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Health Tips for the Avid Cyclist

Two People Gripping Bicycle Handle Bars --- Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisBeing an avid cyclist for years, I first became aware of the health benefits of riding for pleasure and enjoyment and for a good overall workout. There are numerous benefits to you no matter what level of cycling you are presently practicing. Of course if you are cycling competitively or aggressively mountain biking your needs will require a more intense approach. This article will cover some of the concerns that you need to be aware of at any level. I promote cycling as a way to get outdoors and experience the benefits that it offers, such as cardiovascular, muscle toning, breathing fresh air, communing with nature, and sharing activities with family and friends. It is wise to be smart when it comes to any form of exercise and how to keep your body strong and also to learn how to deal with the injuries and sore muscles that come with exertion. We will cover some of the more important nutrients and remedies that you can take with you while on your biking adventure.

Let’s discuss one of the most important aspects of any workout activity, energy. The muscles rely on three major systems to supply energy. They are the immediate, glycolytic, and oxidative energy systems. The muscles need the immediate energy source for explosive and strength output. The energy is produced through the use of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) and creatine phosphate (CP) both needed for this type of activity. The next energy system is called glycolytic which is basically how the body generates and burns glucose (sugar) to produce energy. The third energy system involves how the body oxidizes fatty acids, proteins, and glucose mainly for long term endurance.

Eating a well balanced diet is very important when doing any form of exercise. I recommend a balanced whole food high fiber complex carbohydrate, low fat, and lean protein diet program. Lean meat from chicken and fish are better than high fat meats like beef and pork. Restrictions of refined carbohydrates, high fat fast foods and the avoidance of chemical additive foods are necessary to get optimum output.

Some of the most important nutrients to include are:

  • B-complex- they unlock the energy from carbohydrates. Aid the proper nerve transmission and work with muscles tissues.
  • Vitamin E- repair of tissue and as an antioxidant.
  • Chromium and Zinc- low levels interfere with blood sugar regulation, energy production and tissue repair. Create lack of endurance, muscle soreness, and fatigue.
  • Vitamin C- aids in tissue repair and helps clear lactic acid from muscle tissue.
  • Iron- transports oxygen to and within muscle cells. Deficiency can create lack of endurance, muscle soreness, and fatigue.
  • Magnesium- aids the muscle contraction and relaxation. Works with the adrenal glands, facilitates nerve function,      heartbeat and blood pressure.

A good natural multiple vitamin can supply many of these requirements. In addition to the foundation multiple antioxidants (vit. C, vit. E, beta carotene, zinc, selenium), essential fatty acids (flax oil, evening primrose oil, fish oil) and amino acids (glutamine, creatine, Branched chain aminos) can be utilized to give better performance. Before beginning your ride you need to warm up your body. Easy stretching is one of the best ways to loosen up your neck, back, and legs. This will prepare your muscles for activity. Remember to also cool down after your workout by walking or stretching again. During your ride it is important to replace electrolytes. I use a powdered mineral ascorbate with vitamin C that is mixed with water and I drink this throughout my ride. This is a good drink for after a ride to prevent muscle soreness. It is critically important to drink lots of water. It helps to flush out the lactic acid build-up that can occur with physical activity. Some of the issues of exercise involve sore and bruised muscles, torn or stretched ligaments, tendons and cartilage mends and broken bones. How can we facilitate the healing process and what supplement can help? Natural therapies can do much to promote the healing process by reducing inflammation and renewal of tissue repair. The old acronym RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) are the first response to injury. We now add BEANS ( botanical, energetic, and nutritional supplements) as an adjunctive approach.

Again vitamin C possesses anti inflammatory properties. It is also necessary for tissue repair. Doses over 3000 mg daily need to be taken to be effective. Another substance glucosamin sulphate, the material that cushions the joints is necessary and has been clinically proven to aid in cartilage repair by working with connective tissues. The enzyme bromelain, found in the pineapple plant, has been effective in reducing inflammation due to injury. This enzyme also speed recovery of tissue repair by breaking down scar tissue, decreasing fluid buildup and blocking inflammatory mediators. It also helps clear lactic acid buildup from muscle tissues. Bromelain need to be taken on an empty stomach to be effective.

Two botanicals that work on inflammation are ginger and turmeric. Ginger has a long history of use as an anti-inflammatory agent. It also increases circulation and aids the livers ability to clear toxins. Turmeric contains an ingredient call curcumin and appears to block inflammatory pathways. Both can be taken in capsule form.

For sore muscles and sprains the homeopathic remedy arnica montana is wonderful. I will not go riding without this in my pack. It can be taken in tablet form and comes in a topical gel. It needs to be taken and applied immediately for any accident or sprain. You can apply it to sore muscles after your ride. Some other homeopathic remedies for sport injury include rhus tox, ruta, ledum, and hypericum.

Riding a bicycle offers many benefits to the rider but with it also can come some hardships. It takes a wise rider to prevent these type of ailments. A good book on performance riding and the necessary nutrients is Maximum Performance by Daniel Gastelu and Dr. Fred Hatfield by Avery Publishing. Good riding.

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