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Published: June 8, 2024

Nutrition for Cyclists

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In recent years, cycling has blossomed into a popular sport that is making its mark in the fitness industry. Between outdoor and indoor cycling, there are many different options to choose from that’ll surely have your heart pumping for more! 

With the rise in popularity come many things cyclists can do to boost their nutrition and improve their athletic performance on the bike. Cycling takes a tremendous amount of energy, strength, and stamina, which means cyclists need to take a unique approach to nutrition that’s different from someone who isn’t as active.

Nutrition can truly make or break how an athlete performs, not to mention how they feel. When cyclists fuel their bodies properly they will improve their athletic capabilities, recover faster, and feel much stronger.

That’s why we’ve compiled these top tips that you can easily implement to give your body the boost it needs to excel in the sport of cycling. 

Top 5 Nutrition Tips for Cyclists to Live By:

1. Eat enough calories: Cycling is an extremely high intensity sport which means that your body is rapidly burning calories. If you’re not consuming enough of the right calories, your body may suffer, along with your performance. While eating enough calories is essential for every cyclist, knowing what to eat is just as important. Running to the closest fast food joint after a long ride is the last thing you want to do, and it can do more harm than good. To get in the right amount of calories focus on real, whole foods. This means steering clear of processed foods with hard-to-pronounce ingredients and opting instead for whole grains, lean proteins and lots of fruit and veggies.

So how do you know how many extra calories you should be taking in? According to Cycling Weekly magazine, it is recommended that for every mile you bike, you consume an extra 40-50 calories. For example, let’s say you bike 30 miles, you will want to increase your calorie intake by around 1,200 calories.

2. Consume complex carbohydrates: Athletes are notorious for eating heavy carbohydrate meals before or after an event to refuel their bodies. While carbohydrates are an important part of an athlete’s diet, it’s important that athletes are consuming the right kinds of carbs for peak performance. Eating carbs heavy in sugar and processed grains are going to do nothing but slow down performance, and not to mention cause an imbalance in blood sugar, and hormone levels. Our bodies respond better to complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, quinoa, and sweet potatoes rather than processed white breads, pastas and simple sugars. Fueling your body with the right types of carbohydrates before a long ride will help to boost your endurance and give you long lasting energy. To prevent a sudden crash during an event, its best to consume slow releasing carbs with every meal throughout the day before an event. This will prevent you from fatiguing, and slowing down throughout your cycling event.

Cyclists should focus on eating whole grains, fruits, and vegetables with every meal to keep their energy up, and to provide the body with the fuel it needs to perform.

3. Get your protein in: Protein is another essential part of properly fueling your body as a cyclist. While protein is often thought of as food to bulk up bodybuilders, it is equally as important for cyclists in order to support immune health and promote muscle repair and recovery. Cyclists should focus on consuming proteins including lean meats, fish, beans, as well as certain dairy products like unsweetened Greek yogurt in order to reach optimal protein intake to support tired muscles.

4. Choose healthy fats: Fat has been an extremely controversial topic in the wellness world. There are some people who think that adding fats into their diets will actually make them fat, while others are consuming too much of the wrong types of fat which may lead to weight gain. The balance comes with choosing to eat healthy, whole fats that nourish your body, and reduce inflammation. Cyclists should focus on eating healthy fats including coconuts, avocados, nuts, and seeds, and fatty fish to help promote energy, and reduce inflammation.

5. Hydrate: Hydration is equally as important as food when it comes to nutrition for cyclists. Without proper hydration, essential vitamins and minerals are not properly absorbed in the body, leading to vitamins and mineral deficiencies and ultimately poor athletic performance. In fact, cyclists who are just slightly dehydrated will see a reduction in their athletic performance. This is why it’s important to stay ahead of dehydration, and adequately hydrate throughout the day, and during cycling events. If water doesn’t do the trick for you, trying adding some coconut water or infuse your water with fruits to boost fluid and electrolytes at the same time. Be sure to avoid drinks that are laden with extra sugar and calories, because they’ll also hinder performance similar to dehydration!

Nutrition plays a huge part in how well a cyclist will perform and how strong he or she will feel. Skimp on nutrient rich foods, or slack on hydration and your body will tire more quickly, and you will notice a drastic reduction in energy levels and overall athletic performance. On the other hand, fuel your body right, consume foods high in complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats, and you will be well on your way to increasing your endurance, energy, and overall stamina not just in cycling but in any physical activity in your day.

At Integrative Nutrition, we place a large emphasis on proper nutrition and physical activity in overall health. Finding workouts you enjoy, like cycling, while fueling your body with nutrient-dense foods, will send you on your way to improved health and happiness! 

What is your favorite food to enjoy before an athletic event? Share in the comments below!


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