Cycling nutrition: Your ultimate guide

Most cyclists who race will put themselves by way of hell in coaching so as to add 10 watts to their FTP or 200 watts to their dash. Lots of them will fortunately spend huge sums of cash on the best aero road bikes, deep-section wheels, power meters and tight-fitting skinsuits. However only a few of them will give correct consideration to their diets, usually following lazy or outdated recommendation which has been handed down from earlier generations. However don’t fear, we’re right here to present you a quick however complete information as to what you need to be consuming on and off the bike that will help you adapt to coaching and carry out at your peak on race days. 

It’s necessary to notice that biking to get sooner in races and biking to shed some pounds are two various things. The identical is true for vitamin, and while a number of the recommendation on this article is likely to be helpful to these desirous to shed some pounds, this text is principally targeted on the racing cyclists on the market.


Racing street bikes isn’t a easy one-size-fits-all sort of sport, so that you shouldn’t plan your vitamin as if it’s. Essentially the most generally raced occasions are street races, criteriums (or crits), and cyclo-cross, though the emergence of gravel racing is a welcomed addition. The calls for of gravel racing are much like these of comparable period street races, so we’ve grouped the 2 of these underneath the street racing banner, likewise crits with cyclo-cross occasions. 

When you is likely to be tempted to make use of any new recommendation in your subsequent race, you actually shouldn’t. All athletes are totally different and while common tips will be given, you by no means understand how you’ll react to new practices. The perfect factor to do is to plan your race-day vitamin and provides it a few trial runs on a troublesome group trip or the native chain gang to see the way you react. That approach, if something won’t go to plan you possibly can change issues earlier than your race, and also you received’t find yourself doing a Dumoulin.  

Street races

There are two principal macronutrients that the physique will use for creating power throughout train: carbohydrate and fats. Carbohydrates are the sugars, starches and fibres present in fruit, grains and greens. As soon as they’re ingested, we are able to use them for power, to keep up blood sugar ranges, or to replenish liver and muscle glycogen shops. Fats is present in some vegetation and most animals, and is one thing that we retailer in abundance; even the leanest of riders may have a number of kilograms of it on their our bodies. It’s also rather more calorific than carbohydrate, with 9 energy in a gram of fats in comparison with simply 4 energy in a gram of carbohydrate.

We all know that is sure to harass some low-carb, high-fat, ketogenic eating regimen followers, however we should make this clear from the outset: relating to street racing efficiency, carbohydrate is king. On steadiness, fuelling correctly with carbohydrate is the only largest enhancer of efficiency on a motorcycle. Ketogenic diets do have a spot in low depth, ultra-endurance occasions, the place fats can change into your major gas supply, however in WorldTour and newbie street racing, carbohydrate is by far a very powerful gas supply. In anticipation of some doubtless feedback; sure Chris Froome once ate a low-carb breakfast, however he didn’t win the Tour by going ketogenic. To our information, no Tour de France, Giro, Vuelta, world championships or Olympic street race has ever been received by an athlete following a ketogenic eating regimen. 

So why are carbohydrates so necessary? 

As you train at excessive intensities, you’ll use primarily carbohydrate that’s in your liver, blood and muscle. The sensation of fatigue that develops throughout lengthy street races is linked to low blood sugar, liver glycogen and muscle glycogen ranges, and it’s due to this that may have heard the recommendation to carb load within the days earlier than racing. In case your race is longer than 90 minutes then you need to be consuming loads of carbohydrates on the day earlier than the race. Wherever between six and 12 grams of carbohydrate for every kilogram of your physique weight, relying on the size of your race.

On race day itself, as soon as once more, carbohydrate is the important thing to efficiency. There have been considerations that consuming carbohydrates within the hour earlier than train may result in reactive hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar). Nonetheless, there appears to be little proof that this has any detrimental results on efficiency, so we advocate ingesting 20-30 grams of carbohydrate about quarter-hour earlier than the beginning of a race. The quantity that you just eat throughout a race depends upon the size of it, however the next suggestions needs to be used:

  • A race of 1-2 hours: 30 grams per hour
  • 2-3 hours: 60 grams per hour
  • 3 or extra hours: 90 grams per hour

The limiting issue for a way a lot of your ingested carbohydrate you should use throughout a race is the speed at which your intestine absorbs it, and that is the place a number of transporters may come in useful. Glucose and fructose, two of the commonest sugars seen in sports activities vitamin merchandise, are absorbed by totally different transporter, so we frequently see merchandise with the 2 mixed. Glucose will be absorbed at a charge of 60 grams per hour, and fructose at about 30 grams per hour. So, if you happen to’re aiming to eat 90 grams of carbohydrate per hour, you must try to get 60 grams from glucose and 30 grams from fructose. Nonetheless, it’s necessary to notice that glucose is absorbed faster than fructose, so if you happen to’re solely aiming to eat 60 grams per hour, you must make certain it’s all glucose or maltodextrin.


