Cycling Nutrition

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Cycling Nutrition

Everything You Need To Know About Cycling Nutrition

Nutritional Principles for Cyclists

Because nutrition is highly individualized, it can appear complicated and perplexing. What works for someone else might not work for you. Instead of a long list of rules, consider some fundamental principles. Carbs, quantity, and quality are three of the most important.

Calories consumed per day

The number of calories you require each day is highly personal and is determined by your resting metabolic rate (RMR). When your body is at rest for 24 hours, your RMR is the number of calories it burns. It's essentially the starting point for your energy expenditure.

RMR isn't a constant number; it changes over time. Age, sex, and lean body mass all play a role. In general, you can use an online calculator to estimate your daily calorie expenditure based on your RMR and activity level.

But what about your training and activities? You can estimate your daily activities, but with cycling training, calculating calories is relatively simple. A power meter can track the number of kilojoules (kJs) burned during a ride or workout. Because a kJ is roughly equivalent to a calorie, you can quickly calculate your calorie burn while cycling.

While your daily calorie needs will vary, adding your RMR and activity calories together will give you a good idea of your cycling nutrition requirements. Of course, this isn't exact, but you can take it a step further by keeping track of your weight and how you're feeling to make sure you're getting enough nutrients.

For cyclists, macros

Now that you know how many calories you need, you can figure out which foods will help you get there. Macronutrients divide food into three categories: carbohydrate, protein, and fat. Each is critical for cycling nutrition and overall health.

Macronutrients can be thought of as a lever for optimizing your diet for cycling performance. You have fats on one end and carbohydrates on the other. Because the fulcrum is made up of protein, the first step is to figure out how much you'll need. For endurance athletes, this equates to 1.2-1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. Then, at 6-10g per kilogram of body weight, prioritize carbohydrates as the body's preferred fuel source when performance is crucial. The calories you have left over will be used to make the fat content.

Your macros will be slightly different if you're trying to lose weight, with a higher protein intake. Visit Cycling For Weight Loss for more information.


The importance of carbohydrates for cycling performance cannot be overstated. Mitochondria in your cells use this simple sugar to make ATP, the energy source for all activity. All carbohydrates you consume are converted to glucose at some point. When your body has more glucose than it requires, it converts it to glycogen, which is then stored in your muscles and liver.

When the liver's glycogen stores are depleted, the glucose is converted to triglycerides, which are stored as fat. The good news is that by exercising, you can increase the amount of glycogen your muscles can store. It's all about managing these energy stores to achieve peak endurance performance, emphasizing the importance of the amount and timing of your cycling nutrition.


Protein is another important macronutrient for cyclists. Protein is commonly thought of as the building blocks of muscle tissue, and with good reason. The majority of the body's tissues, including bone, connective tissues, skin, and hair, are made up of protein. It's also the building block for enzymes, hormones, and hemoglobin.

For most people, the general recommendation is to consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. Endurance athletes, on the other hand, put their bodies under a lot of stress. Researchers recommend consuming 1.2-1.4g per kilogram of body weight. According to some studies, up to 1.8g per kg is even better.


Because fat is about twice as calorie-dense as carbs and proteins, it gets a bad rap. Fats, on the other hand, aid in the absorption of vitamins, the production of hormones, and the creation of fatty acids that your body does not produce. Unsaturated, trans, and saturated fats are the three types of fats. Unsaturated fats, such as olive or canola oil, are generally thought to be the healthiest of the three. You should probably avoid fatty foods during training because they can cause stomach distress, but that doesn't mean you should eliminate them entirely from your cycling nutrition plan.

What is the Best Nutrition for Cyclists?

Going to the grocery store can result in a plethora of food options, leaving you with a plethora of options and a lot of confusion. It's useful to keep in mind two fundamental principles: quality and quantity. When you shop for quality, you're getting nutrient-dense foods that will help you meet your macronutrient targets. Quantity indicates that you are getting enough calories to meet your caloric requirements.

Achieving a balance of quality and quantity, on the other hand, can be difficult. Because nutrient-dense foods have fewer calories, you'll need to eat a lot more to meet your cycling nutrition needs. A large bowl of salad with chicken and vegetables, for example, will fill you up but only have about 600 calories.

