British Olympian Lizzie Armitstead clinched her country’s first medal in the London Olympics by winning a silver in women's cycling. She owes her success to many rigorous hours of training and a specially planned vegetarian menu. Cycling is an extremely demanding sport and needs high levels of fitness and stamina. This is impossible to achieve without a well planned diet that is high in energy and rich in the nutrients required by a female cyclist. In this blog we will look at a cyclist's diet as recommended by experts for successful champs like Lizzie Armitstead.
A High Energy Calcium And Iron Rich Diet
The diet for a female cyclist stresses on high amounts of minerals such as calcium and iron to keep the athlete fit at all times. A high energy diet that is rich in carbohydrates and proteins and low in fat is recommended. The food pyramid is a good guideline and serves as the basis for healthy eating. Elite cyclists spend hours in practice and need a minimum of 3500 calories to maintain energy levels.
Ideal Diet For A Female Cyclist
- Carbohydrates- A high carbohydrate intake is needed to fuel the muscles for training and maintain adequate glycogen stores in the liver. This should be obtained from breads, cereals, pasta and fruits. Unrefined sources of carbs such as white flour and its products are to be avoided. These include soft drinks, sweets, sugary snacks like doughnuts and excess of white sugar. 60 to 65% of the total calories consumed in a day should be from complex carbohydrates and the rest from proteins and fats.
- Proteins- They are needed for muscle recovery after a race and also to strengthen and build them. Lean protein sources that include chicken, turkey and fish should be taken at least 2 times a day. Lentils and beans are vegetarian sources that should also be a part of the menu as they have more fiber and are low in fat.
- Fats- A small amount of fat is acceptable if it includes fatty fish and unsaturated vegetable oils. Deep fried foods that can strain the digestive system should be avoided before a game and during practice. Olive, groundnut, flax seed and sunflower oils are the best sources of essential fatty acids that are needed for good health and well being of all cyclists.
- Iron- An iron rich diet is mandatory for female cyclists to make up for monthly menstrual losses and prevent iron deficiency anemia. This is important as insufficient iron stores will cause fatigue and impact stamina. Whole grains, leafy vegetables, lentils and meats are good sources of iron in the diet. Iron supplements must be immediately started if blood tests reveal a low hemoglobin count.
- Calcium- 1000 mg of calcium is needed by a female cyclist to maintain good bone density and prevent osteoarthritis in the future. Low fat dairy, fortified orange juice, sardines, soya milk and vegetables like broccoli when eaten regularly will help meet the calcium requirements.
Lizzie Armitstead's Vegetarian Diet
She has been a vegetarian since the age of 10 and completely avoids all fresh and processed meats. To give her body sufficient protein, Lizzie eats omlettes with lunch and dinner for a whole week before race day. Milk and yogurt are also a part of her diet on a daily basis. Eggs are the best sources of proteins for non meat eaters as they contain all the amino acids that are needed for growth and building of muscles.
Quinoa is a high protein cereal grain that Lizzie has in place of pasta to boost her protein intake. This cereal is versatile and can be used in many recipes. It is additionally rich in many vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Lizzie ensures that she eats sufficient vegetables in the form of stir fries with the main meals. Fruit smoothies are another favorite.
She drinks plenty of water before the game so that she is not dehydrated and can give her best shot at the race.
A well balanced meat free diet can surely support an athletes health unlike popular belief. Lizzie Armitstead showed the world that a vegetarian athlete can also pack quite a punch. Hats off to her!
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