Training for Pelotonia

EdibleEXTRA by Danielle Vilaplana

Recipes by Sara Snowberger 

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No athletic competition would be complete without the seemingly endless offerings of bananas and peanut butter sandwiches to fuel participants during and after the race. These classics speak to the importance of carbohydrates to endurance athletes, particularly as this year’s Pelotonia approaches and Columbus residents push their rides far beyond the city limits.

I relied on these standard foodstuffs for several years during Pelotonia training periods. Far from a natural athlete, I credit my dependable “pb ban sans” for helping me keep pace with my more energetic friends. For my final year as a student rider for Team Buckeye, however, I took an interest in expanding my palate outside of my usual carbohydrate-rich staples, but did not know where else to find the substantial carb levels that a body-in-training needs.  I knew that carbs are easily digestible and able to prevent muscle fatigue and injury, but I lacked further knowledge about how they fueled my body.

I consulted with Sara Snowberger, a nutritionist for the Columbus-based company Azoti, which encourages wellness in the community by digitally connecting local farmers and consumers. Sara broke down everything an endurance athlete should know about carbohydrates, including the benefits of “carb loading” and eating while on the bike.

Previously, I viewed carb loading only as a way to promote sports team bonding, à la high school pasta parties; however, Sara explained that pre-competition carb loading has been shown to improve performance in those exercising for longer than ninety minutes. By consuming nearly three times the recommended amount of carbohydrates, athletes aim to elevate levels of glycogen, the carbohydrates within muscles, and delay the onset of muscle fatigue during longer, more strenuous activities. 

More importantly, riders must supply working muscles with carbohydrates at the same rate their body is burning fuel during the ride. Each muscle uses its own individual supply of glycogen until it is depleted and draws from the liver’s back up, and eventually fat and protein. As burning protein is not ideal, it is essential to continuously supply the body with carbohydrates during the ride, whether with gels, homemade energy bars, or a peanut butter sandwich made by a Pelotonia volunteer.

It is important to continue consuming carbohydrates during post-exercise recovery and to integrate protein as well. Snacks such as crackers with peanut butter, yogurt, or whole grain granola bars must be consumed immediately after, and a well-proportioned meal should follow two to three hours later. 

Additionally, riders should remember that carbohydrates are present in all foods, not only grains. Sara gave us some recipes to make and consume before, during, or after Pelotonia, many of which contain ingredients that can be sourced locally. Her No-Bake Energy Bites are the perfect way to have a delicious and injury-free race day.

Recipes:

Southwest 2 Bean and Corn Salad
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups fresh corn
1 cup kale, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 small white onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, grated
1 small jalapeño, chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro
Zest and juice from 1 lime
1/4 cup grated Pepper Jack cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
*Add shredded chicken for added protein during recovery
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss gently.

No-Bake Energy Bites
1 cup rolled oats
½ cup nut butter
1/3 cup honey
1 cup coconut flakes
½ cup ground flaxseed
2oz dark chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup chopped walnuts (or other raw nut)
¼ teaspoon salt

Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl until thoroughly incorporated. Let chill in the refrigerator or freezer for half an hour. Once chilled, roll into balls and enjoy! Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to 1 week.