A diet that includes everything is going to be the best for endurance athletes – which means that restrictive diets might not be the best if you’re hoping to crush your cycling goals in 2017.
While for some people it’s possible to thrive while going paleo or vegan, that’s not the case for a majority of racers. Part of this is psychological: To deprive yourself of a specific type of food, especially if it’s one that you really love, can do more harm than good, and will ultimately lessen your chances of sticking to a diet in the long run.
Eat for Happiness
So often, recreational athletes are doing things that make them miserable, and that’s just as bad as eating unhealthy food. I’ve never met an endurance athlete who’s miserable with his or her diet and successful in the long-term… You’ll get better results if you’re happy!
One of the worst mistakes in recreational athletes is the tendency to restrict calories, feel unhappy about it, and then binge-eat to make up for that restricting—and then repeat the cycle. When it comes to elite athletes, almost none of them set caloric limits or portion sizes: They are conscious of their portion size, but rely on appetite and body awareness (and happiness!) to regulate their eating.
Eat High Quality
A high-quality diet, by definition, tends to reduce risk of disease. If you’re maintaining a diet filled with the high-quality foods and only sparing amounts of low-quality foods, that’s a good sign of diet success.
Think about whether a food increases health or decreases health. We generally know what health-increasing foods are going to be: vegetables, fruits, clean sources of protein, and healthy fats.
That doesn’t mean you have to give up the cookies altogether, though. Low-quality foods taste better (cheapo fast food fries do typically taste better than kale chips. Let’s just be honest here). And adding small amounts to your diet makes it easier to maintain a generally high-quality diet for the long-term.
Just because you should follow these habits doesn’t mean your diet should mimic what Chris Froome or a Kenyan runner eats.
No two elite endurance athletes eat the same. They eat a high-quality version of a culturally normal diet for them.
Different genetics mean that we all react to foods differently, so some of us might find a certain type of food gives us digestive issues, while a friend swears by it. Your diet should be personalized to you—but with an emphasis on eating enough high-quality foods from every food category!