Eating for cycling

Eating for cycling

Want to cycle like Sir Bradley Wiggins? Then think about what you eat.

Eating for cycling requires a diet that provides your body with ‘fuel’ to go the distance. This is an incredibly important part of distance and endurance cycling.  Even a leisurely ride in the park will burn around 250 calories per hour. Take it a bit more seriously that’ll increase to 300-450 calories. And without the correct types of food and drink your body’s immune system can weaken and you’ll become more tired much quicker.

So if you’re training for an event this Summer, or next, you might like to take a leaf out of the Pro’s recipe book.

For a highly active endurance sport such as cycling, a high carbohydrate (carb) diet is the way to go. You should aim to consume around 60-70% carbohydrates in your diet.

Carbs fall into two categories: complex (slow), and simple (fast). Complex carbs are high in fibre and break down into glycogen slowly, leaving you with energy for longer periods of time.

Simple carbs work in the opposite manner. They give your body short but intense amounts of glycogen, therefore on longer rides they require topping up every so often. A mix of both types of carbohydrates is best, however, because complex carbs stabilise blood sugar and even out the body’s energy levels it’s advisable to have a stronger emphasis on these.

A cyclists’ diet should contain around 20-30% fats. Fats like butter, cheese, milk, yoghurt and olive oil aid the breaking down of food to produce glycogen and help to store necessary sugars and energy. Avoid hydrogenated and saturated fats. Stick with vegetable oils (olive, sunflower and vegetable oil). Nuts also contain highly beneficial oils.

It’s good for a cyclist to consume 15-20% protein in their diet as this aids the rebuilding of muscle tissue fibres. Although meat contains protein, it is not so easily broken down so try to include beans, cheese, egg, milk, nuts and vegetables into a meal. These are far easier for the body to extract the protein.

By eating a variety of fresh fruit and veg, you will be feeding your body with essential vitamins and minerals, enzymes, electrolytes and micro-nutrients. These help repair tissue, maintain a healthy immune system, and keep your bodily functions working well.

Energy bars and gels are widely used by cyclists and athletes before, during and after training and races. These are easily digested and boost the body’s supply of calories, carbs, protein, vitamins and minerals.

Many cyclists don’t drink enough. Drinking water is equally (if not more) important than food. if you are riding to work, drinking a coffee or two, and working in an air-conditioned office, your wellbeing may suffer if you are not hydrated.

Studies have shown that a loss of 700ml (a normal sized cycling bottle) of bodily fluids can result in 7% decrease in performance and 1400ml loss gives a 20% drop in performance.

Energy drinks are a great idea as they not only hydrate the body but feed it with necessary nutrients including carbs and electrolytes.

After exercise it is just as important to consume fluid and carbohydrates in order to recover. Recovery drinks contain complex carbs to assist the body to do just that, and because they’re in liquid form it’s much easier to stomach after a race.

Diet and nutrition are complex topics, and everyone has different preferences for the kinds of fuel they like to use. That said, there are some principles that everyone should follow. Here are mojow’s diet and nutrition tips to help in the build up to a big day in the saddle.

  • Eat a suitable diet as outlined above, ensuring your glycogen reserves are fully stocked.
  • Increased high-mileage training will reduce glycogen consumption as your stamina builds (and muscle regeneration slows).
  • Gradually reduce mileage 7 days prior to a major endurance race to build glycogen reserves.
  • There are important glycogen reserves your muscles and liver. However the reserve in the liver usually takes longer to mobilise. Therefore begin your ride relatively slowly for between 5-15 minutes (10-15 minutes is best), otherwise you’ll burn up your muscles glycogen supply before the liver has started depletion.
  • Eat whilst cycling.
  • Drink plenty even if you feel you don’t need it.
  • Eat lots of carbohydrates the night prior to cycling.
  • If taking part in a race, eat at least 3 hours before the race and nothing after 1 hour before, otherwise eat food with low protein and fat so that it’s digested quicker
  • Drink a strong black coffee 1 hour before cycling as the caffeine mobilises fatty acids – then follow with plenty of water.
  • Don’t forget to eat and drink as soon as possible after exercise to regain lost energy and fluid.
    mojow run a special series of workshops for office based athletes who are looking to take on an endurance challenge. Discover more here.

    Posted by Admin