General and Daily Nutrition for Cyclists
cycling ability comes from good training. However, without good food
choices and the correct timing of meals, your training and performance
will suffer. You need a fueling plan that includes the right balance
of carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals, and the correct
amount of fluids.
Carbohydrates are the best fuel for working muscles. Plan to include carbohydrates in all of your meals and snacks.
are your pre-dominant fuel source during moderate to high-intensity
exercises with extended duration (>90 minutes).
of carbohydrates in the body are blood glucose, liver glycogen, and
muscle glycogen. However, these amounts are limited so consuming
adequate amounts of carbohydrates on a daily basis is necessary to
replenish the limited glycogen storage between daily training
Fat and protein cannot supply enough energy at an efficient rate to ensure optimal performance.
carbohydrate needs are based on your hours of training per day and your
weight regardless of gender. Your daily carbohydrate needs are as
- 1 to 2 hours of training per day requires about 2.5 to 3.5 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight per day.
- 2 to 3 hours of training per day requires about 3.5 to 4.5 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight per day.
- 4 to 6 hour or more of training per day requires about 5 to 6 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight per day.
example: a 160 pound person that is training an average of 2 hours per
day will need 560 grams of carbohydrates for the entire day (e.g. 160 x
3.5 = 560 grams of carbohydrates).
Choose foods with lots
of carbohydrates, such as rice, pasta, potatoes, yogurt, fruit
smoothies, cereals, fruits, crackers, breads, rolls, muffins, energy
bars or sports drinks.
Some commonly eaten foods while training and their corresponding grams of carbohydrates
- ½ cup cooked pasta, rice, potato or any other grain provides about 15 to 20 grams of carbohydrate.
- 1 medium size piece of fruit, ½ cup of fruit juice and ¼ cup of fruit provides 15 grams of carbohydrate.
- 1 cup of milk and ¾ cup of non-fat plain yogurt provides about 15 grams of carbohydrate.
You need protein for muscle growth and to repair muscle damage after exercise. You
also need protein to make red and white blood cells. Red blood cells
move oxygen to the muscles and white blood cells make up your immune
system. Your body uses protein to make hormones and enzymes, which help regulate metabolism.
Recommended protein intake per day is 0.6 to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight per day.
Good sources of protein
- Low-fat milk
You need fat for energy. Fat
also helps your body to use some vitamins as well as plant chemicals
known as “phytochemicals.” Phytochemicals are antioxidants which help
your immune system. Fat helps move substances in and out of cells, and it helps keep your brain and nervous system healthy.
should eat at least 0.45 grams of fat per pound of body weight per day.
Choose heart-healthy fats, such as canola oil, olive oil, avocado and
Vitamins and Minerals:
and minerals do not give you more energy, but they help to unlock the
energy stored in food so your body can use it as fuel. Take a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement to ensure you are getting adequate amounts.
Training Nutrition for Cyclists: Fueling Before, During and Post Training
prior to your cycling event, maximizes your endurance potential by
“topping off” muscle and liver glycogen stores. The timing and the
amount of carbohydrates consumed are key components to starting your
training session with a full tank of glycogen.
Recommendations for pre-cycling fueling
to 2 hours before you train consume 0.5 to 1 gram of carbohydrate per
pound of body weight. For example, a 160 pound person should consume
80 grams of carbohydrate one hour before his/her ride (e.g. 0.5 x 160 =
80 grams of carbohydrate)
Avoid high fiber carbohydrates and
experiment with different sources of carbohydrates until you find what
works for YOU. The source of carbohydrate is not as important as the
amounts of carbohydrate consume. Choose sources of carbohydrates that
you can tolerate. This is the time to experiment so when the big week
comes you know what works for YOU.
Meal samples for pre-cycling include
- 1 cup cooked oatmeal (30g) + 3 Tbsp of raisins (23g) + yogurt with fruit flavor (30g). Total carbohydrate = 83 grams
- 1 bagel (60g) + 1 Tbsp of jam/jelly (15g). Total carbohydrate = 75 grams
- Smoothie: 1 large banana (30g) + 8 fl. oz fruit juice (30g) + Yogurt non-fat plain (15g). Total carbohydrate = 75 grams
- 1 Cliff bar (45g) + 1 large apple (25g) + 8 oz of Gatorade (15g). Total carbohydrate = 85 grams
Note: It is acceptable to eat plus or minus 10% of your calculated amount.
During Cycling Fueling
while riding will improve performance by maintaining blood glucose
levels and carbohydrate oxidation. It is important to experiment with
different types of carbohydrates during your training period in order
to choose what works best for YOU.
Energy bars, gels, and
drinks can boost calorie intake and can be consumed on the bike. When
choosing an energy bar, look for one that gets most of its calories
from carbohydrates, not from protein or fat. Also, find an energy bar
that tastes good to you, and try eating it while
training well before the event. Never try anything new during the Seismic Challenge event. If you use gels, remember that they are
concentrated carbohydrates that should be washed down with fluids.
is recommended that riders take in 0.3 grams of carbohydrates per pound
of body weight for every hour to improve endurance performance either
as food or fluid.
