Kurt and I are not nutritionists, but we are cyclists who have learned over many years that what we eat off, and on, the bike matters. As we crested over our fiftieth birthday's, we became even more aware of the importance in the way we eat for our long-term health and a continued active lifestyle. Taking care of ourselves has always mattered, even more so now and going forward.
What we have learned is that we have been on the right path for many years, and that being in tune with our bodies has always been the best approach.
And for me personally, an aging WOMAN in perimenopause (yes I said it and that's not the last time), might I suggest that figuring out how to best eat for you, (long before you hear that word from a medical professional for the first time) is the best gift you can give yourself. And if you are a guy - please stick with us, supporting the women in your life is a great gift you can give. Knowledge is power ~ for all of us. We are ALL part of normalizing natural stages of a women's life power.
For early 2022, I am writing a series that shares our experiences as cyclists in relation to our nutrition and health(care) in hopes of inspiring you to take care of yourself, so you can be the best human AND best cyclist you can be.
Stopping for a homemade snack in the Bighorns, WY (June 2020)
I am breaking this series down into three parts.
- Part 1: How We Eat
- I will be focusing on the background of how in particular I got to where I am today in regard to my diet.
- Part 2: How We Travel
- I will be discussing how our diet doesn't stop at home. We will share tips for travel, meal preparation, what we eat before/during/after a ride.
- Part 3: Aging as a Cyclist
- I will be discussing the importance of holistic healthcare and nutrition in special relation to what it is like to be a GenX woman and athlete.
Each part of this series will have a special take-away for you.
Nutrition as a cyclist is key to one’s ability to not only perform well on a bicycle, but be able to have the stamina to cycle, and a better ability to recover. Cyclists do not just feed themselves to be full, they are intaking nutrition to take care of their muscles, and their brain. Additionally, if you cycle a lot, you are inevitably going to get hungry. One quickly learns that anything ‘fast’, just isn’t the way to go. Fast food, fast beverages, fast energy bars; they all leave you feeling anything but fast. And if you are me, you lose the ability to intake many foods marketed to cyclists because they literally hurt your stomach.
And I have learned that one of the greatest benefits of learning to eat well as a cyclist, is that it is the best way to age well.
My goal is not to tell you how to eat, but to make you understand the importance of good nutrition, to make you curious, and to urge you to seek out the best information that is right for you. The best information for me always comes from what my body is telling me I need, confirmed by discussions with my doctor, and enhanced by information I seek out that aligns with those two things.
This discussion will mainly focus on how Kurt and I have restructured our eating since 2018, and the positive impact that has had on our cycling, and daily living.
The Backstory: Meat & Flexitarianism
Let’s go further back to start, way back to when I was a teenager. I am not really sure why, but when I was younger I began to consciously eat much less meat than the rest of my family and friends. Looking back with a 2022 lens, I would like to say that the decision to eat less meat was done consciously, and that it was done for noble reasons (for the planet, for the animals, etc). But really, I believe at the time (this would have been the 80s), meat mostly just started grossing me out ~ I no longer liked it that much. And when I look back, I think my body was starting to not like it much either. It was less a cerebral decision than perhaps an unconscious physical one. And this was probably one of the first times I started listening to my body. That eating approach stuck, and it has evolved over many decades.
Most importantly, my diet has improved greatly with my awareness, curiosity, societal changes, options available to me as a consumer, my evolution as an athlete, and aging (which we will specifically get into in Part 3 of this series).
I am not a vegetarian, nor am I vegan, but I eat meat more as a special occasion, as a ‘side’ to my vegetables, or because my body is telling me it is out of balance (‘time for some steak!’). It wasn’t until my late 30’s when someone said ‘you are a Flexitarian’ that I had a term to use when someone asked ‘are you vegetarian?’ ~ which I have been asked a lot over the years. I had no idea what a ‘Flexitarian’ was, but when they described it to me I was like ‘yes!’.
