Avoiding processed foods can help boost your health and cycling fitness
The idea of ‘eating clean’ is more than an excuse for your friends to Instagram their salads. It means filling your plate with nutrient-rich, whole foods that have undergone as little processing as possible. Not only does it help you stay lean, it improves your energy levels and sleep quality - all of which translate to better performance on the bike. Try these five clean-food swaps to improve your fuel before, during, and after the ride.
Not clean: White
White rice isn’t necessarily unhealthy, but its nutritional value doesn’t measure up to wild or brown varieties. Mild and nutty, brown rice still contains the fibre-rich bran and germ, making it less likely to contribute to mood and energy-altering blood-sugar spikes and drops. But wild rice is even more nutrient-dense than brown rice (though it is lower in carbs).
Not clean: Farm-raised
Clean: Canned wild
Cleanest: Fresh wild
Farm-raised salmon is far more likely to be exposed to antibiotics and persistent organic pollutants - which are associated with obesity, diabetes, and cancer - than fish raised in a natural environment. If you can’t get fresh wild salmon, go for the canned wild stuff before reverting to fresh but farmed: It still will give you a helping of protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, without the scary stuff.
Not clean: Table sugar, agave nectar
Clean: Coconut or date sugar, brown-rice syrup
Cleanest: Raw local honey, pure maple syrup, molassesw
White table sugar is highly processed, and agave is high in fructose, which could cause changes in liver function and insulin sensitivity. Brown-rice syrup and date or coconut sugars are less processed, but they don’t offer many health benefits. Meanwhile, raw honey has antimicrobial properties and may fight cold symptoms. Maple syrup and molasses contain minerals, plus antioxidants that can speed recovery time.
Not clean: Chemically extracted
Cleanest: Organic expeller-pressed
Many conventional oils are extracted from their sources via a process that uses toxic chemicals - hexane, for one, can cause problems with central nervous system function. Manufacturers then refine the oil to make it edible, which speeds up oxidation and causes it to go rancid faster. Yuck! Instead, choose oil that is expeller-pressed (mechanically extracted). Even better, go organic: Olive, canola, coconut, and sunflower are healthy options.
Not clean: Synthetic ingredients
Clean: Mostly whole-food ingredients
Cleanest: Fewer than 10 ingredients and 10 grams of sugar
An ideal bar will contain no added sugar or overly processed ingredients - such as soy-protein isolate, artificial flavors, or partially hydrogenated oils - and give you a balance of carbs, fats, and protein to stay energised and full. A good general rule: The number of grams of protein should be at least half the number of carbs. Look for bars that get their sweetness from dried fruit only, or natural sugars like honey or maple syrup.