Shopping List Suggestions For Cycling


  • Potatoes, broccoli, beans, and peas are examples of vegetables.
  • Bananas, oranges, blueberries, and apples are examples of fruits.
  • Oats, quinoa, rice, and pasta are examples of grains.


  • Chicken, turkey, yogurt, and eggs are all good sources of lean protein.
  • Tofu, black beans, chickpeas, or edamame are examples of plant-based protein.


  • Avocado, nuts, and seeds olive oil salmon or tuna

While cycling, what should I eat?

Simply put, you need carbohydrates that are easy to digest and consume. Cycling nutrition, on the other hand, will vary depending on the weather, power output, duration, intensity, and personal preferences.

What you eat and when you eat it can have a big impact on how well you perform. Fueling before, during, and after your workout will improve not only your performance but also the consistency of your workout. Cycling nutrition can be confusing at times, but we'll walk you through how to figure out how much, what, and when to eat.

How Many Calories Are There?

The first step is to figure out how many carbs and calories you'll need. The answer is dependent on a number of factors, but a good place to start is with the number of kJs you'll burn during the ride. This number can be found by creating a pacing plan or reading the workout description. Assume you're completing a three-hour ride workout, and you estimate you'll burn 1,400 kJs or calories based on the pacing plan.

How Many Carbs Are There?

60-90 grams of carbs is a good starting point for how many carbs to consume in an hour. The rate at which you absorb carbohydrates during a ride is determined by the intensity of the work—the more intense the work, the slower the absorption. Simple sugars, such as glucose and fructose, are absorbed in 15-20 minutes.

The majority of cycling nutrition products use a glucose-to-fructose ratio. This is because these two simple sugars use different metabolic pathways in your body, resulting in faster uptake. Glucose is absorbed directly into the bloodstream, whereas fructose is metabolized and converted to glucose by the liver. The gold standard for a long time was 60-90g of carbs per hour with a 2:1 glucose to fructose ratio. According to new research, using a 1:1 ratio can boost absorption to up to 140g/hr.

However, what to eat while cycling varies greatly among athletes, and it is something you can experiment with and improve on during your training. Determining how many carbs you can consume is a delicate balance. GI distress, excessive gas, and diarrhea are all symptoms of eating too many carbs. Your carbohydrate tolerance during exercise is highly individual, but it can be improved. It takes time to increase your carb intake to 100 grams per hour, so practice and take notes.

What to Eat While Riding

Once you know how many calories (or kJs) you'll need, you can plan what you'll eat to get close to an energy balance at the end of the ride. Higher-intensity rides, on the whole, necessitate faster-acting nutrients. Simple sugars like gels and drink mix are ideal for a high-intensity ride. You can get away with eating a variety of foods that contain more complex carbohydrates on lower-intensity rides.

At some point, the intensity and duration of the ride will make consuming enough calories to finish with an energy balance impossible. Pre- and post-ride cycling nutrition will be even more important at this point.

What to Eat When Cycling Long Distances

Long rides necessitate ample nutrition, and it all begins with a strategy. For rides lasting longer than an hour, a good starting point is 60-90g of carbs per hour. Cycling nutrition is ideal because it is designed to provide easily digestible carbohydrates. You don't have to consume all of those carbs at once, though. Rather, spread the carbs out over the course of an hour, taking a bite every 15 to 30 minutes.

Getting ready for a short ride

You can probably get away with a bottle of water and no extra fuel for workouts and rides lasting sixty minutes or less. That is, assuming you have adequately fueled yourself beforehand and will receive adequate nutrition afterwards. However, just because you have the ability to does not always imply that you should. Even if your workout is only a few minutes long, proper fueling can help you achieve long-term success.

For a short ride, cycling nutrition can be as simple as a bottle of drink mix or a water bottle with a few gels. Of course, you can get enough energy by fueling before or after your ride, but there are some advantages to doing so on the bike.

Fueling goes a long way, even on short rides. First and foremost, proper cycling nutrition will aid in the preservation of the quality of your workout, especially if it is a strenuous one. Furthermore, by ensuring that your glycogen stores are as full as possible, fueling will significantly reduce the margin of error for rides in the days ahead. It's helpful to think of shorter rides and workouts as warm-ups for longer rides and workouts. Short rides will help you develop good nutritional habits that you can carry over to multi-hour events.

