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How should a Cyclist’s Diet be?

by Georgia Ede
Published: Last Updated on

Nutrition in cycling

Staying pedaling for hours requires a correct diet to guarantee our body the nutrients that it demands from us at all times, thus making the task of performing physical exercise safely easier. The diet of a cyclist must be balanced and must take into account the distribution of training throughout the days and the duration of each of them as well as the intensity of each stage.

As can be deduced, energy expenditure is proportional to the duration and intensity of the exercise, but we must not forget that if we train several times a week, we must complete our diet with supplements and with a correct diet that ensures muscle recovery.

The body to maintain a pedaling at a constant pace for a more or less prolonged time, fundamentally uses aerobic energy metabolism . When we sprint or accelerate quickly, anaerobic metabolism is used to a greater extent . The metabolism acts differently depending on the intensity of the exercise.

What should a cyclist eat?

Mainly, a cyclist must carry out a balanced , healthy diet , rich in natural foods in which fruits, vegetables and cereals are present, without forgetting the protein part, consuming meat, fish and legumes; combining it with a moderate intake of healthy fats.

The intake of carbohydrates is the main part of the correct diet of a cyclist, therefore, you must know in depth this group of foods. The carbohydrates are the primary fuel , must be consumed in sufficient quantities, well distributed and preferably lower glycemic index (potatoes, pasta, breads and rice …). It is the secret to not reach fatigue and not decrease performance.

If you want more information about the food groups, check them here .

Another important aspect in cyclist nutrition is hydration . The environment in which we run the race, its intensity and the amount of sweat that each person removes will determine the degree of hydration required. Hot environments make us sweat more and this means greater losses of fluid and minerals, but a high intensity of exercise can also cause significant fluid losses , so we must always adapt to our needs.

What to eat while cycling

Depending on the duration of training or exercise, we must take into account the following recommendations on the diet of a cyclist. We must distinguish between recreational cyclists and competition cyclists, since the needs will be very different, as well as the means are also different.

If the training time is less than two hours and of moderate or high intensity, it will simply be necessary to carry out a correct diet with a diet that provides us with enough energy to develop a physical activity of these characteristics and that is also varied in nutrients to ensure the body a proper diet. And on the other hand, guarantee the body proper hydration to avoid possible episodes of decay or fatigue due to lack of hydration. The positive part of this is that on the bike it is easy to replenish fluids by always carrying water or isotonic restorative drinks , or Aquarius .

If we are going to be on the bike for more than two hours, it is important in addition to hydrating properly, we must always carry drinks with carbohydrates that help us recover muscle wear and that help us increase our resistance. You should also bear in mind that on the bike we can eat certain foods that will recharge us with energy, such as fruits, gels, energy bars, dried fruits or nuts.

The foods chosen to recover energy during training must be of high glycemic index , this means that they must provide carbohydrates that produce rapid increases in blood glucose so that our body has energy quickly . During training we will avoid the consumption of fiber, since this implies a faster digestion and in which sugars are absorbed to a lesser extent.

Sports supplements are a simple and easy way to carry energy for the practice of exercise, today there are many varieties and different formats that are useful and comfortable to carry by bicycle.

Most common supplements in cycling

  • Isotonic drinks: they are used to supply energy and hydrate the body correctly during training or sports practice, we must emphasize that they contain sugars and mineral salts that contain electrolytes (such as sodium and potassium) to help stabilize the hydration of the body and correct losses due to sweating in addition to reestablishing the water and ionic balance. (sodium and potassium).
  • Sports gels: They are a source of hydrates that is comfortable and easy to carry, they also replenish quick energy and are easy to consume. They are designed for correct replacement , but we must take into account when we consume them since there are different types of supplements for exercising and there are some that are used just after exercise to recover muscle structures, and others are responsible for replenish glycogen stores, etc.
  • Energy bars: A source of carbohydrates that ensures energy that the body will have quickly, they are also easy to consume, weigh and take up little, so it is comfortable to carry them on the bicycle.
  • Shakes with sports supplements: Some people consume them 30 minutes before the activity and just after it ends to guarantee post-exercise recovery. Here you can find the different types of shakes that exist on the market to choose the one that best suits your needs.

Energy demands and energy expenditure of cyclists

The proportion of nutrients recommended in a diet for cyclists is: 50% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 20% fat.

Your energy expenditure will be higher as you increase the time and intensity of exercise. You must adapt your diet to the intensity of the activity, the duration of it and the frequency with which we exercise in the following days.

The most common problems when cycling are over-training, overuse injury, dehydration, and poor diet planning. Therefore, we are going to explain how through diet it is easy to correct and avoid these situations.

Hydration of cyclists

First of all, you have to keep your body properly hydrated , both before, during and after exercise, even if you are not thirsty. It is advisable to acquire the habit of drinking approximately every 20 minutes, and we must bear in mind that correct hydration is considered if we consume around 500 ml every hour of intense exercise.

To check your losses, you can weigh yourself before and after training or competition so that you can better adjust your fluid intake and avoid possible states of dehydration, which would reduce your resistance.

Ideally, the weight variation is less than 1% after exercise, if you lose more than 2% you may be compromising the quality of physical exercise.

Choose sports drinks with carbohydrates, for workouts or tests of more than one hour, to replenish electrolytes and retain hydration more effectively.

Diet for cyclists

As important as hydration well for the cyclist is what you eat as when you eat it. You must have enough glycogen stores to face the competition, try to maintain them while pedaling and replenish them when you get off the bike.

When you spend many hours training, you must plan your meal breaks during the day very well. It is about ensuring the sufficient supply of energy, nutrients and fluids that your body needs so as not to compromise your health due to overexertion. In addition, achieving a correct balance in your diet will ensure that your sports performance is greater.

  • If you want to know what to eat before, during and after sports practice , we recommend that you read this post in which you have all the information you need to know about it.

It is convenient to protect your cells against the effort of training since it generates inflammation and free radicals. To reduce inflammation, regenerate muscle fibers and prevent injuries, I recommend taking a supplement of omega-3 fatty acids, which also activate the defenses and improve concentration, you can choose to carry out an antioxidant diet on the days that you do not practice physical exercise, thus you will replenish the minerals and vitamins necessary to combat the action of free radicals and protect your cells against oxidative damage .

You can also see here the best protein shakes for physical exercise, a great help to ensure a correct diet and a better relationship with sports practice.

Consequences of an inadequate diet

An inadequate diet produces a worse physical performance and can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies that can cause muscle weakness , fatigue or pain .

In addition, the immune system will be compromised, which makes the athlete more susceptible to falling ill or not recovering muscle capacity correctly and even becoming more prone to injury , since if we do not eat correctly we can fall into malnutrition or lack of nutrients that will cause our body to modify its metabolism to obtain energy from other sources, which can compromise our health and modify the development of sports activity.

Counseling by a sports nutritionist with correct dietary planning may be the best option since it ensures that the athlete has a correct diet adapted to their particular needs, adjusted to their caloric expenditure and physical activity; in addition to your tastes and tolerance to food before, during and after exercise.

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