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Pulse Power: What’s the best pulse to power your pedal stroke?

By Sarah Bonner

illustration- pulsecanada.com

illustration- pulsecanada.com

Vegetarian or not, every cyclist should include pulses in their diet because pulses are naturally high in nutrition. Part of the legume family, pulses include lentils, chickpeas, dried beans and dried peas, and are high in fibre, protein, carbohydrates, B vitamins and iron. According to dietician Adrian Penzhorn of Food for Sport, “from a general health perspective, pulses can be beneficial for gut health, controlling blood sugar and lowering cholesterol.” But which pulse is best for cyclists?

“On average most pulses provide about 20g of carbohydrate per 100g, or 30–40g per cup,” says Penzhorn. Pulses also typically offer 7g of fibre and 8–9g of protein per 100g. The high carbohydrate and protein content make pulses an ideal food for cyclists. While fibre helps regulate blood sugar, lower cholesterol, and can aid in weight loss, the high-fibre content of pulses reduces the carbohydrate availability, meaning they are digested slowly. The most beneficial time to eat pulses is at least 1–2 hours pre-exercise and not as part of immediate recovery nutrition.

Plant proteins get a bad reputation for being an incomplete protein. Unlike animal sources of protein, plant proteins don’t contain all the essential amino acids that our bodies need, but this is easily overcome. To get all the essential amino acids, “pulses should be consumed with grains (if a vegetarian diet is followed) or animal sources of protein,” says Penzhorn. You don’t need to eat both amino acid sources during the same meal, just some time throughout the day. The combination is easily achieved in one meal: Think hummus with crackers, beans and rice, or lentils with couscous.

So, what’s the best pulse to power your pedal stroke? While fresh sprouting pulses, as opposed to the typically dried forms, are higher in vitamins, according to Penzhorn, “ultimately, the choice does not impact nutritional goals much. Choose a variety of pulses for a variety of nutrients.” To get the most pulses have to offer, eat them at least 2–3 times per week.

Adrian Penzhorn is a qualified dietician with a special interest in sports nutrition. For more about Penzhorn, nutrition, exercise information and healthy recipes, visit www.foodforsport.co.za.

For recipes and more information about pulses, visit www.pulsecanada.com.

Sarah Bonner


Sarah Bonner has lived and cycled in Canada, Africa, and Europe. Currently, she splits her time between the Netherlands and South Africa where she trains and competes at an amateur level. With a Masters in English and a Diploma in Sports Management, Sarah combines her love of writing and passion cycling to share honest advice and inspiring stories. Follow her at sarahkimbonner.wordpress.com

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