For example: a 160 pound person should consume
50 grams of carbohydrate for every hour he/she is riding (0.3 x 160 =
50 grams of carbohydrate)
- 1 Cliff block shot (24g) + 16 oz Gatorade (30g). Total carbohydrate = 54 grams
- 2.5 Scoops of Cytomax (55g). Total carbohydrate = 55 grams
- 1 banana (30g) + 1 Luna bar (25g). Total carbohydrate = 55 grams
food after you ride facilitates rapid refilling of carbohydrate stores
in order to prepare for your next training session. Approximately
15 minutes and no later than 30 minutes after a long ride you should
consume 0.6 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight plus 6 to 20
grams of protein. Then 2 hours after the last post-exercise
meal, you should again consume 0.6 grams of carbohydrate per pound of
body weight plus 6 to 20 grams of protein.
Many times right
after the exercise a rider may prefer a recovery drink. Find a
recovery drink that meets your nutrition requirements. You can always
just eat food and not a recovery drink, again it is not the source that
is important but the amounts of carbohydrates needed.
example: a 160 pound person should consume right after his/her ride 96
grams of carbohydrate + 6 to 20 grams of protein and two hours later
again consume 96 grams of carbohydrate + 6 to 20 grams of protein.
- Right after: 4 scoops Recoverite, Hammer product (64g of carbs + 20g
protein) + cliff bar (45g carbs + 10g protein). Total carbohydrate and
protein= 109 grams and 30 grams, respectively.
- Right after:
16 oz of low fat chocolate milk (60g of carbs + 16g of protein) + 1
large banana (30g). Total carbohydrate and protein = 90 grams and 16
- Two hour after: 1 bagel (60g) + 8 oz of
fruit juice (30g) + 3 slices of low fat cheese or 3 oz of
chicken/turkey breast (21g of protein). Total carbohydrate and protein
= 90 grams and 21 grams, respectively.
- Two hour after: 2 cups
of cooked pasta (100g) + 1 cup marinara sauce (10g) + 3 oz of
chicken/turkey breast. Total carbohydrate and protein = 110 grams and
21 grams, respectively.
One Week Before Cycling Event
Continue adding carbohydrates to every meal. Do not wait until the night before your event to eat all of your carbohydrates. It is extremely important to consume a high carbohydrate diet during this week so your tank is full and ready for the pending hard and extreme exercise.
Consume 3 to 6 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight per day even if you’re not training as much during this week.
During the Event
This is the time that you will put all your training to the test. Don’t try anything new. By the time you begin the event you should know what carbohydrates work best for you and what amounts of carbohydrates you should be consuming while on the bike. During the event you will be riding many hours per day. Therefore, the pre-exercise meal and post exercise meal are extremely important.
Start your event with a high carbohydrate meal. The amount of carbohydrate depends on how long you wait before starting the event.
- If 1 hour before consume 0.5 gram of carbohydrate per pound of body weight.
- If 2 hours before consume 1 gram carbohydrate per pound of body weight.
Use the same guidelines that you use for fueling during cycling while training.
The post cycling meal is extremely important if the event if more than one day.
- Approximately 15 minutes and no later than 30 minutes after the long ride you should consume 0.6 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight plus 6 to 20 grams of protein.
- Then 2 hours after the last post-exercise meal, you should again consume 0.6 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight plus 6 to 20 grams of protein.
can be challenging to get enough fluids when you cycle. Road cyclists
can only carry two water bottles and can only get additional fluids at
special “feed zones” along the course. In road cycling taking one hand
off the bike to drink can lead to disaster! Even so, you need to be
sure to drink enough.
Common factors that influence sweat losses
- Duration and intensity
- Environment condition
- Type of clothingBody weight
- Genetic predisposition
- Heat acclimatization state
- Metabolic efficiency
General Guidelines for Your Fluid Intake
Two hours before cycling you should consume between 14 to 22 ounces of fluid.
6 to 12 oz every 15-20 minutes, depending on calculated sweat rate
(explained below). You should consume an average of 1 gram of sodium
Drink 16 to 24 ounces for every pound lost during exercise. You should incorporate beverages and snacks that contain sodium.
- If competing in a hot and humid environment, use extra sodium.
- Consume higher sodium foods 1 or 2 days before long rides.
- Drink fluids that contain sodium. (i.e. sports drinks) during and after exercise.
- Calculating your fluid needs
everyone needs the same amount of fluids. One size does NOT fit all.
Figure out your sweat rate so you can create a fluid plan that meets
Guidelines for calculating your fluid needs
Your weight before exercise minus your weight after exercise = pounds lost through insensible losses and sweat
Weighing before exercise:
- No clothing or very little clothing
- Do not drink any water after weighing. (Note: It is ok to drink water before you weigh)
- Do not urinate after weighing
Then go and perform 1 hour of vigorous exercise. DO NOT drink any water while training for this hour.
Weighing after exercise
- No clothing
- Do not drink any water before weighing
- Do not urinate before weighing
For every pound lost you must consume 16 oz of fluid.
example: A person’s weight was 160 pounds before exercise and trains
for one hour. After training the scale shows their weight to be 158
pounds. Since 2 pounds were lost and you must consume 16 oz for every
pound, this person must consume 32 ounces of fluid per hour of riding.