Nutrition for cycling: what you need and where to get it
by NGX on Jul 06, 2021
Chances are, if you’re keen on cycling, you’re likely following the Tour De France race this year. Odds are, you’re probably interested in your diet and health too. From the importance of carbohydrates and protein, to when and what to eat and drink before, during or after a ride - we’ll give a breakdown for achieving the best cycling diet that is, most importantly, personalised to you.
How many calories do you burn cycling?
A good way to roughly estimate your additional calorie need is to multiply the distance travelled in miles by 40-50 calories.
In response to your ride, although not in the immediate period afterwards, your appetite should increase above the level you are used to as your body releases hungry hormones in its mission to maintain body fat stores.
If you’re looking to lose a little weight, aim to leave a shortfall in calories to create a deficit that will encourage fat loss, but aim to limit this to a 250 calories per day deficit maximum if you want to continue to ride strong. It’s also wise to avoid cutting calories when you’re in stressful, long or high intensity training periods or close to an event.
Fuel your ride in the best way
Pre-ride nutrition is important. Timing it properly is too. Aim to have your pre-cycle meal 90 minutes before setting off and choose a low-fat, carbohydrate-dominant meal or snack with some lean protein, as this will be digested a lot more rapidly than fat or protein dominant meals. No one wants to set off on a ride feeling sluggish and overly full!
Carbohydrates - the body’s preferred fuel supply (for some!)
Studies have shown that an intake of between 30g and 60g carbs per hour of riding is optimal.
However, the amount of carbohydrates people can take on board is very individual. Response to carbohydrates is largely based on genetics and how efficiently your body breaks down carbs into glucose as a preferred source of fuel. Those with a low sensitivity to carbs will likely benefit from a higher carb diet overall to fuel their cycles with.
For example, some may be able to digest 30g per hour whereas others can take on 60g without any gastrointestinal issues. Start at 30g and gradually increase this on subsequent rides to find out how much you can tolerate. If you can tolerate 60g, this may support better performance (ie. lower sensitivity to carbs), so it’s worth trying to get your body used to this.
Carbohydrate is the body’s primary energy source for cycling. But bear in mind, it is stored in the muscle and any excess in total intake above the body’s overall caloric requirements will be stored as fat (the same is true for protein and fat).
Caffeine for performance boosts
Some people are able to benefit from performance boosts from caffeine whereas others avoid it like the plague. Ever wondered why this is? The answer lies in your genetics and the CYP1A2 gene, to be precise. Those who are ‘fast metabolisers’ of caffeine can experience its performance enhancing effects whereas ‘slow metabolisers’ eliminate caffeine at a slower rate and may not experience such effects.
Studies have shown that 1-3mg of caffeine per kilo of body weight can result in enhanced performance, increased power output and improved mental focus when cycling, with larger doses generally offering no additional benefit. But this, ofcourse, will depend on your genetics. Interested? Why not try a simple DNA test and find out how your body responds to caffeine, carbohydrates and many other nutrients.
The first 20 minutes after a ride is known to be the most optimal refuelling period where nutrients are taken up more efficiently and transported to the muscle stores.
This is an ideal time to take a post-cycle recovery shake such as BodyFuel, which provides all 30 essential nutrients in optimal amounts - personalised to your DNA. Ensuring you are consuming an optimal level of these nutrients will help aid efficient muscle recovery and ensure you are ready for your next session.
Taking on a nutrient-rich drink such as BodyFuel, alongside a snack or meal that is high in carbohydrates in this period will improve the rate at which your energy stores replenish, thus impacting directly on how much stored energy you will have available for your next ride and impacting your recovery time.
The body is also in the perfect condition for optimal nutrient absorption within 15–60 minutes after exercise, making BodyFuel the perfect recovery drink for cyclists. Any further questions about how NGX can support your athletic or cycling goals? Drop us a question here and we’ll get back to you.