Life Update: A Recipe for Success
This brings us back to 2017 when I purposefully changed course in my professional life, and found my way to äventyr. My job had been making me unhappy, and compounding that was weight gain. After this course correction, I had much more time to take care of myself.
I have a note on my calendar for January 18, 2017 that says “DeAnn Starts New Life”. This was the day after my last day at the old job/career.
And on December 3, 2017 I bought the cookbook “Love Real Food”.
I spent a lot of time during 2017 adjusting to a new rhythm in my life. Kurt’s responsibilities at his new job had decreased his time to cook, and I had a lot more time on my hands ~ making me the default home chef for the first time in my life (Kurt is an excellent cook, and as a woman who grew up in the 1970s, like many of my female peers I did not cook). Adjusting mentally to being our family chef took more mind bending than just walking into the kitchen (you can read more about that here).
Me at 45 after finishing my first (and only ~ so far) 100 km.
And we had definitely evolved as cyclists, with a focus on how to keep enjoying being cyclists as we age. In 2017 we were 45.
As cyclists, we feel it is important to carefully plan what we put in our bodies, and sometimes that takes a significant amount of time in planning, shopping, and cooking. With my new cookbook in hand, I began to immerse myself in elevating our diet through foods that were better for my body, helped accommodate for the fact I ate meat minimally, was easy and quick to prepare, and also tasted really good!
- I started baking (which was something I never did), and not only that ~ I was doing it with healthier ingredients like coconut oil, maple syrup, wheat flour, spelt flour, oats, and more…
- I started making a batch of THE best granola in the world and eating it with yogurt for breakfast with fruit everyday ~ I never ate any of those three foods previously for breakfast.
- Instead of buying processed baked goods for our “second breakfast” (as cyclists like to say), I made a weekly batch of healthy muffins.
- I learned to make the best tasting, and healthiest vegetarian meatballs, burgers, falafel, and taco fillings full of nutrition from things like sweet potatoes (another food I previously disliked), garbanzo beans, lentils, quinoa, and nuts.
- I learned that I could roast my vegetables for stir fries making the meal not only taste much better, but it was much healthier.
- I started making, and enjoying, salads with fruit, nuts, and grains in them as part of my meals.
Not only were we feeling better about what we put in our bodies, but we were noticing as athletes the food filled us up and provided good energy for our bicycle rides.
Practice, Practice, Practice
I would equate the way we eat to a practice, just like yoga or cycling (both of which we do). Sometimes it is the things in life that are the best for us, that we have the hardest time committing to ~ but once you do, you never look back. And one day everything clicks in ~ your mind, your body, your habit... for good. Sound a lot like yoga, or cycling? You bet.
I make time to make good food:
- Monday mornings I make a batch of the granola for the week. It literally takes 5 minutes to mix up, and 23 minutes to bake while you drink your coffee or shower.
- Weekends or a weekday afternoon I make a batch of cookies.
- Sunday dinner prep, or on Tuesday when I don't work, I make a batch of muffins for the week.
- Sunday we do our bulk shopping. We make a menu for Sunday night dinner - Wednesday or Thursday night dinner before we leave. We input the entire menu into the Paprika App to make shopping a breeze and recipes easy to find for next time.
- I also am always listening to podcast at the same time I cook or bake to make the task more enjoyable, or to catch up on world events.
Kurt and I in August 2017
Kurt and I in August 2021 ~ with expanded cycling adventure goals!
Pre-pandemic I am not sure many people would have understood what I was going through in 2017. I had to slow down, I had to completely stop my life that was feeling off-course, in order for me to find the path to a better journey. But I think now, many people can understand. Taking time to course correct, to adjust, to find a new way ~ is not easy, comfortable, or clear. But once you turn that corner, you will know you have arrived at exactly where you needed to be.
And eating healthy is a big part of finding yourself and giving yourself your best life.
*Your Bonus Gift for reading this far: A sample version of our weekly meal plan, click here.
Coming up in Part 2...
We have also carried our eating philosophy and approach over to our gravel travel. Subscribe to our newsletter or rss feed to be sure to get a copy when it drops.