By Breanne Nalder-Harward, MS, RDN — I was definitely interested to see what was inside when the book The Cycling Chef: Recipes for Getting Lean and Fueling the Machine arrived at my doorstep. The cover definitely gives away the focus on cycling with an enticing title. The author, Alan Murchison, is a Michelin-starred chef as well as an activer cyclist. The overall focus of the book is providing recipes, although he gives solid explanation behind his food and how he relates meal planning to cycling performance.
Murchison does a fine job in validating the categories of his recipes. He divides them into off-season, pre-season, pre-race, light, medium and hard training days. As I always preach in my articles, he explains that we need to fuel our bodies for what we do on the given day: the more kilojoules (kJs) we burn the more we get to eat. The section on prepping for race meals is great providing guidance on healthy pre-load ideas with real food.
I can’t help my skepticism of the “off-season” section simply because I typically don’t recommend allowing for weight gain in the off-season and then cutting in the preseason. Rather, it’s better for our overall health to always fuel our bodies for what we are doing and having the appropriate amount of carbohydrates for fueling workouts and keeping food clean and lean outside of exercise. Actively cutting carbs to lose weight when we need them to train is counterintuitive for our bodies. However, we do want our meals outside of fueling exercise to be clean and full of nutrient dense foods as well as enjoyable. The recipes in this book do provide many options for real food meals.
Overall, this is a great cookbook for active endurance athletes. The recipes look delicious! The book does not really address special diets and gives very few options for vegetarian, plant-based or gluten-free style eating. You could change the recipes on your own; it would just take finesse, time, and knowledge of substitutions when cooking. I’ll absolutely be boosting my meal planning with quite a few of these recipes. We all can use more ideas on yummy and healthy food, especially when we get into monotonous routines. We should enjoy our fuel as much as we do the work!