Time To Read
Points of Interest
- Macro Nutrients
- Pre-ride Carbs
- On-bike fuelling
- Post-ride re-fuel
It's amazing how different you feel when you're well fuelled on a ride, and when you've not got your nutrition quite right.
Get your feeding right and you'll ride stronger, and savour every moment you pedal.
Get it wrong, and you'll slow up mentally and physically, impeding your training progression, and hampering your enjoyment.
Here's how to nail your nutrition...
Macronutrients for cycling
Let's not beat around the bush here - carbohydrates get a bad rep. For activity involving any level of intensity, be it cycling, running, gym work, or skiing, your body needs carbohydrate for fuel. There's a lot of discussions about high fat and protein, low carb diets, and whilst these may work off the bike, they're not appropriate when you're training.
Remember - carbs are king!
The success of your ride begins at breakfast. The amount to eat depends based on the intensity and duration of the ride, but as a general guide, you should aim for the following:
Ride Type Carbohydrate Requirement
Easy 1-1.5g carbohydrate / kg body mass
(i.e. an 80kg rider should aim for 80-120g carbohydrate)
Medium 1.5g-2g carbohydrate / kg body mass
Hard 2g+ carbohydrate / kg body mass
Particularly on longer and harder rides, it's important to ensure you get some protein and fat into your breakfast, as these provide slow-burning energy and support the maintenance of lean muscle mass. However, remember, the focus is on carbohydrate!
A few examples of great pre-ride breakfasts include:
- Easy ride: Peanut butter on toast
- Medium ride: Porridge with berries, nut butter, and Greek yoghurt
- Hard ride: Porridge or overnight oats with berries and nut butter, plus eggs on toast.
All of these focus on carbohydrate, but include sources of proteins and fats.
Once you've filled up the tank at breakfast you need to keep topping it up! For any ride over around 90 minutes, you need to keep fuelling your muscles. This is because your body can only store a certain amount of glycogen, and once this precious fuel has gone, it needs replacing. Glycogen is the key fuel for your ride, and after around 90 minutes of pedalling, it starts depleting and so needs constant replacement.
As a general rule of thumb, to keep your body performing at its best on the bike, you want to top up with around 50-80g carbohydrate per hour. If your ride is relatively low intensity, aiming lower in that range should be sufficient, or if you're riding hard, you'll want to aim for the upper end.
It's important to spread your fuelling through the ride. You need to start eating and drinking within the first 45 minutes of the session, and keep nibbling every 20 minutes or so from there on. We suggest you aim to take on around 20-30g carbohydrate every 20 minutes.
So how do you hit your carb requirements? It's typically best to get your fuel through a mix of sources, that is solid foods, energy drinks, and energy gels.
As a rough guideline, you can expect the following carbohydrate content in the following on-bike staples:
Average size flapjack: 30-40g
Energy bar: 30-40g
Energy gel: 20-30g
Single serving energy drink: 30g-40g
For longer rides, your best off starting with solid foods, as these take longer to digest. As you get towards the end of the ride, focus on fluids and gels as these offer fast-digesting sugars that will rapidly get into your bloodstream and provide you the energy you need there and then.
Bear in mind that when you're around 30 minutes from home, nothing will digest fast enough to fuel the ride.
What you eat immediately after a bike ride can have a lot of impact on how well you perform on your next ride. For the 30 minutes immediately after a workout, your body enters a ‘glycogen window' where it is more efficient at absorbing nutrients.
The quicker you can refuel your depleted energy stores, the faster you will recover, and the more effective the adaptions that will come from your training.
In this 30-minute window, you should aim to take on 20g protein, and a good portion of carbohydrate too.
The easiest way to do this is with a specific sports recovery drink, or failing that, chocolate milk, a bowl of cereal with Greek yogurt and fruit, nut butter on toast, or a sandwich with lean protein will do the job.
Over to you...
Give this a go and tell us what difference this nutrition plan makes to your prime lap.
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