The way I see it, there are two kinds of people that cycle: Those that ‘eat to ride’ and those that ‘ride to eat’. Generally, I have always been the latter, using cycling to allow myself to eat pretty much whatever I want without the associated guilt trip. Doing a 6hr ride meant that I would burn enough calories to be able to eat the equivalent of enough food for two average people. During this time, I have maintained a steady weight without any problems for a number of years.
More recently, I have had to change my ways in an endeavor to lose the last couple of kilograms to get down to my optimum racing weight. This has meant that I have had to ‘eat to ride’ and consciously think about everything I eat and how it will affect my performance on the bike. To help this process, I decided to give calorie counting a go, to see exactly what my bad habits are and where I can make improvements. With calorie counting, I have come to a few conclusions….
1. When I stop cycling, I am going to get HUGE. On day one of calorie counting, even after a 4hr ride, I had to hold back on snacks and food. Riding my bike for extended periods of time is all that’s preventing me from consuming 500% of my recommended daily energy intake and ballooning out.
2. I eat a lot of food and I mean a LOT. It’s not until I see it all in a list in front of me that I realize just how much food I consume. If I could donate just half of it, there would be a few less starving third world villages.
3. A lot of food that I thought was relatively good, is surprisingly high in calories. For example, bananas, which I generally eat by the truck load, are high in calories. Almonds and other nuts are also high as is the average full cream, flat white coffee. As a general rule of thumb, if it’s green and leafy, it will be low in calories. If it’s white or yellow, it’s going to be high in calories!
4. Even the smallest treat will blow the calorie budget. A single muffin, chocolate bar, pastry or other treat can have as many calories in it as an entire low calorie meal. The problem is, temptations are everywhere. From the chocolate bars next to the register at the supermarket to the single extra piece of toast with butter at breakfast to a bottle of juice or flavoured milk, empty calories are EVERYWHERE.
5. Most products are way bigger than they need to be. No one really needs a ‘King Size’ Snickers or a ‘Venti’ cup of milk. It is just a heap of extra calories. Delicious, extra calories. Apparently, over the last couple of decades, servings sizes have grown exponentially...
6. I can understand just how easy it is for someone to put weight on. Riding a bike gives me a rather large calorie deficit that I get to fill with whatever I want, however, what does the average person do?? Those that commute to work in a car to sit at a desk all day, then drive home again in the evening do not get the opportunity to do any exercise and burn any excess calories that are so easily consumed.
None of this has really come as a surprise and I suspect that deep down, it is something that most people know anyway but just choose to ignore. It is just a lot more alarming when it is sitting in front of you all the time and you are constantly thinking about it. Despite this, I will keep counting for the next few weeks and ‘eat to ride’. Maybe it will make me appreciate those small treats a little bit more. Maybe.