By Jessica Loring, Registered Dietitian and Food & Nutrition Services Manager, Swedish Medical Center

Time to train!
Now is the time to get back on the saddle and train more seriously for the ride ahead. Establishing healthy eating habits should be as much a part of your training as spinning, climbing and distance rides. Discovering what foods, supplements and meal patterns work now, will help optimize results come June. It is important to remember that you need a regimen that includes a good balance of carbohydrates, protein, fat, fruits, veggies and fluid. Use the following information and tips as a general guide to create a fueling plan that includes the right balance of foods that work for you.

Dropping Pounds to Pick Up Speed

I rarely meet a rider who has no interest in losing a little (or more) weight while training. Now is the time to do so rather than the week of the ride. Attempting to achieve weight loss while training over the next few months is very reasonable. In order to lose about 1 pound per week, you need to reduce your daily intake by about 500 calories. Therefore, if the plan is for a moderate training ride that is one to one and a half hours (10 -14 mph); you most likely do not need to add additional calories to your diet that day. You will burn roughly 400-600 calories.* If you plan to cycle longer than one and a half hours, consume carbohydrates at the start of the ride.
* For a 150 pound rider

Tips to Help You Achieve Your Goal

  • Size up your plate – ¼ of your plate should be from protein like lean meats, fish, eggs or low fat dairy. ½ of your plate should contain fruits and veggies, making the final ¼ from whole grain starches such as quinoa, potatoes or brown rice.
  • Spice it up – Spices like ginger, hot peppers and garlic not only stop your cravings for sweets, they also help spike your metabolism. Spices are also a great way to avoid salting your foods.
  • Drink up – People often mistake hunger for dehydration. Next time you feel the need to snack, try drinking a large glass of water before you reach for the chips. Research shows that drinking at least 6 – 8oz glasses of water can boost your metabolism and by adding ice, your body has to work to warm the water, burning even more calories.
  • Spin early – By getting on your bike trainer or rollers for 20-30 minutes before you eat breakfast, your will crank up your body’s fat-burning abilities and improve your metabolism for the entire day.
  • Control the cocktails – When you drink alcohol, your body will burn that first. As a result, your metabolism will burn less fat at a much slower rate. In addition, we tend to make poor food choices while drinking.
  • Weigh yourself – While some experts tell you to stay off the scales, research continues to show that one of the best habits of successful weight loss is to step on the scale at least once a week.

The Truth about Gluten

Each year I seem to get more and more questions about gluten. Riders will stop to ask me what is it and how will it affect their cycling? Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat and related grains (including barley and rye). About 1.5 million Americans (1 out of 133 people or 1%) are officially gluten intolerant with the condition known as Celiac Disease. However, many more out there simply cannot tolerate or digest gluten very well. Before the week of the ride, it is important to determine your personal tolerance and what foods work best for you. Many cyclists have already eliminated this food group from their diet and are looking for alternative “back pocket” snacks. For others, the only way to assess if you do not digest gluten optimally will be to pull gluten from your daily intake and see how you feel. Although going gluten free may not help you climb the passes faster, it may force you to stay away from overly processed foods and excessive sweets.  Below are some excellent gluten free options that may be just what you need to avoid the “bonk” and get you through your training rides.

Food Item Nutrition facts Benefits
Dried Figs 18 grams of carbohydrate each Excellent source of calcium and iron and can help fight off cancer and heart disease
Chia Seeds – 1 T. mixed in 12 ounces of water 140 calories/11 grams of fiber/4.9 grams of Omega-3 fatty acids Can provide long lasting energy by slowing the  conversion of carbohydrate to sugar and are rich in antioxidants
KIND Plus  – 1 bar Peanut Butter, Dark Chocolate + Protein 200 calories/17 grams carbohydrate/7 grams protein Studies have shown that dark chocolate can boost endurance and is also full of flavonoids which reduce the risk of blood clots;

