Call on me – Spin spin sugar
Crawl on me – Spin spin sugar
Whilst it might be the title, and indeed lyrics, of a brilliant track from the Sneaker Pimps (90′s music was great, you have to admit), it’s also a good indication of the addiction I had to the evil sucrose. I craved it, devoured chocolate and really enjoyed a can of Coke. Thing is, the warning signs were there. The mood swings when I didn’t have any sugar fix in a day, the rush when I did. The fact of the matter was, my body was addicted to sugar and without me doing something drastic, the effects of sucrose would finally cause some damage.
On the 1st February (I just like to start things on even numbers, yes O.C.D is strong in this one) I made a conscious decision to cut back as much sugar from my daily diet. I’m not one of those freaks who remove all instances of anything bad. a healthy balance is needed. I enjoy chocolate and the occasional choccy digestive (shock, horror, that fat bastard!) and think you can have both, if you act like a responsible adult.
I’ll never be a skinny man and I’m actually ok with that. There’s this perception that to be a decent cyclist, you need to have the body of a 10-year old boy and I feel that’s all a load of utter bollocks. Sure, the leaner you are, the faster you will fly up hills. Watch really skinny guys go down that same hill, it’s like watching a paper bag on a windy day.
So back to the sugar cull. It started off all so well, me constantly looking at the packaging and determining how much sugar (or the evil others often used as substitutes) and deciding if it was worth it. I totally stopped drinking all sugar-infused drinks and settled on Pepsi Max (1 calorie, no sugar and suits my cravings). After four days, I actually felt ok. Sure, the cravings were there and I was a bit moody but nothing too bad.
All that changed when I went out for a ride with Mr Lowe. Nothing too hectic, just a jaunt up into the countryside. Everything was as expected up to the 40 minute, when it felt like my entire body had hit a wall. I’d already had one gel and it didn’t have any effect. Finally struggling up Toots hill, I asked Paul for a spare gel and soldiered on. Thing is, my legs felt empty and I was dizzy. I’d hit the wall that so many others experience when cycling.
I was gutted and felt utterly shit. Thankfully Paul pulled me home, as by now I was exhausted. I put it down to not having a decent enough breakfast (funny, in hindsight, it was the same breakfast I’d had for months before) and thought of it as a blip and tried again. Saturday mornings ride with the Phoenix crew and all was looking great for the first 40 mins (see a pattern emerging here?) and then up one hill in Hertfordshire, my legs decided that they didn’t fancy playing and promptly gave up.
I’d hit the wall a second time round in less than 72 hours, with 35 kilometers to go. There is nothing worse than knowing you still have a distance to get home when there is no fuel left in the system. Defeated and knackered, I took a long look at what the root cause was and came to the conclusion – too much sugar is a bad thing but cutting it all out isn’t an option either. Yes, I’d lost some weight and to be honest, I’m feeling and looking the best I’ve done in a decade but I didn’t have the energy to continue riding like I had. I needed to balance out my intake and act accordingly.
The last few rides have been much better, actually faster than previous attempts. I still have the occasional digestive here and there, but it’s all in moderation. This week, one rider who has always been an inspiration, Mario Cipollini, has said he wants to come back and ride as a pro. What’s cool about this is that he’s built like a man, currently sitting at 90 kilograms and let’s be honest, looking damn good for a 42-year old. In his day, he was one incredibly fast rider and i’ll hedge a bet that if the UCI allow it, he’ll show a few youngsters a thing or two.
Proof that you don’t need to be wafer thin to be a good fast cyclist.