When I was beginning as a cyclist, I tried researching on the best cyclist diet to adopt and i was surprised to find out that there are many of them out there.
Unfortunately, most of them are fad diets, and they will not help you achieve optimal performance since they are biased based on the writer’s gender, age or their body composition goals among others.
However, from my personal experience as a cyclist and through intensive research, I have come to realize that all you need is to adhere to a nutrition plan that aims at controlling and optimizing your blood sugar.
You can achieve this by the adequate balancing of the essential macro nutrients that you consume each day.
In this guide, I will help you come up with such cyclist diet for beginners that you can quickly adapt to for the optimal racing experience.
How much energy do you require?
Generally, you will require a lot of energy and calories to fuel your body while cycling, but the exact amount will vary depending on the terrain, your body weight and the duration of your ride.
A sedentary person requires at least 1,200 calories, but these energy requirements are bound to elevate depending on one’s lifestyle.
To be more precise, it’s estimated that you require on average 40 calories for every mile you cover. Therefore estimate the distance in miles and multiply it by 40 to obtain the extra calories you need above the daily recommended calories for a sedentary person.
I also use my GPS device to estimate the number of calories I have used during my rides. This gives me a more accurate estimate.
Initially, most nutrition plans relied on carbohydrates that comprised mainly of glucose as the primary source of energy. Recent studies, however, suggest that combining glucose and fructose derivatives in a ratio of 2:1 will yield better results.
This is because absorption rate of carbohydrates with glucose derivatives alone is limited to 60 grams per hour but increases to 90 grams per hour when you combine fructose and glucose products.
Pre-training diet and nutrition
According to Stacy Sims, an exercise nutritionist and author of “Rodale’s ROAR,” breakfast or pre-ride meal is the most significant meal for a cyclist. It should be heavy to replenish the fuel stores that might be running low from the overnight fast.
The most important thing to note is that such meals should contain a low Glycemic index (a score below 55) and be taken 2-4 hours before the ride. This enables slow but gradual break down of carbohydrates to be absorbed into the bloodstream.
I would recommend both simple and complex carbohydrates and lean protein products such as fish. Avoid red meat if possible since it takes longer to digest. It’s also associated with toxicity, dehydration, and inflammation which might lower your performance.
You can consider the following for breakfast:
- Bananas, oats, walnuts and Chia seeds.
- Scrambled eggs, toast and almond butter for proteins
- Porridge with Soya with additional fresh fruits and berries
- Egg omelet on rice cake
You are recommended to take something after every 20-30 minutes given that you will be riding for more than an hour to maintain your energy levels.
During this time, you require carbs that can be digested rapidly. This means foods with a high Glycemic index like sports drinks, bars, and other carbohydrate-rich foods. They include dried dates, Jaffa cakes, cereal bars, fig rolls and jelly babies.
Fruits, especially bananas are the most ideal while cycling. Bananas not only provide you with energy but also provide you with potassium to help replace the one lost through sweating. When riding for 1-3 hours, aim at consuming 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour.
For rides above 3 hours, top up your carbs with snacks during the first two hours then later switch to gels.
You should eat immediately after cycling to aid your body in muscle repair. No better foods to achieve this than protein-rich foods.
Also, some fruits such as bananas, oranges and apples and green leafy vegetables are essential for your recovery.
Recommended protein sources include dairy products (milk and yogurt), both white meat and fish, oily fish such as mackerel and nuts. I usually prefer chicken due to its high protein content. I also find it light for my stomach thus easily digestible.
Include complex carbohydrates such as rice or wholemeal pasta in your pre-ride diets. Personally, I prefer brown rice over white rice. This is because brown rice is still contained in the grain seed which contains more vitamins and nutritious fibers when compared to white rice.
Remember, it’s crucial that these meals be taken in the first 30 minutes after the ride.
Is it advisable to take water?
Yes. Actually plenty of water. Dehydration, just like depletion of energy levels, can impair your performance. Your body will lose a lot of water through sweating, and you will need to rehydrate.
For beginners, you should take 13-16 ounces of fluids per hour during your rides. I found out that most dieticians recommend taking electrolytes to speed up the absorption of water.
While you can drink more water during your trips, you should maintain a balance between your water intake and sweat rate to prevent over-hydration.
Ultimately, you should observe a strict cyclist diet for beginners and if possible have a dietician personalize one for you depending on your training regime as you grow to a pro cyclist.
I hope, through this article, you have acquired enough insights in case you wish to come up with one yourself. Also, don’t forget to get enough sleep since it contributes to recovery.