Your body is covered in mud. Your bike’s drivetrain is barely functioning. Your heart is pounding in your chest. This might sound like a miserable state of being, but anyone who races cyclocross knows better. There is nothing quite like the thrill of cycling’s dirtiest discipline.
But what to do after you cross the finish line? Clean up and fuel up are tops on the list, not necessarily in that order. Indeed, even though most amateur cyclocross races last only 45 minutes, your body still needs food for recovery, and it needs it quickly.
“You want to eat as soon as possible, preferably no less than 30 minutes after your event,” explains Allen Lim, a sports physiologist and Ph.D., who’s worked with numerous professional cyclists and teams, and is co-author of The Feed Zone Cookbook: Fast and Flavorful Food for Athletes.
Taking in nutrients in that small window of time is critical to recovery. Wait longer and your body can start producing cortisol, a harmful hormone created during exercise that can impede recovery and even cause muscle atrophy.
So what to eat? Anything that tastes good and is healthy, says Lim. Chicken Fried Rice is one of his favorites. It’s a recipe Lim learned from his mom and has been cooking all his life. You can try it yourself by following along in the Aprés section of The Feed Zone Cookbook or watch Allen make it in this Feed Zone video series on VeloNews.com.
It’s calorically dense, which is key when you are trying to replace lost calories, says Lim. Plus white rice has a high glycemic index, which helps get calories into your body fast.
Another great Feed Zone Cookbook option is Lemon and Herb Salmon, which contains the omega-3 fatty acids that studies have shown help reduce post-exercise muscle inflammation.
While you’re at it, says Lim, make sure to drink something with sodium in it, or drink water with salty food.
“If you weigh yourself before and after an event, you’ll get a sense of how much fluid you lose. One kilogram of body weight loss (2.2 lbs) is equivalent to a liter of sweat loss. Aim to replace that loss a few hours after your race.”
The Feed Zone Cookbook offers 150 athlete-friendly recipes that are simple, delicious, and easy to prepare.