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Pasta is often found on the menu of our riders. This is not surprising as it is packed with carbohydrates, but also some proteins and fats. But, with all types and variants, which pasta do our riders eat most? Nowadays you can choose from many types, such as spelt pasta, whole wheat, 'white' pasta and even lentil pasta. What are the pros and cons of the different grains commonly used to make pasta?
The real Italian pasta is made from durum wheat. The standard white pasta that you find in our supermarket often contains no eggs, but wheat semolina and water. The difference between white and whole-wheat pasta is that for whole-wheat pasta, the whole grain is ground and used. With white pasta, the membranes of the wheat grain are removed. The outer membrane contains a lot of fiber, vitamins and minerals. Meaning, whole wheat pasta is more nutritious than white pasta.
Because of the fiber, whole-wheat pasta makes you feel saturated for longer. The body needs more time to break down these more complex carbohydrates, which means that they are released into the body as energy less quickly. Regular pasta, on the other hand, contains less fiber, is therefore easier to digest and quickly releases its energy to the body.
"Whole wheat pasta is more nutritious"
Cyclists generally have an enormous need for energy and therefore also carbohydrates. Because you feel saturated faster from whole-wheat or spelt pasta, it is more difficult to supplement the carbohydrates sufficiently, especially during a stage race. During a race like the Giro d'Italia or Tour de France, our riders usually have a lot of and often ordinary white pasta on the menu. In this way, the carbohydrates in the body can be optimally stacked, so that they are full of energy for the next day.
Spelt pasta is nutritionally very similar to whole-wheat pasta, but it doesn't have to be whole-wheat. The main difference is that it comes from a different, older and less processed grain, and is therefore also known as an ancient grain. Ancient grains contain a different kind of gluten. This allows some people to tolerate spelt products better than whole grain products. Because cyclists eat so much, during a race day about three to four times as much as you and I do, they also ingest more gluten. Sometimes it can be nice to choose products with less or different gluten, to reduce the burden on the gastrointestinal system. However, spelt pasta is not a healthier choice than whole wheat pasta.
Speaking of gluten; many gluten-free kinds of pasta have been added in recent years. From corn to lentils, almost anything is possible. It is a matter of taste whether you choose this or not. With a nice sauce and some cheese on the side, you hardly notice it. However, this pasta is not healthier than regular pasta. Buckwheat, quinoa and corn pasta also contain about 350 calories per 100g, just like the white and whole-wheat pasta types. Slightly leaner is the lentil paste, with about 330 calories per 100g.
Each type of pasta has its advantages and disadvantages. Opt for regular pasta if you have made or are going to make a long trip by bike, but for spelt or whole wheat pasta on a day without much (cycling) activity, because your energy needs are lower and you feel full faster from whole wheat pasta. Another tip for those who are conscious of calories for the ideal weight on the bike: make sure you don't eat too much oil or cheese with your pasta. As with so much in life, make sure your plate of pasta is prepared with love and keep it balanced!
Got hungry after all that reading about pasta? Get inspired by the recipes below!
Ingredients (4 persons):
Ingredients (4 persons):