THE CYCLIST'S FOOD GUIDEFueling for the Distance

The Cyclist's Food Guide, by Nancy Clark, M.S., R.D., and Jenny Hegmann, M.S., R.D., should be a staple on every cyclist's book shelf. Not only is it an excellent reference, but it's a fun read.

Quotes and photos throughout the book make it friendly and interesting. No matter how many books you may have read on nutrition, you'll come away with some valuable insight -- whether it's a new riding food or way of remembering how to get enough of a particular nutrient.

As one who's read countless books on nutrition, rest assured this is not only sound nutritional advice but is extremely useful and motivating.

A well-organized reference

Whether you want to know how many carbs you should be consuming per hour on a ride or what to pack for lunch this week, you'll find the answers quickly and easily thanks to excellent organization.

Each section covers everything a cyclist should know: everyday eating, additional needs while cycling and weight control. Within these sections, the book covers topics like meals and supplements; protein/fats/fluids for riding; fueling before, during and after rides; how to lose/gain weight healthfully and calculate your daily caloric needs; and many others.

I found the first section on everyday eating helpful. Although I already know nutrition basics, it was helpful to be reminded that a healthy diet overall is going to help improve my cycling performance.

It's easy to fall into an eating routine that might not supply you with everything you need -- whether not enough vegetables or protein, or too much fat. The book outlines nutritional needs and provides examples of nutrient-dense foods to incorporate into your diet to ensure you get what you need.

What to do and how to do it -- easily

The Cyclist's Food Guide outlines how to determine your needs and then provides convenient and easy suggestions about satisfying those requirements. There's detailed information about how to get the recommended servings of food groups each day, along with a simple shortcut: At each meal try to have at least three of the five food groups; for snacks, try to have two food groups -- this is an easy way to incorporate all the food groups without thinking twice.

I can't tell you the number of times I've learned how many servings I need of each group, but it promptly leaves my mind. Tips like this throughout the book are terrific.

In every case, whether it's how many grams of fat or protein you should eat daily or how many carbs you should consume during a ride, the book provides the number of grams per body weight you should put away, along with examples of how that translates into food choices.

For example, if based on my weight I should consume 60 grams of carbohydrate before my ride, I can get that from a large bagel, or from four Fig Newtons and a glass of orange juice -- the book provides the carbohydrate content of various foods.

There are also easy recipe ideas throughout the book--not actual recipes (except for a great one to make your own sports drink), but suggestions of spices and combinations to make tasty meals. For example, to ensure you eat breakfast, the book lists some interesting breakfast ideas: Adding peanut or almond butter and cinnamon to hot cereal; combining several different cereals and adding dried fruit and nuts; and this one sounds amazing: Put a mix of cereals in a bowl, top with frozen blueberries and microwave for 30 to 60 seconds and add cold milk -- just like a fruit cobbler! Suggestions like these are sprinkled throughout the book, including various toppings for baked potatoes, one-pot rice meals and ideas for more interesting chicken dishes.

Personalized suggestions and tables

I don't know about you, but although I'm interested in the calculation behind how I determine a particular intake, it doesn't stick in my mind -- I'm more likely to remember a specific number or quantity.

For example, cyclists in training need 0.5 to 0.9 grams of protein per pound. A handy table then illustrates how many grams that is for people of different weights (120, 150 or 180 lbs.) at different activity levels.

Although I can remember the 0.5 to 0.9 and do a simple calculation, the fact that a table shows I need 85-95 grams of protein a day is very helpful for me. The table also shows several examples of foods and their protein content so I can easily see how I might incorporate these foods into my day. A similar table provides this same information for fats and carbohydrates.

Tables throughout each chapter are extremely useful. Whether it's a listing of quick fixes for breakfast, lunch or dinner, how to boost your iron or zinc intake, glycemic indexes of different foods, or a comparison of fluid replacers, these tables are easy to read and provide excellent, applicable information.

In addition to tables, summaries at the end of each chapter are also very useful when you want a quick overview. These both make it very easy to find exactly the information you're looking for.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to feel confident about their diet and how to fuel themselves properly both on and off the bike.

For more information or to purchase the book, visit

About the authors
Nancy Clark is an internationally-known sports nutritionist, dedicated bike commuter, and frequent contributor to SHAPE and Runner's World magazines. Jenny Hegmann, also an avid cyclist, is a registered dietician specializing in sports nutrition, wellness and weight management.

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