce affairs salads can be taken.

Last edited by Niles H.; 05-14-09 at 06:25 PM.
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Old 05-14-09, 04:41 PM   #8
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Major university nutrition departments, and the information they provide would be a step in the right direction.
The first chapter of this gives a decent overview of what's going on, although you might consider it overly sciencey. The research is good though, so it's worth a look.
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Old 05-14-09, 06:00 PM   #9
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Red blood cells carry oxygen to the muscles. B12 and iron are two elements that help to create red blood cells. Deficiency in either can cause low red blood cell count (anemia) which causes you to feel tired.

B12 can only be obtained in significant, usable form from animal products or supplements. Heme iron, the most easily absorbed form is also obtained from meat. Non-heme plant forms of iron are not as easily absorbed and may need other "helper" foods to be eaten at the same time to promote absorption.

As a vegan and an athlete I must be conscious that I am getting enough B12 and iron. I take a B12 supplement every day and eat a lot of spinach, pumpkin seeds, and lentils for iron. You eat eggs (and dairy I presume) so that should cover you for B12. It would not hurt to take a supplement as oversupplementation of B12 is not a problem. Iron is another story. Especially for women.
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