Coffee. Cake. Caaaaaakke.
Ok, lets face it. I love coffee and cake as much as the next cyclist and a ride without these is, well, not as good as with!
Having really got my act together over the last few months, I’ve been researching, trying, and reaping the benefits of a diet and supplements that *really* seem to work for me.
I’d like to share this with you.
Let’s set the scene… a few months ago I managed to restore a little work / life balance which has dramatically helped with being much happier but also more rested, less stressed and able to focus on my health and fitness.
[A bit off topic but if you are interesting in this kind of stuff I’m launching a special newsletter soon, so do sign up! – check it out here]
Four months ago I was weighing in at 74Kg with not many miles in my legs. To say that I was receiving a “good kicking” from my riding buddies is an understatement.
I’m glad to say that this has been reversed to me doing some kicking! (in the nicest possible way).
The main reason for this is dropping to just over 69kg, leaning off substantially, eating well, adding supplements to my daily regime, core work, riding more and being a great deal happier.
All of this seems to have worked!
So, nutrition. This is what I have been focused on and I am convinced has made the biggest difference with weight loss and being lean / strong.
You may have already heard of Dave Asprey and The Bulletproof Diet. Dave advocates good fats, very low carbs and good quality meat / fish and a lot of vegetables.
There is a wealth of information about the Bulletproof Diet online so I am not going to go over this in much detail.
I’m going to tell you what has worked for me.
Firstly breakfast. I have been experimenting with not only Bulletproof coffee (good quality coffee whizzed up with butter and MCT oil) but also high protein intake first thing.
Some mornings it is only Bulletproof coffee. Others, I have a protein shake with some added ingredients which I will cover shortly in the supplements section.
The Bulletproof coffee leaves you focused, alert and does a reasonable job of controlling my hunger for a few hours. The science behind it is that the MCT oil and butter give your body good fats and energy and ensures that the body doesn’t crave additional fuel.
Many people (including Tim Ferriss who wrote The Four Hour Work Week and The Four Hour Body and whom I met and spent some time with at the very first Do Lecture in 2008) advocate having at least 30g protein within 30 minutes of waking.
Whilst Bulletproof coffee obviously doesn’t provide this, I’ve sometimes followed the coffee up with a protein shake mid morning if I start to get hungry.
My recommendation would be to try various options and see how you get on.
The one caveat with this breakfast routine is that I do something very different if riding…
I’ve started to mix up my own turbo-charged cereal the night before. It’s a delicious alternative to a lot of the standard cereal brands and much healthier.
The important thing is that it is easy too.
Get a decent sized bowl and add the following:
– enough oats to meet your hunger (up to you, no guidelines here)
– a scoop of protein powder
– two decent pinches of cinnamon
– a spoon of flax seed
– a spoon of granola
– a spoon of any supplement powder like maca for example
– a spoon of colostrum (see later in the supplements section)
Then fill the bowl with almond milk or an ordinary milk. I much prefer the former for this as it gives a nice sweet taste.
Then cover the bowl with clingfilm and bang it in the fridge. Job done.
The morning before the ride remove the bowl from the fridge and spoon on some honey / blueberries and even some grated coconut. Delicious! If you wanted to add some warmth, pop it in the microwave.
Ok, we’ve looked at breakfast, now lunch!
Lunch is easy. One of the important things that have made a difference is ease of preparation and consistency.
Most lunchtimes I will make myself some form of eggs dish. That’s it. Super-simple, takes minutes to do and is very healthy (not to mention “Bulletproof”).
I generally have four eggs and whisk them up in a bowl. In a medium sized frying pan, I will have added some bacon or veggies from the night before (perhaps roasted vegetables or some broccoli).
I will then add the eggs and scramble or cook through the bottom and then pop the whole pan under the grill to turn into a Spanish style omelette.
Once cooked, I will plate up and often add a whole avocado which is packed with good fats and nutrients.
So that’s lunch. Oh, and plenty of water too to keep up the levels of hydration.
If I’m visiting my favourite café, Thieving Harry’s, I have something similar but with some freshly made soda bread too.
Dinner is also a relatively simple affair with consistency being a big driver. Most dinner times will be a combination of good meats or fish plus vegetables.
When I say good meats and fish, I would recommend buying the best you can afford. Grass fed beef, Alaskan salmon – anything that is fresh, local even better and not processed.
For the vegetables, I normally go for steamed broccoli or at the moment, roasted winter veg. Steaming broccoli is incredibly easy if you use a steamer (e.g. click here and check this one out on Amazon). Just hold the broccoli head under the tap, rinse and cut the heads off into the steamer. Boom! About ten minutes of steaming on the hob and you are ready to eat.
For the roasted veg, I’ve been using carrot, sweet potatoes, swede, parsnips and cauliflower. You can go for the cheaper essential range from supermarkets as you are roasting them.
I tend to use a large metal roasting tray, which you can line with greaseproof paper or tin foil. Cut up the veg into cubes and throw in. Then drizzle on some MCT oil plus olive oil and bang it in the oven at 220 degrees for about forty minutes, turning every ten minutes or so.
Getting a little peckish later? I sometimes have a protein shake prior to bed, but if possible the last but of food I will eat will be around 7.30pm.
The reason for this is intermittent fasting. Dave Asprey goes into this in a lot of detail in the Bulletproof Diet book (check it out on Amazon here) but essentially I am trying to fast for around 18 hours if possible.
This works if I am strictly only having a Bulletproof coffee in the morning and no lunch until around 1pm.
