If you are an avid mountain biker, you probably want to avoid getting sick and missing out on fun rides with friends or races, especially during this time of year when the common cold and flu are rampant. Furthermore, increasing your training and putting more miles weakens your immune system. So it’s important to strengthen it as much as possible. Here are five tips for staying healthy on your mountain bike.
Photo by Brooke Lark
Eating well is one of the essential things you can do to help your immune system! Three meals and two to three snacks per day is normal. Eating regularly ensures you are well fueled for rides and proper recovery and have enough energy for everyday activities. Each meal should be balanced and contain carbohydrates, fat, and protein. You should balance snacks as well but in smaller quantities. Some snack ideas are carrots and hummus, yogurt and fruit, apple or banana and peanut butter, or a piece of toast with peanut butter. Review my article, Fueling During Bike Rides, for proper fueling on the bike.
Photo by Dan Gold
Eat fruits and vegetables
Include a variety of fruit and vegetables in your diet. They contain antioxidants which are important for proper immune function. Some antioxidant-rich foods are oranges, blueberries, beets, spinach, bell peppers, and carrots.
Photo by Andrei Castanha
Supplement with vitamin D
Vitamin D is essential for bone health and critical for staying healthy on your mountain bike. Good food sources of vitamin D are fatty fish, egg yolks, and foods fortified with vitamin D such as dairy, orange juice, and cereals. Check out my article Supplements for Mountain Biking to learn more about vitamin D supplementation.
Photo by Daily Nouri
Add prebiotics and probiotics
Consuming prebiotics and probiotics is also critical for proper immune function. Prebiotics are nondigestible carbohydrates that act as food for the probiotics (beneficial microbiota) in your gut. Prebiotics are resistant to human digestive enzymes and make it to the colon undigested, where the probiotics ferment them. Examples of prebiotic-containing foods are onions, garlic, asparagus, bananas, and oats.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that live in your large intestine & provide health benefits to the host (you), promoting a healthy digestive tract and immune system. Unfortunately, probiotics can be destroyed after taking antibiotics. So while it doesn’t hurt to take them all the time, it is critical to take probiotics or eat probiotic-rich foods after completing an antibiotic course. Consuming probiotic supplements or foods containing probiotics are both beneficial. Foods that contain probiotics are yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and kimchi. Prebiotics feed the probiotics that help keep you healthy.
Get plenty of rest
The best diet in the world won’t do anything for you if you can’t rest. Try to get a minimum of 8 hours of sleep a night. Also, if your body is tired, take rest days. You don’t have to ride or exercise every day.
Emily is a Sports Dietitian who is passionate about helping others improve their health and athletic performance through proper nutrition. She races cyclocross professionally. She lives in Roanoke, VA with her husband Kerry and their beagle Sherman.
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