The focus of base miles is to do long steady rides at a moderate aerobic level; with exertion coming from the duration of the activity, not from explosive efforts. Nutrition for base mile training therefore has a intrinsic part to play; you need the energy to sustain the required level of exertion; but also the right intake of nutrients after exercise, to aid in the all important recovery whilst you carry out back-to-back long rides.
This blog looks at the base mile nutrition strategy in detail; reflecting on my personal experience, having both got the strategy right and wrong in the past. Get it right, and base miles work well. Get it wrong and you are likely to feel the dreaded effects of over-training and often illness.
After the festive indulgences it is often tempting to skip or skimp on breakfast before a ride, in a bid to shed a few of those mince pie pounds. Don't! Skipping breakfast has three negative effects: Firstly eating something when you wake up kick-starts your metabolism, letting you burn more fat throughout the day. Secondly, a bowl of porridge or cereal contains much needed protein that your body needs to repair itself, especially if you have done a long hard ride the day before. Thirdly, in order to get the most out of your training and to work at the required level to see results, you need that slow burning goodness that you get from a bowl of oat cereal or whole-grain bread.
Fuel up before your ride; you will ride better and probably further.
The effects of eating little were predictable I guess: I shed weight quickly, but my speed and strength failed to improve in that early part of season. My base mile training this year has been far better, a large part of that I put down to proper nutritional intake. I've been using Maxifuel products to provide me with the extra kick I need for longer miles. For a typical three and a half hour ride I'll take two bottles of ViperBoost energy drink, a ViperBoost energy bar and a banana. I normally take a gel with me too, just in case I bonk far from home, but I try to keep to the slower burning oats and cereal found in the ViperBoost bars when I can.
The difference from fuelling properly has been notable; I've had more energy to do small power building sprints mid-ride, and I've been able to ride faster and further than I did last year. OK, part of this may be down to improved fitness, but I'm sure that a lot of it is also the result of eating enough during the ride. I've also found that by doing this you stop the intense hunger pains that you get when your have been under-nourished on a ride, and as a result you avoid the binge-eating when you return home.
Boost your riding by keeping your energy levels high - you will likely find that you ride better and often actually lose more weight as a result.
Last year and before, I often left it too long before getting the vital protein hit that your body needs to start the repair process after a long ride. I was fine if I was just about to have lunch, when I used to have a lot of the dishes listed in my Eating for Recovery blog. However, when I got pre-occupied by other things such as cleaning the bike, having a long bath to warm up, or even just having a chat, I used to notice it the next day and my training would suffer.
As a result protein shakes are increasingly becoming part of my routine, whether it is a home-made shake, or a convenient RecoverMax shake. Both are incredibly effective at giving you the necessary protein when you most need it, and will help to keep you sustained until you can have a proper meal an hour or so later.
If the effort of making a shake after a long ride is too much, then make one before hand and put it in the fridge; this also acts as an effective incentive to make sure you have it, so that you don't waste it!
As an additional note: I also know some people that put protein powder in their porridge the day after a big ride as well, to give them an added recovery boost. This can be a great idea if you don't like other alternatives such as eggs, and it is a quick and convenient way of getting the protein in your system first thing in the morning to keep your body repairing itself for as long as possible; ready for the next onslaught of miles.
So there you go, three basic nutritional tactics that could really improve the effectiveness of your training. Base mile training is a key part of your preparation for the season, but there is no point if you are wearing your body away to nothing by doing it.
Fuel up, stay fuelled up and recover well. You'll notice the difference.