You may think that this is going to be impossible, but believe me, it’s actually pretty easy. Not overeating and not eating total cr&p means you are a lot more focused on whatever you are doing but also accelerates you getting lean.
I am nearly 45 and for the first time ever, drum roll perrrrrlease, I have a six pack coming on rather nicely. Considering this was more like a party barrel a few years ago, I am rather impressed and proud of this!
We have now looked at the outline of my diet. Now supplements.
Supplement advice on the internet is a mess. You can easily find conflicting advice and evidence and some pretty wacky recommendations.
My supplement regime comes from reading a wide variety of content online, books, speaking to other athletes and also from my good friend Chris who researches this stuff to the nth degree! (Thanks Chris!).
So what do I take and why?
First of all, a caveat, I am not a doctor and anything you take is your decision, not mine. Let’s get that out of the way… 🙂
My supplements tend to be divided into tablets and powders.
Ashwagandha – http://www.chopra.com/articles/what-is-ashwagandha
It is supposed to have rejuvenating properties and has a wealth of evidence supporting reducing stress and boosting testosterone production.
Vitamin K – often referred to as the forgotten vitamin, it is essential for blood clotting and also has good evidence that is needed for strong bones.
Vitamin B12 – this is supposed to help with fatigue and tiredness
Vitamin B2 – mainly to help release energy from the foods we eat
Vitamin C – I’m taking 1000mg of this per day in one tablet – good for immune system and keeping those pesky colds at bay. I am considering having a flu shot this year after being clobbered a few years ago. You could also take zinc as well.
Vitamin D3 – helps to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body and is also shown to help with mood and how you feel. You normally get what you require from sunlight, so during the winter (i.e. now!) it is important to have this in your supplements.
Omega 3s – good fats and oils are essential for health. Sadly the marketing over the past few years as vilified fats as bad and promoted low fat (normally with the addition of other things which are not very good for you!). If you don’t take any supplements, then good fish or ideally krill oil would be a great start.
Iron – is a mineral responsible for carrying oxygen in your red blood cells and transmitting your nerve impulses. Not having enough iron in the body is known as anaemia and can lead to fatigue and tiredness. I take one tablet a day and I am sure it has helped.
L-Tyrosine – know as a fat burner, nootropic and amino acid supplement. It can help with mood and also alleviate some symptoms such as anxiety and depression.
Pro–biotics – this is a fascinating area of supplements and I would highly recommend reading up on around this. The gut is known as the bodies second brain and so can have a huge influence on health and how you feel.
I currently take a cheap generic capsule but have tried VSL3 probiotics (http://www.vsl3.co.uk/about-vsl3.php) which are the real deal and have 450 billion bacteria in one sachet compared to around 2 billion in a capsule. To be honest, I didn’t feel any noticeable effects.
Rhodiola Rosea – this is generally thought to help endurance and recovery and combat fatigue…
“In regards to fatigue, rhodiola appears to be able to significantly reduce the effects of prolonged and minor physical exhaustion that results in fatigue. This is more related to stress and the ‘burnout’ effect, or prolonged but low intensity physical exercise. There is some limited evidence that parameters of physical exercise can be improved with rhodiola, but this appears to be limited to untrained persons with numerous studies on trained athletes suggesting that rhodiola does not have an acute ergogenic effect. Despite this, rhodiola appears to be highly reliable in reducing fatigue symptoms and improving symptoms of stress (and secondary to that, well-being) in persons fatigued from non-exercise related stressors.”
Turmeric – this helps with inflammation and hence recovery. Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric. It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant. I generally take turmeric in a capsule form but you can also get it in powder format.
Ok, those are tablets and capsules, now let’s look at the powders!
Firstly beetroot. Yes, that old favourite. You’ve probably read about beetroot helping athletes and there is a wealth of evidence supporting this.
Beetroot has high concentrations of nitrate. Nitrate is a naturally occurring compound found in some foods. On its own, Nitrate is considered biologically inactive and hence not that useful. Once eaten though, the Nitrate becomes Nitric Oxide (NO) which is what we want!
So how does this NO improve our cycling?
Simply put, it increases blood flow via vasodilation, thereby increasing oxygen delivery to the muscles, whilst also regulating muscle contraction, glucose uptake and cell respiration.
Evidence shows that NO can help to decrease the energy cost of exercise, which in turn improves our efficiency, allowing us to exercise harder and longer.
I am sure this has helped me over the past months. I have shown noticeable improvements especially on sustained climbs where I am much more efficient and not suffering at the top. All my riding friends commented on this when we were recently in Spain.
On to Colostrum. This is a first milk powder which I put in my smoothies and protein drinks:
“Neovite (the brand name) is a first milk powder from exclusively pasture-fed cows and is taken on the day of calving after the needs of the calf have been fully met. Neovite is an exceptional natural food and is certified contamination-free by LGC for use by competitive athletes.”
I’ve been taking this for a few months now and certainly seem to see recovery benefits. After a frustrating low-speed crash which resulted in some very painful bruising on my ribs and tissue damage to my calf, I took a lot of this.
I also take a number of protein powders, looking to use organic grass-fed versions. This one on Amazon is very good and usually, the one I buy: click!
Last but not least, greens. Energised greens can be added to the protein shakes.
Phew! So, yes, I do take quite a lot of supplements, BUT, for me, it seems to help.
Combine that with the diet and nutrition I have highlighted, has seen me transform my cycling over the summer and autumn.
Once again, I am no doctor and please consult your GP if you are changing anything radically!
Happy eating and cycling!