Throughout longer street races, the advantages of carbohydrate ingestion are primarily metabolic, corresponding to holding muscle glycogen ranges topped up. Whereas we don’t want to fret about that in crits, there are nonetheless advantages to ingesting carbohydrate, although we don’t have time to totally soak up what’s eaten. Reasonably than the benefits being metabolic, the advantages come about by results in your central nervous system. Whereas it isn’t utterly understood, we all know there are receptors in your mouth that may sense carbohydrate, and this may be linked to enhancements in efficiency. So in your subsequent crit, don’t be afraid to take a gel for the final quarter-hour or swig little and sometimes from a carbohydrate drink. 

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The goals of a race and a coaching session are utterly totally different, and you must deal with your vitamin as such. The goals of your coaching may also differ vastly, whether or not it’s enhancing your five-minute energy, FTP, dash or capability to trip for lengthy durations. 

If the purpose of your session is to trip laborious, you then want carbohydrate to gas it. If you carry out high-intensity efforts you’ll use nearly completely carbohydrates, so if you happen to’re low on carbohydrate, you received’t be capable of hit the quantity you need to. Deal with these high-intensity classes equally to how you’ll a race; if you happen to’re going to be out for 5 hours and doing loads of efforts, eat loads of carbs.

Nonetheless, there are occasions the place you won’t need to eat carbohydrates throughout your trip, otherwise you may even need to begin your trip glycogen depleted. The advantages to those low carb rides are twofold. Firstly, they’ll train your physique to change into extra environment friendly at utilizing fats as a gas supply, that means you’ll be taught to ‘spare’ muscle glycogen for if you want it in races, just like the high-intensity efforts that may win you races. Secondly, it may enable you adapt extra to train. One of many principal methods we adapt to repeated coaching classes is by growing the variety of mitochondria in our muscle tissue and finishing coaching classes with low muscle glycogen ranges has been proven to extend the speed at which we create new mitochondria. 

There are a number of methods to coach with low carbohydrate, and these embody

  1. Doing two classes in a day with minimal refuelling between classes
  2. Consuming a low carbohydrate meal the evening earlier than a trip
  3. Skipping breakfast earlier than a trip
  4. Have a standard breakfast, however keep away from consuming carbohydrate through the trip itself.

It is not uncommon to seek out that your energy output is decrease than regular when coaching low carb, however a few of this loss will be restored through the use of a carbohydrate mouth-rinse. Simply swill a carbohydrate drink in your mouth for 10 seconds each 5 minutes and spit it out… simply be careful to your fellow riders. 

One of many huge points with using low carb is bonking. This occurs once we’ve depleted most of our muscle glycogen, and the degrees of sugar in our liver and bloodstream are getting low. It’s the sensation of fatigue and starvation, and it’s horrible. One strategy to keep away from that is to take some excessive carbohydrate meals out with you as a backup. Should you’re nonetheless miles from dwelling and you’re feeling the starvation knock coming, don’t be afraid to eat the carbohydrates that will help you get dwelling – the negatives of digging a gap that takes three days to get better from will quick outweigh the advantages gained from coaching low carb within the first place. 

One other big caveat with low-carb coaching is that doing it too usually can break your capability to carry out the high-intensity efforts which might be key to doing nicely in races. There are a number of necessary enzymes in your muscle tissue that will let you produce power rapidly sufficient to carry out high-intensity efforts, and chronically coaching with out carbohydrate can scale back the quantity of them in your muscle. In mild of that, we advise that you just periodise your vitamin in the identical method that you just periodise your coaching. Chances are you’ll want to keep away from carbohydrates in some simpler days, however on these robust days, be sure to gas correctly.

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Throughout train, your physique produces much more metabolic warmth than it usually does, and the primary approach of dropping this extra warmth is sweating. Should you lose greater than three per cent of your physique mass in sweat (2.25kg for a 75kg rider), it should almost definitely have vital detrimental results in your efficiency.

