“For very active cyclists it’s the tale of two lives,” says Stanford-based sports nutritionist and physiologist Stacy Sims, PhD, explaining that following the guidelines is pretty prudent off the bike, no matter how active you are. But behind those bars? Sometimes you need to break “the rules.”

Here are the highlights and what it means for you.

Slash Sugar Intake Dramatically

Dietary sugar—especially the added, nutritionally empty kind found in sodas, sweets, dressings, cereals, and well, pretty much everywhere in the processed food world—is the big story of the new guidelines. Americans today consume about 88 grams or 22 teaspoons a day of the sweet stuff. The new guidelines urge less than 10 percent of your calories from added (not naturally occurring sugar found in whole food) sugar. That’s about 49 grams or 12 to 13 teaspoons for a 2,000-calorie a day diet.
To put that in perspective, consider that there are 4 grams of sugar in every teaspoon/cube and that there are 4 calories per gram, so you get 16 calories with every teaspoon. Twelve ounces of Gatorade delivers 21 grams, 5 teaspoons, and 84 calories of sugar—nearly half the daily limit and it doesn’t even fill the average cycling water bottle. Let’s say you’re very active and eat 3000 calories a day. A full 24-oz bike bottle of Gatorade still takes you over half the daily recommendation at 42 grams/10 ½ teaspoons and 170 calories. That’s not to say you shouldn’t drink sports drinks any longer, but it’s a wake up call to be more mindful of how much sugar you’re slurping down, especially since that doesn’t count gels, blocks, bars, and other sports foods, which are also loaded with sugar.

“In general, a diet low in sugar is the way to go regardless of how active you are,” says Sims. “But training food is different. There are times you need more carbs/sugar to keep pace.” Generally, if you’re doing a short or low-intensity ride, you don’t need a lot of added sugar to keep going. Put a banana in your pocket and water or low-carb drink in your bottles and go. When you’re going hard and tapping out your glycogen stores, you’re going to need that added sugar to keep the hammer down. For most rides, whole food snacks and low-carb drinks do the trick.

Read the full article here: