Pepperami sports snacks
Having competed in the Autumn Polaris this weekend, I wanted to pick the brains of the team in terms of nutritional input for events. Can you tell me what the best food to scoff is? My boyfriend ate pork pies, scotch eggs, brunch bars and drank very little – needless to say he was very smug about feeling strong all weekend. I ate flapjack, gels bars, nuts/raisins etc (ie. opted for what I thought were nutritionally decent products and drank as much as I could.) We both had Wilf’s breakfast specials — bacon & egg butties on Sat. morning. I had cramp at one point (another thing to piss me off as I struggled up hill against the endless battering wind) and wondered what would be the best thing to eat to keep salt levels up. I tried Pepperami sticks but I can’t digest them quickly. Any ideas? Also, what’s better for breakfast Day 1 — our tasty butties or should we be opting for muesli (yawn) or porridge?
Cress. Allwood

Its infuriating isn’t it? You do everything right and still get trounced and someone else who eats all the pies feels great. On paper your selection of foods sounds much better and more suitable than your boyfriends. Keep the gels and raisins for when you need an energy boost out riding and eat foods with lower GI to give you a long release of energy for breakfast such as the porridge. Make sure you eat a decent meal after the event — pasta is the perennial favourite for cyclists. Pepperami isn’t so great on the go because of its high-fat content its difficult to digest, an electrolyte based energy drink would have been better for helping to stave of cramps. A nice packet of salty crisps goes down well after a long ride especially if you have a salt craving. Bacon and egg butties aren’t the best pre-event food, fat really slows down digestion and can sit heavy in your stomach. If you have to go hard early on in the day it can make unwelcome reapparences. A hot breakfast of scrambled egg on toast or beans on toast would be better if you don’t fancy the porridge.
It’s probably not just the nutrition that made the difference. The other unpalatable truth of the matter might be that you aren’t as fit as your boyfriend for the event, either because you are less experienced or because of gender differences. If your muscles were working harder than they are normally used to this could have contributed to your cramp. Looking after yourself well is important to make sure you get the most from your body but keep him on the pies — you never know he might have been stronger if he ate the porridge!

Cramp solved
This may be a ray of hope for those of us out there who suffer from cramp
while out riding.
I used to get real bad cramp after about fifteen miles or so and would
struggle to back home and would usually be in pain all the way back.
After trying to work trough this problem to no avail i had a word with my GP
who prescribed Quinine tablets for me to try, what a result,no more cramp.
I dont use them on a daily basis but usually one a day for a couple of days
before a biggish ride does the trick.
I realise this may not be ideal for everyone but it may be worth a chat with
the Doc.
Onenighters Mouted Division

Quinine has lots of uses, its recommended for night cramps — not just sports cramps and one of its original uses was in treating malaria. Tonic water is frequently recommended before long rides to help with cramp. Schweppes created tonic water in the late 1800’s and added quinine to help the British Empire builders get their daily dose. The amount of quinine needed to treat malaria is significantly more than you could manage to drink but it was still a good excuse for the colonials to indulge a gin and tonic habit. Good brands of tonic water still do contain quinine although the amounts are small. Studies investigating the effect of quinine on night time leg cramps found a positive benefit from using 400mg of quinine a day. Quinine in large doses does have some side effects and can only be prescribed by a Doctor. An 8oz glass of tonic water contains just 28milligrams, even so plenty of bike riders swear by it. If you suffer from mild, occasional cramps tonic water is definitely worth trying along with all the usual advice on staying hydrated and using an electrolyte drink. If you have frequent bad cramps get yourself along to your GP and see if he’ll sort you out with quinine tablets.

Yoga’t it wrong
I am a qualified Yoga instructor in Kent working for Kent County Councils Adult Education Department, I take a keen interest in MBR as we ride as a family and my Husband is a MUD addict.
I felt I should comment on the Move of the month in this edition Dec 2006, as with most of these moves it is a Hatha Yoga warm up of an asana (posture) Supta Padangusthasana. However the position of the chin and shoulders in your diagram are putting the neck muscles (sterncleidomastoid, levator scapulae) under huge pressure.
To do this Hamstring stretch I would advise students to take the band wide in the arms keeping the shoulders relaxed on the floor, the neck should be long and the chin almost tucking in slightly towards the chest. Then keeping the leg straight, ( as a bent leg does nothing for softening the hamstrings) release foot towards the face moving tiny amounts on an out breath is best. Keeping the shoulders and neck soft and relaxed and making sure the jaw is not clenched. I appreciate you do not have space for detailed instruction but the diagram indicates huge pressure on the neck and shoulders, which would be disastrous for a keen mountain biker.
Cary Bertram

Thanks for your feedback Cary. We’ll hold our hands up on this one — our model a genuine mountain biker demonstrated typical cyclist inflexibility and strain when trying to stretch a hamstring. What looked just about passable in a photograph has been exaggerated in the illustration. In the ideal world everyone would be shown correct stretching technique not try and learn it from a picture. It can be hard to know if you are holding the right posture without someone there to guide you. It would be great to see more mountain bikers taking up yoga and Pilates classes. Proper instruction can ensure that you get the most out of exercises and ensure that posture is correct — as you point out the wrong posture provides no benefit to the body and could cause discomfort. We hope that move of the month will inspire riders to take more care of their bodies off the bike and learn some simple techniques to help them stay comfortable and injury free but we also know its no substitute from hands-on help from an expert.