Fuelling your body with the right energy and nutrients is fundamental for maximising performance. Eating a variety of foods, “a rainbow a day”, is the best way to ensuring your body receives an abundant supply of all nutrients allowing your body to perform, recover and develop after each training session.
Nutrient deficiencies are the main cause for premature fatigue, and a common reason for this can be a reduction in the amount of red blood cells or haemoglobin, a protein within red blood cells that carry oxygen in the blood. This will result in reduced oxygen availability and transport of nutrients to the working muscle, ultimately impairing energy production.
Iron, copper, vitamin A, B6, B9 and B12 all aid in red blood cell and haemoglobin production, therefore its essential to include them in your diet regularly. Here are 3 foods that you should include in your diet to promote the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to maximise cycling performance.
Protein foods like seafood, poultry and animal meats, particularly red meat are well known for being a great source of iron. Iron comes in 2 forms, heme and non-heme iron. Heme iron which is found in meat is better absorbed than plant-based non-heme iron, therefore eating meat enhances the availability of haemoglobin production.
Of all the red meats to choose from, liver is significantly richer in all of the micronutrients that contribute to red blood cell and haemoglobin production (see table below). One to two servings of liver per week is a good way to supply your body with these essential nutrients and promote energy metabolism. There’s very little difference in nutrient content between different types of liver, so if you’re thinking which animal’s liver you should eat just choose whichever you prefer to eat.
Red Meat (100g)
Beef Liver (100g)
Vitamin B6 – Pyridoxine
Vitamin B9 – Folic Acid
Vitamin B12 – Cobalamins
Dark leafy green vegetables are an excellent source of non-heme iron and other nutrients vital for red blood cell production. Although heme iron rich foods are better for iron absorption, some people do not eat meat or fish e.g. vegetarians. Therefore other food sources must be included in ample amounts to meet nutrient demands.
Kale is an excellent option that should be eaten regularly in the week. It is rich in vitamins A and B6, copper, and can boost protein intake with just 50kcal per 100g. It is also a great source of vitamin C which can improve the absorption of non-heme iron.
Beetroot has become a very popular food when considering performance enhancement. There has been a lot of interesting research in the last 10 years to link beetroot intake with improved performance, primarily the form of juice and highly concentrated shots. This has been attributed to beetroots being naturally rich in nitrates which are converted to the signalling molecule nitric oxide. Nitric oxide acts as a vasodilator allowing for a more efficient delivery of oxygen to the working muscles.
Although beetroot is credited for its role in enhanced blood flow, you shouldn’t be surprised that it also contains other nutrients that facilitate healthy blood cell production. It is also a great source of vitamin B9, copper and many other nutrients, but it’s not just the root that should be eaten as the leaves offer similar nutritional properties to kale being rich in iron, vitamins A and C.