Cyclo-therapy: 'The diet regimes that some cyclists live by would make gluttons of jockeys
Saturday 05 March 2011
A cyclist's relationship with food can be fraught, bordering on the freakish. Hold on to your lunch before doing a Google image search for Danish pro Michael Rasmussen, who appears to be too thin in one photo even to get on a bike, never mind compete in the Tour de France.
The regimes some riders live by would make gluttons of jockeys. Rasmussen reportedly counts out pasta pieces and grains of rice before he cooks, while Lance Armstrong, his bulk already reduced (not insignificantly when every gram counts), after the loss of a testicle due to cancer, used to weigh his plates to maintain an optimal bulk.
But that's the pros. My relationship with food is more friendly than fraught. A colleague calls me the world's hungriest man and I count my pasta by the plate rather than the piece. I don't watch what I eat – there isn't the time to see it before it's launched towards my mouth in a blur of melted cheese or chocolate chips.
My all-you-can-eat, all-the-time diet was fine last summer when I was on my bike quite a lot. I reckon I cycled close to 3,000 miles and it showed – I wasn't exactly a fatty before that but I lost more than a stone in weight thanks to a daily grind that left me with xylophone ribs and arms like pipe cleaners.
How things have changed. It's normal for riding to tail off when the nights draw in – but not to go into hibernation like a hedgehog with a cake habit. I can't remember the last time I took my roadbike out. I've even favoured tube journeys over wind in my hair.
I should be eating less, of course, but there are pies and brownies to poke down. Partly thanks to long days at the desk, I've also developed an unhealthy fondness for oven pizzas. I'm pretty sure the stone I shed has resettled around my now not-so-bony hips.
I'm hoping the urge to ride will strike, perhaps one Sunday morning when the sun's shining through primroses under hedgerows. Let's hope so; if that once familiar twitch in the thighs doesn't come soon I risk becoming not only the world's hungriest men but also one of its fattest.
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