DECOSTER: EAT, DRINK AND BE READY

YOUR BIKE RUNS ON PREMIUM. SO DO YOU

Computer guys have a saying: GIGO. It stands for garbage in, garbage out. Human beings aren’t that different from machines. They need fuel. If you give them poor fuel, they run poorly. The biggest difference is that a computer will start producing quality output from the first moment it gets good input. Humans are much more fickle. They have to have good fuel for a long time before the output improves. One good meal the night before a race will help a little, but don’t expect miracles. 

Your body needs three different types of fuel to run right: carbohydrates, fats and protein. Those foods have to contain the proper amounts of vitamins and minerals. Just as important, you need water to make everything work. 

Carbohydrates are big suppliers of energy. Simple carbs, like refined sugar, are converted into immediate, quick bursts of energy. If you have ever seen a four-year-old with a bag of gummy bears, you know what I mean. Complex carbs, like fruit and pasta, take a little longer to break down. Usually, that’s what you want for racing, so that you don’t run out of strength halfway through a moto. 

Fats come principally in dairy products and animal oils. They are more complex and are broken down more slowly yet–too slowly to be a good source of energy for athletic competition. Your body does need a supply of fats to operate–they are essential for muscle operation and act as carriers of vitamins in the blood–but most popular foods are heavy in fats. It would be an unusual case indeed to find an American with a fat deficiency. 

Most of the tissues and organs in your body are made of proteins, which come in meats, nuts, and dairy products. They are almost never used for energy, except in times of complete exhaustion. Proteins are more essential in growth periods (early teens) than later in life, unless you are trying to build more muscle mass. How do you know what type of foods you are eating? Look on the label; it usually tells you. 

All diets need these three components. What about vitamins? If you are eating good foods, you shouldn’t need supplements. Some vitamins in amounts way beyond the recommended dosages may have negative side effects, and in some cases may lead to serious illness or death. However, a supplement of natural vitamins can be a good insurance policy. 

THINGS TO DROP 

You have to eat something, right? So you might as well eat something that will make you a better athlete. It’s been said that there are no bad foods, just bad diets. There’s some truth in that; it means the greater variety of foods you eat, the better off you are. Whoever said that, though, probably didn’t realize that some people treat alcohol and tobacco as a part of their diet; both are truly bad foods. Then there are foods that you realistically don’t need. Hamburgers, hot dogs and processed meats might give you a little protein, but they are so high in fat and cholesterol that the price is too high. The same goes for fried foods–very high in fat. If you prepare them at home, it’s not so bad, but if you eat food that comes out of a deep fryer, where the oil is used over and over, you are getting a double dose of fat and cholesterol. Chips, french fries and onion rings all fall into this category. 

Snacks that have refined sugar are okay once in a while, but don’t make them an everyday habit. They have simple carbohydrates and little else. After the sugar buzz goes away, you will still need to eat some real food. 

THINGS NOT TO DROP 

The world is full of good-tasting foods that make great diets for racers. At the beginning of the week it’s okay to eat foods that are high in protein. Your muscles have been torn up on race day and you need to give yourself new building material. As a rule, 80 grams a day is enough. 

You can get that from a meal consisting of tuna, whole-wheat bread, low-fat milk, potatoes, beans or nuts. Small portions of beef are fine. 

Later in the week you should cut down on the proteins and go up on the complex carbohydrates. You know which breakfast cereals are good; eat those. Cut out the Captain Crunch and the kid stuff. Whole-grain pasta, brown rice, potatoes and whole-wheat bread are good right up until race day. Then it’s okay to mix in some simple carbohydrates; just don’t get carried away. Later, you might want to get more serious about your racing diet. Then you have to completely cut out beef and pork. 

While you are at it, forget about salad dressing and mayonnaise. Olive oil and lemon juice are all you need to give your salad some taste. Honey makes a great natural sweetener. The latest studies indicate that the ideal diet for athletes consists of 15% protein, 20% fat and 65% carbohydrates. You can do that easily with fresh and dry fruits, lots of vegetables, raw, unsalted nuts (no peanuts), beans, peas, sprouts, brown rice, fish, chicken and turkey. Most of all, drink water–gallons of it. Stay away from carbonated beverages; they actually dehydrate you. 

This might sound a little excessive, but once you start a good diet, you will lose your craving for fatty, unhealthy foods. Like anything else, the hardest part is just getting started. 

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