Before Cycling, What to Eat

You'll want to do your best to fuel up before getting on your bike. The goal is to make sure your liver and muscles have enough glycogen for the work you'll be doing. Fortunately, if you eat regularly long before your event, it's easier to fully replenish your glycogen stores.

Aside from fueling your ride, there are a number of advantages to eating hours, if not days, ahead of time. Because you're gradually increasing your carb intake, you're less likely to experience GI distress. That is, you are obtaining them in the traditional manner, through the consumption of conventional foods. You can emphasize other nutritional content such as minerals and vitamins by using regular meals to replenish glycogen stores.

Carbohydrate absorption is primarily determined by your level of glycogen depletion, rate of ingestion, and carbohydrate type prior to your ride. The faster carbs are absorbed, the lower your glycogen stores are. It's also important to consider the type of carb. The longer it takes to digest and absorb a complex carbohydrate, the more time it takes to digest and absorb it. It may take a couple of hours to prepare whole grains and fiber-rich foods. The fiber content of fruits and vegetables determines how quickly they are absorbed. More fiber means longer times, but for fruits, 20-40 minutes is usually enough.

It's important to keep in mind that consuming protein and fat will extend this period. A good rule of thumb before an event is to eat a carb-heavy meal 3-4 hours ahead of time. This gives your body plenty of time to digest the food. If your meal consists primarily of simple carbohydrates, the time frame can be cut in half.

You can make your cycling nutrition plan as simple or as complex as you want depending on your preferences. It's possible that what works for another person will not work for you. For some, this means drinking only one bottle of high-carb drink per hour, while for others, it means a combination of bars, gels, fruit, and water. Keep in mind that the weather can have an impact on how you feel and how much water you need.

You can set an alarm on your phone or head unit to remind you to eat once you've decided on a nutrition plan. Even if you can schedule your meals, remember to listen to your body. On the other hand, relying solely on your feelings to fuel your body can leave you under-fueled.

Nutritional Plan for Cycling as an Example

A nutrition plan for a cyclist who will complete a hard, three-hour group ride or race is shown below. The pace will fluctuate between endurance and sprinting, as well as everything in between. Each section includes the timing as well as a few options for variety. You might only want to select one of the bullet points, for example.

Optional Pre-Ride Activities

3 hours prior to the ride:

  • One sliced banana, one large bowl of oatmeal, and two tablespoons of honey
  • a half cup of strawberries, three pancakes, and three tablespoons maple syrup
  • A cup of orange juice, two slices of toast, one egg, and a banana

Options for Nutrition During the Ride

  • Aim for 60-90 grams of carbohydrates per hour:
  • Three Science in Sport Go Isotonic Energy Gels (66g) and one bottle of Skratch Hydration Mix (21g) for a total of 87g of carbs
  • One package of Clif Bloks (48g) and one bottle of Precision Hydration PH 500 (18g) for a total of 66g of carbs
  • Maurten Drink Mix 320 (one bottle) (79g)

Keeping Hydrated During the Ride

When it comes to what to drink while cycling, your physiology, as well as the intensity and weather conditions on the day, all play a role. Water, electrolyte mixes, and high-carb drinks are just a few of the options for what to put in your bottles. Aim for a bottle every hour as a general rule, and adjust for your physiology and the weather. Just keep in mind that if you go with water, you'll need another carbohydrate source and probably some electrolytes to get to 60-90g per hour.

Nutrition Following a Ride

Nutrition after a ride is critical for replenishing glycogen stores and kicking off the recovery process. After your ride, your body begins to shift from a catabolic to anabolic state in order to rebuild and recover. Carbs will replenish glycogen stores, but protein will aid in the resynthesis of muscle glycogen as well as the repair and maintenance of lean muscle mass.

There are a variety of options for post-ride nutrition. You don't have to drink your post-ride nutrition all of the time. A well-planned meal can provide all of the carbohydrates and protein you require, as well as numerous micronutrients. A recovery shake, on the other hand, is the simplest and most convenient form. According to current research, a 4:1 carb to protein ratio is ideal, and most recovery shakes fall within that range. A glass of chocolate milk, which contains about 32 grams of carbohydrates and 8 grams of protein, is another simple recovery drink.

will cycling reduce belly fat

Cycling can assist in the loss of abdominal fat, but it will take time. According to a recent study, frequent cycling can help you lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. Moderate-intensity aerobic exercises, such as cycling (either indoor or outdoor), are useful in reducing overall belly fat.

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