Nutrition for Cyclists

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The importance of fuelling before and during a training ride or race is vital to optimally perform on the bike.

 

It has been shown that carbohydrate ingestion significantly improves 1 hour cycling time trial.

 

Additionally, starting an endurance event lasting 90 mins+ with increased muscle glycogen levels (through a high carbohydrate diet), postpones fatigue by up to 20%.

 

In contrast under fuelling will result in a decline in performance and cognitive levels because the working muscles (primarily legs) will fatigue quickly.

 

Alongside eating appropriately, hydration is just as important to maintain performance levels.

 

See below our guides for 3 different distances:

 

15-mile ride:

Before:

2-3 hours before a ride, eat a meal that is carbohydrate dominant.

Suggestion:

  • A medium sized bowl of porridge topped with sliced banana and honey
  • Drinks: A large glass of water and a coffee/caffeinated drink

 

During:

For a training ride at this distance, carbohydrate is not needed, so the emphasis switches to hydration.

Suggestion:

  1. Water with a hydration tablet or an isotonic drink will be sufficient (such as Lucozade).

 

After:

Within 30 mins- A protein & carbohydrate shake that has 20g+ of protein in, alongside 30-40g of carbohydrate.

 

Within 1- 2 hours post ride- A protein rich meal with a small portion of carbohydrate.

 

Suggestion: 

  • Within 30 mins: Protein smoothie – WHEYD protein powder, fresh fruit and Oat Milk
  • 1-2 hours post ride: 2 chicken thighs (or plant-based alternative), 1 medium sized sweet potato, handful of steamed veg.

 

30-mile ride:

 

Before:

Same as above, however increase the portion sizes:

Suggestions:

  • A larger bowl of porridge (with honey and banana)
  • An alternative breakfast option would be toasted banana bread topped with nut butter and honey or an oat-based fruit smoothie made with milk

 

During:

For rides that are longer an addition of a simple carbohydrate source halfway through is an efficient way to keep energy levels up. Fluid wise – another bottle of water due to the ride being longer.

Suggestion:

  • Flapjack bar or a banana

 

After:

Within 30 mins- A protein/ carbohydrate shake that has 20g+ of protein in, alongside

30-40g of carbohydrate.

 

Within 1-2 hours post ride a slightly larger meal as below

Suggestion:

  • Within 30 mins: Protein smoothie – WHEYD protein powder, fresh fruit and Oat Milk
  • Within 1-2 hours post ride: A large jacket potato filled with chilli (made with kidney beans) + Greek yoghurt, mixed berries, nuts and honey
  • Fruit infused water or juice

 

50-mile ride:

 

Before:

A longer ride requires the body to be fuelled according to the distance been rode.

Doubling up breakfasts is a good option for the longer rides

Suggestion:

  • Scrambled egg on two slices of toast with a fruit smoothie

 

During:

50+ miles are required to have you topped up with a couple of high carbohydrate snacks to ensure muscle glycogen (your muscles energy source) is sufficient.

 

Additional fluids are really important for these distances.

Suggestion:

  • High carb snacks: such as dried fruit, flapjack energy gels or Soreen.
  • 2 bottles of water + hydration tablet added to one of the bottles

 

After:

No surprises that the longer you ride, the more you need to eat post-ride. 

Suggestion:

  • Within 30 mins: Protein smoothie – WHEYD protein powder, fresh fruit and Oat Milk + a banana
  • Within 1-2 hours post ride: Spaghetti Bolognese with an increased portion of spaghetti + small bowl of yoghurt topped with granola and a choice of fresh fruit.
  • A glass of fruit juice

 

 

General principles on food and drink timings:

 

Before – 2-3 hours before a ride (for food)
 
During – Half way for simple carbohydrates. For water (and jels) at have in intervals
 
After – Within 30mins have a protein shake & then with 1-2 hours eat a good balanced meal

 

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Blog Post Author - Charlie Binns, Performance Nutritionist

A performance nutritionist based in Yorkshire & London, Charlie is an Applied Sports Nutrition Master of Science graduate from the University of St. Mary's. Charlie currently is the Nutritionist for Birmingham City Football Club's First Team, where he works closely with the playing staff for optimal performance throughout the training week and on a match day.

Alongside this Charlie provides nutritional support to athletes in various sporting disciplines such as running and cycling. Away from nutrition Charlie is a keen endurance runner, as well as playing football at a high standard in the past. 

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