Stuffing Face & Keeping Pace
Interview with Jennifer Malik by Lori Nedescu
Ever look around at the riders lining up next you and think wonder what she eats ...? Well you're not alone. It's totally common to wonder what your friends (and competition) are eating, especially when it comes to pro athletes who make us all stare in awe as they effortlessly spin their super quads and lean bodies in circles around us.
WHAT ARE THEY EATING!?
Lets find out! In order to gain some understanding of how our fellow female cyclists fuel their sport, we are going to take a snap shot look at the diet of professional cyclocross rider (and my road cycling teammate) Jennifer Malik. Although this is just a peak at her fueling habits, we can learn from what habits are on track and what improvements she might want to make for better performance. This little exercise will also give you some insight into how a consult with a sports specific dietitian goes down and could help you pinpoint areas of improvement in your own nutrition needs.
Before we open her fridge up... lets get to know Jen a little better.
(Lori) How did you get your start in the sport?
(Jen) I used to run and compete in triathlons, but was always terrible on the bike. I decided to become more involved in the Columbus cycling community to improve my cycling but ended up being introduced to cyclocross at a local clinic hosted by the Lady Gnar Shredders and fell in love with the sport.
L - Understatement!! Not only did she fall in love with cyclocross, but she crushed the sport; going from her very first race to a pro race in the same season.
L - What team(s) do you ride for?
J - Womens CX Project (cross), Womens Project Pedal + OSU (road) and Paradise Garage (UCI mtn bike)
L - Favorite bike?
J - Focus Mares CX
L - When you're not riding (and not eating) you are...
J - PhD student studying Biomedical Engineering at The Ohio State University
L - Where she designs models of the inner ear... yea it’s a thing and Jen does it.
L - Do you have any off the bike special talents?
J - I can sleep through anything. Cannon blast, earthquake, smoke alarm, people hunting 15 ft from my tent while camping... the list goes on.
L - You have a pet right?
J - Otis – 4 year old rescue Ohio Brown dog.
L - Ohio Brown? Is that an official color!?!
L - Favorite song:?
J - B52s – Rock Lobster
L - This is why we listen to separate headphones on car trips to races...
L - Alright, lets chat a bit about your eating habits and goals. Why is nutrition important to you?
J - Nutrition has an impact on all aspects of my life. I can tell both physically and mentally when I have been slacking on my nutrition! My schedule is incredibly hectic and given the amount of activity I do I want to make sure that I am providing my body with the appropriate foods to help me perform my best and make the most of my workouts. I also really want to make sure that I start developing healthy eating habits so that I can continue to rock my crazy schedule for a long long time.
L - It's super important that you are looking at nutrition as a right now AND long term factor! Every athlete should do the same. When athletes only consider how eating effects their current performance, they are liable to create future deficiencies.
L - Do you have any nutrition or eating goals?
J - Eat a clean and well balanced diet and minimize processed foods.
L - Perfect. This should be almost everyone's goal! Now that you have a goal...make a plan to set it in motion!
L - Do you follow a special diet?
J - Vegetarian. But I eat dairy, eggs and some fish.
L - Okay, it's good that you have limits, but are not overly restrictive. Any special diet can be done well or poorly.. .vegetarians should remember the root word is veg so the diet should be rich in produce.
L - Go-to fueling food?
J - Peanut butter toast
L - Are you sure you don't mean peanut butter by the spoonful?...
J - Hehehe....I don't know what you're talking about...
L - What food item do you always pack with you?
J - A banana.
L - Good choice; having a piece of fruit on hand is the perfect natural snack.
J - Yeah, otherwise I will reach for a Girl Scout Cookie. They are my weakness for sure – I got asked if I wanted some after a trainer night and ended up ordering 7 boxes and promptly eating them that night and felt terrible/sick. Oops.
L - OMG. We've all been there... stick with the banana.
L - If I looked in your fridge right now... you'd be most embarrassed by:
J - The current lack of food. Must. Go. Grocery. Shopping.
L - That is a problem. One, because you live 100 ft from a grocery store...
J - I know, I know!!!
L - But more importantly, readers take note, if you do not have good, quality food in reach, you are more apt to eat poor quality junk food. Always have an emergency meal on hand like canned tuna + mac n chz + frozen veggies or even a few healthy frozen meals on hand like an Amys Tofu Rice Bowl.
L - Post Race Craving?
J - Pizza!!!
L - Not a bad choice!
J - Yes! Winning! Ha.
L - Pizza gets a bad rap, but it can have a great balance of macronutrients to fuel your body. Just skip the greasy meat or thick pastry crust style pizza.
L - Favorite Food?
J - Currently, avocados... Although I still can't cut them into flowers. Damn #avocadochallenge.
L - That's a skill we will work on. Luckily for us that doesn't take away from how nutritionally sound the avocado is. I suggest eating them often. Calorie dense, which athletes need, and full of healthful fats to promote satiety, brain function and endurance.
L - What is your eating weakness?
J - Sometimes I keep eating even though I'm full because I like the taste of what I am eating.
L - So many athletes struggle with this. The trick is to eat filling foods, eat slowly, and only serve yourself what you think you need. Athletes shouldn't skimp on food intake, but everyone is at risk of over consuming, regardless of activity level.
Alright, let's take a snap shot look at your diet. Tell me how your day played out, food & workout wise.
Biggest A+ of the day: Great vegetable intake! Really proud of you stepping it up and moving away from convenience foods to cooking quality, veggie rich meals.
All athletes should take note; just because you burn lots of calories does not give you free reign to consume junk food. You won't be riding at pro status with a poor diet.
Biggest area for improvement: Your riding would benefit from more calories and carbohydrates placed before and during the workout. Let's aim for 15 grams of carbohydrate in solid food form every 30 minutes during the ride while sipping the hydration mix for an extra boost and electrolytes.
Hopefully this gives you a little insight into evaluating your own diet for better performance while feeling at ease that pro cyclists still have nutrition goals to work towards. Remember that every athletes needs are different, so if you're concerned you are struggling in this area, please consult a dietitian who specialized in your sport for a full consult.