The Power of Protein

Protein is used to repair and rebuild muscle that is damaged during exercise; it is not used as a source of energy. On average, cyclists require 0.6 – 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. For a 150lb rider this would be approximately 90 – 120 grams per day. Most cyclists will not have to make major changes in their diet to meet this requirement. While most people automatically think of meat when discussing protein, milk and other dairy products should be part of a cyclist’s diet as well. Not only are they great sources of protein, many dairy products can improve your immune system and are packed with calcium, vitamin D and potassium. Milk contains both casein (80%) and whey (20%) proteins. Casein is a slow digesting protein that keeps you full longer while assisting with fat loss and muscle repair. Whey, on the other hand, is a fast digesting protein, which is why milk is a great choice during or after exercise. Milk is also rich in Leucine, a branched-chain amino acid. It helps prevent the breakdown of muscle tissue after rigorous exercise and encourages the growth of new muscle.

The following are examples of good protein sources:                    

Food Protein in Grams Food Protein in Grams
8 oz skim milk 8 grams 1 oz low fat cheese 8 grams
1 cup low fat yogurt 12 grams 1 cup Greek yogurt 20 grams
½ cup kidney beans 7 grams 2 tsp peanut putter 8 grams
4 oz salmon 22 grams 3.5 oz chicken breast 30 grams
1 can tuna fish 22 grams 4 oz lean ground beef 28 grams
2 whole eggs 12 grams 3 egg whites 12 grams


Carbohydrates are required while training and are the primary source of energy for cyclists. It is essential to eat a variety of carbohydrates to provide approximately 55-65% of your total daily calories. Therefore, while you may not be a rider that is counting all of your daily-consumed carbohydrates, it is helpful to know general guidelines for consumption while you are training for the ride.

Exercise Level Recommended Daily Carbohydrate Intake*
Moderate – About 1 hour of training per day 275 – 340 grams
Very Active – 1 to 3 hours of training per day 410 – 475 grams
Extremely Active – 4 to 5 hours or more per day 550 – 600 grams

* For a 150 pound rider

We have all snacked on pancakes before training. Consider trying a new version that incorporates ingredients that have added benefits.


  • 3 cups fresh pitted cherries or 2 cups blueberries
  • 5 Tbsp. golden sugar
  • 1 ¼ Cup of Buckwheat flour
  • 1-2 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 ¼ cup of buttermilk
  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • ¾ Cup of self-rising flour (or gluten free four to make the recipe gluten-less)


  1. Mix the cherries with 1 Tbsp. of the sugar and set aside.
  2. Mix the remaining sugar, flours, baking soda and cinnamon in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and crack the eggs. Gradually add the buttermilk until you have smooth batter.
  3. Add a small amount of coconut oil to a pan, heat and pour batter to make golden brown pancakes
  4. Top with cherries and serve

This recipe serves 4-6. If you are cooking for yourself, either half the recipe or save them for training rides later in the week. Consider serving with a dollop of Greek yogurt for added protein.

The Benefits

Cinnamon is rich in antioxidants and helps improve the way fat cells respond to sugar, maximizing the carbohydrates you just consumed. Berries and cherries not only taste great they are also packed with essential antioxidants like vitamin C and contain anthocyanosides – a natural anti-inflammatory and pain reducer. Buckwheat contains high quality protein (all 9 essential amino acids), improves digestion and is rich in iron. In addition, buckwheat contains no gluten and is not a grain. Buttermilk is made using live, active cultures and contains probiotics, which may help repopulate your digestive tract with healthy bacteria. Coconut oil can help strengthen the immune system and helps to increase your body’s metabolic rate, burning more energy and reducing abdominal weight.

During this training time, form a habit of reading food labels. Become more aware of what you are putting into your body.  This is a good habit to keep for the rest of your life!

Pedal Fuel

Recipes brought to you by Skratch Labs
skratch_logo_blackA hardy recovery meal is key to rebuilding and strengthening muscles you just exhausted during your bike ride. Our friends and the authors of the Feed Zone Cookbooks, Biju Thomas and Dr. Allen Lim have done it again! They returned to the kitchen to champion dinner, the most social meal of the day. We have pulled a couple recipes from their latest and greatest book, Tables, as a way to help you recover from that next ride ahead. We also included one of our favorite waffle recipes. They are the perfect pre-ride meal or toss a few in a bag and bring them along for the trip. Enjoy!