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When my partner starting scooping carbohydrate drink powder into my waterbottle for one of our first rides together I shouted "NOOO!" and made him dump it out.

In the moment I didn't question my relationship with food or clue in to the idea that our culture has made us conceptualize food as a reward for physical activity. All I knew was that I didn't want to take in carbs when I should be burning them!

It wasn't until a few years later and working with my coaches at Vital Strength and Physiology Inc that I've realized that food should SERVE my goals, instead of be a barrier to them. I've since turned into the potato girl, who takes a lot of carbs (usually in the form of potatoes) on her rides and I'm proud of it! The next challenge? How do we as a womens centric cycling community educate others about the importance of carbs during and around exercise in this toxic food culture we are living in?

One thing was for sure, I knew I couldn't do it alone, so I called on the best of the best, Stacy T. Sims, PhD for a conversation about our relationship with food, what happens when we put our body under stress, cycling with our menstrual cycle and more!

My favourite part of our conversation is when we get into actual examples of cycling avatars and Stacy offers some actionable advice for our fictional riders to get more out of their ride.

In case you don't have time to listen to the full episode above these are our top three key take aways:

  1. WE HAVE BEEN EXPOSED TO A LOT OF BULLSH*T THAT MAKES US FEAR CARBS. Remember seeing those magazines that showed you how many minutes you had to run to "burn off" that cookie? Being exposed to these toxic narratives for years and years has shaped us into women that fear carbs or think that food is a reward for our exercise and we can only justify eating sweets if we've done a super hard workout. These messages are deeply engrained and we have to work to change the way we look at food. While cycling, you can try practicing saying "this is what my body needs" instead of "this is going to make me fat".

  2. EXERCISING ON AN EMPTY STOMACH (minute 40:00) and under-fuelling your workouts is not effective for fat loss in women. In fact, it can be counter-productive! If you exercise or put your body under stress and your body doesn't find fuel (energy, carbs) it will shift into a fat-storing mode. The data that has shown that fasted training and intermittent fast is effective has been done on men.

  3. DURING VARYING TIMES IN OUR MENSTRUAL CYCLE OUR BODY IS LESS OR MORE PREPARED TO HANDLE THE STRESS OF EXERCISE (minute 34:00). During our low-hormone phase (day 1 of bleeding up to ovulation) we are more stress resilient - we can access carbohydrates, we recover better, we have more cognitive focus, our immune system can fight well. After ovulation we are less stress resilient- we have more of a pro-inflamatory response (because we don't want the body to attack a fertilized egg)! We tend to have less motivation, remember we building tissue so our body is already under a lot of stress. So Stacy recommends doing higher intensity work on days where we are very stress resilient (low hormone phase) and then endurance and aerobic capacity, fat burning- that low intensity work when we are less stress resilient but are getting access to fatty acids.

If you want to check out the full-episode on spotify

Otherwise Stacy's blog is v informative. We highly recommend her book ROAR or Next Level for peri-menopausal women (eventually, all of us)!

Helena's been tracking her menstrual cycle with There a lot of notifications since the goal is to update you daily about your body's readiness status but it's fun to see when they suggest you should take it easy etc! Try it out or let us know what you prefer?

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