Nutrition and the Bike Commuter

Many commuters hope to be healthier and perhaps shave off a few pound but may find themselves eating more, snacking more and feeling fatigued on the ride to or from work. I am a dietitian, so after I bike and shower I spend my day trying to talk people into eating correctly.

Here are a few tips:

The macronutrients are carboyhdrates, protein and fats. Carbs give you energy, carbs ARE good, repeat, carbs ARE good. Protein give substained energy and nourishes the muscles. Yes, we need fat but most people are not deficient in their fat intake, and it does not provide fuel for the ride.

For the ride we need some carbohydrate fuel for energy. Healthy carbs include fruit, veggies and whole grains. In the morning you minimally need about 30 to 50 grams of carbohydrates. Since I don’t care to eat much in the morning, I have been putting 100% fruit juice in my water bottle, about eight ounces with lots of ice. This give me about 30 grams of healthy portable carbs and fluids for the ride. Then at work I can have cereal and milk, yogurt, fruit or a fruit smoothie. This breakfast is to replace the carbohydrates used on the ride.

It is good to include a source of protein at breakfast. Protein provides about four hours of energy while carbs provide two hours. Therefore, protein will stick with you so you can make it to lunch time. How about a peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread? Or Peanutbutter on fruit? Yogurt has protein. So does cottage cheese. Fast food breakfast sandwiches are BAD — very high in saturated fat and salt.

Try to eat a balanced lunch and keep yourself hydrated throughout the day.

Because you will burn energy for the ride home, you will need an afternoon snack. The snack should again contain carbohydrates for fueling energy. A salty snack such as pretzels will help you drink up fluids for hydration. Fruit is always easy and dried fruit can store well in your desk drawer. You can alway purchase nutrition bars, and there are tons on the market. Something with at least 30 grams of carbhydrates is good. I have grown tired of these products and prefer “real food.”

Right now in my desk and area refrigerator there is:
apples, low fat cheese (2 grams of fat per ounce), jar of peanutbutter, 100 calorie “right bit” cheez-it snacks, dried fruit, oatmeal, All-bran crackers, popcorn minibags, Healthy Choice brand frozen meals. No reliance on fast food or bad cafeteria food. No need to add a lunch to the weight of my back pack, no visits to the vending machine. If the healthy snacks are available you will eat them.

As a commuter you are better off eating at least 4 to 5 times a day. Two morning meals – one before and one after the morning ride — lunch, afternoon snack, before the ride home, and dinner. You need at least 64 ounces of fluids. Water is the best. If your meals contain some protein you wont feel overly hungry between meals. If you try to cut down on carbohydrates or skip meals and snacks you will crave sweets and may find yourself over indulging in unhealthy carbs like candy and cookies. Craving come when we wait too long between meals or don’t replace our carbohydrate intake.

Try to eat for fueling and refueling, this way you will stay healthy and trim while you enjoy the ride.