Pre-exercise, you must purpose to drink about 500ml of fluid about 4 hours earlier than beginning. The following time you urinate, whether it is darkish in color, you must purpose to drink the identical quantity once more, and maintain doing so till your urine is mild or clear in color. Some folks sweat a lot throughout train that they could battle to interchange all of the fluids which might be misplaced, they usually might profit from hyperhydrating earlier than train. Whereas there are potential advantages, it does enhance the danger that you’ll have to cease to urinate through the race, so watch out.

Should you eat extra fluid than you lose by way of sweat, there’s a threat of creating hyponatraemia; the place the sodium in your blood turns into diluted. The signs of this embody confusion, weak point and fainting. In probably the most excessive circumstances, seizures and even dying have occurred.

One of the best ways to learn the way a lot fluid you must ingest is to weigh your self pre- and post-ride in varied climate situations and maintain notes. Should you’re ending rides a number of kilograms lighter than if you begin, you’ll know that you need to be ingesting extra in future. It’s greatest to experiment a bit till you’re ending rides not more than two kilograms mild than if you began.


The very first thing that’ll undergo many minds right here is protein, however why? Protein, or the amino acids that make it up, are the constructing blocks of all of the cells within the physique, together with skeletal muscle. The idea goes that if you happen to eat protein, it’ll be transformed into muscle, which is why numerous athletes seize a protein shake the second they’re completed figuring out. Nonetheless, this shouldn’t be an enormous concern to most cyclists. While supplemental protein will help enhance protein synthesis charges following weight-training, there may be little proof to counsel that it has any helpful impact on endurance efficiency. Should you’re consuming 3,000 to 4,000 energy a day to gas your coaching, you then’re almost definitely consuming greater than sufficient protein anyway with out having to make use of dietary supplements, and we’d at all times advocate consuming entire meals over dietary supplements the place doable.

What needs to be of extra concern for endurance athletes is refuelling with carbohydrate after races or robust coaching classes. Should you’ve accomplished a tough trip and have to do the identical once more the day after, you must start replenishing your glycogen shops as quickly as your trip is completed.

Supplementing with caffeine

Caffeine is arguably probably the most generally used complement in sport as a consequence of its performance-enhancing results. Don’t be tempted to assume that larger doses are higher as you couldn’t be farther from the reality. The primary impact of caffeine is thru the central nervous system, and also you want solely 200 milligrams to expertise these results. A lot larger doses have been linked to abdomen cramps, gastrointestinal misery, and unsurprisingly, decreased efficiency. Some folks fear that frequently consuming caffeine earlier than and through coaching rides may reduce the helpful results on race day, nevertheless, there isn’t a proof to counsel ordinary use reduces its effectiveness on race days.

Supplementing with Beta-alanine

This complement comes into its personal throughout very high-intensity efforts. Throughout these efforts, which generally final from two to 5 minutes, your muscle tissue change into acidic which reduces the power of your muscle to contract, and your energy output decreases. As a facet be aware, this isn’t attributable to lactate. Don’t hearken to anybody who tells you the burning in your muscle is lactate. It’s, in truth, the buildup of hydrogen ions from different processes, and lactate helps our muscle take care of clearing these ions. 

Taking beta-alanine over an prolonged interval previous to race day (assume weeks and months) will increase the quantity of carnosine within the muscle tissue, and this will help counteract the rise in acidity within the muscle, serving to you carry out high-intensity efforts for longer. While there’s no proof to counsel beta-alanine will hurt your efficiency in street races, it’s results needs to be significantly helpful in crits the place you’re repeatedly performing high-intensity efforts. No matter your physique weight, for the primary 4 weeks, you must ingest about 3.2 grams per day, and 1.6 grams per day following that.


Whereas a very powerful vitamin message is that you must gas appropriately to your goals, this maybe isn’t the only most necessary piece of recommendation. That’s that you must experiment with and optimise your vitamin practices throughout your coaching classes, so when it will get to race days, poor vitamin isn’t going to undo the months of laborious work you’ve got put in on the bike.

Jelly Stomach Excessive Sport…

Nuun Hydration Sport Vegan…

Skratch Labs Sport Hydration…

PowerBar Vanilla PowerGel…

Science in Sport SiS Go…

Rawvelo Natural Power Bar -…

CLIF Bar White Chocolate…