Nutrition for Cyclists

Cycling is a demanding activity, so it is important to have a diet with enough nutrients to provide fuel for the muscles.

If a cyclist does not eat enough, his performance will suffer and his immune system can be weakened, whereas a diet with enough nutrients will make cycling easier, improve fitness more quickly and cut recovery time, meaning you can get back on your bike sooner.

There is no need to worry too much about gaining weight, either, as cycling burns more than 300 calories per hour.

Anyone involved in an endurance sport like cycling should have a high carbohydrate diet, meaning that between 60 and 70 per cent of your diet should be those foods high in carbohydrates, such as pasta, bread, rice, fruit, potatoes and porridge.

This is because your body can easily convert carbohydrates into glycogen, which is the primary source of energy for muscles. Glycogen depletion is the main cause for tiredness.

Eat Fats

Fats are important too, as they aid both the production and storage of glycogen. Make between 15 and 20 per cent of your diet fats such as milk, butter, cheese, yogurt and olive oil, but try to avoid too much saturated and hydrogenated fats and stick to olive oil, sunflower oil and vegetable oil.

Try to incorporate small amounts of protein to the diet, as this is crucial for tissue repair and helps glycogen production and storage. The best easily-digested sources of protein include beans, nuts, eggs, vegetables, milk and cheese.

A variety of fresh fruit and vegetables will maintain body functions, keep your immune system healthy and help tissue repair.

Vitamins and minerals have their part to play and make sure there is a water bottle fixed to the bike and drink regularly on longer rides.

Cycling Breakfast

Almost as important as what you eat is when you eat. Set yourself up for a day of cycling with a high carbohydrate breakfast. Cereal, porridge, muesli, bananas, fruit juice, toast, honey and jam are all decent options.

Steer clear of the sugar-coated and over-processed cereals and stick to the traditional, wheat-based ones instead. For a race or very long ride, you can start to load up on carbohydrates days in advance.

It is important to remember that stores of glycogen are limited, so on rides longer than an hour or two they will need to be topped up. Carry food if necessary and have a nibble every hour or two to maintain performance levels.

Many cyclists use energy bars and gels while riding, as these are easily digested and boost the supply of calories, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals and help the body avoid premature exhaustion.

Don’t neglect your diet after a ride either. Glycogen levels should be replenished as soon as possible after a ride, especially when cycling long distances or on a multi-ride day. This is because the body is most effective at replacing glycogen stores immediately after exercise.

The easiest way to consume post-exercise carbohydrates is with a high calorie drink. Have a sports drink or fruit juice as soon as you stop and eat a big, carbohydrate-loaded meal as soon as possible.