Healthy eating habits/Nutrition to Optimise Endurance Cycling Performance

From Wikibooks, open books for an open world
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Why is nutrition essential for endurance cyclng?

[edit | edit source]
  • To boost your energy levels
  • For effective recovery

The aim for all riders is to start the ride with fully replenished muscle fuel stores – also known as “glycogen stores”. Having your usual carbohydrate intake as well as resting (or performing light training) 24-36 hours before the ride and eating the appropriate pre-event meal will allow you to achieve this.

To get the most out of this document, click on the provided links to external sources for further information.

Energy Yielding Nutrients

[edit | edit source]

There are three main nutrients, known as 'macronutrients' that provide the body with energy:

  • Carbohydrates - breaks down into smaller units known as 'glucose' that the body uses as its main energy source
  • Protein - Helps to repair/rebuild muscle after exercise.
  • Fat - Eat healthy fats (e.g. oily fish, nuts, avocado)as part of a healthy balanced diet. Do not eat fatty foods before exercising as it may leave you feeling heavy

Glycaemic Index (GI)

[edit | edit source]

Glycaemic Index (GI)refers to how quickly carbohydrates are broken down into glucose - the fuel that muscles burn when they are working.

  • High GI foods are broken down into glucose quicker than low GI foods. They should be eaten just before, during and after cycling to top up energy quickly
  • Low GI foods break down and provide the body with energy more slowly. These foods may be included in the meal eaten 3-4 hours before cycling to provide the body with energy later in the ride

Pre-ride Meal/Snacks

[edit | edit source]
  • Have a breakfast that is rich in carbohydrates and low in fat about 4 hours before the race and a snack 1-2 hours before the ride
  • If your ride is early in the morning, have a high carbohydrate meal the night before and a snack 1-2 hours before the ride
  • Have fluids regularly (don’t overdo it as you may feel uncomfortable and need to urinate!)
  • Drink ~300-400mL immediately before the ride
Pre-ride meal ideas:
  • Breakfast cereal with skim milk + fruit + toast + juice
  • Muffins or crumpets + fruit + yoghurt + water
  • Baked potatoes with low fat filling + juice
  • Pancakes + syrup + fruit
  • Pasta wit low fat sauce + juice/cordial
  • Rolls/sandwiches + fruit + yoghurt + water
  • Homemade fruit smoothies

Pre-ride snack ideas:

  • Cereal bar
  • Fruit
  • Yoghurt
  • Toast
  • Sports drink
  • Fruit bun
  • Sports bar

Snacks During the Ride

[edit | edit source]

The two most important factors:

  1. Fluid intake (rehydration) - even small amounts of dehydration will decrease performance.
  2. Carbohydrate intake – low body carbohydrate levels can lead to feeling fatigued/tired
       *For rides longer than 1 hour, it is crucial 
        for riders to consume 30-60g of carbohydrates 
        per hour (starting from after the first hour).

Foods Carbohydrates (g)
Gels ~45
600mL sports drink 44
10 dried apricots (~50g) 35.7
Fruit bun 35.5
Sultanas snack pack (40g) 30
Sports bar ~30
1 medium banana 21.5

Post-ride Meal

[edit | edit source]

Recovery is most effective when foods that provide a balance of carbohydrates, protein, vitamins + minerals are consumed immediately after, so that your body’s muscle energy stores are replenished for your next cycling session!

Multi-stage Events Events that take place over multiple days place a large amount of stress on fuel and fluid reserves. It is critical to replenish these reserves after/between each ride to ensure you have enough energy to complete the event!

Male Athlete (Target 60-80g Carbohydrates) Female Athlete (Target 40-50g Carbohydrates)
200g fruit yoghurt* + jam sandwich 200g fruit yoghurt* + cereal bar
200g fruit yoghurt* + cereal bar + 250mL juice 200mL flavoured milk* + cereal bar
200 ml flavoured milk* + cereal bar + banana 750mL sports drink
750-1000mL sports drink 200g fruit yoghurt* + banana
Sports bar* + 500 ml sports drink Sports bar*
200 ml liquid meal* + 1 large banana 200mL liquid meal*
  • *Indicates a valuable source of protein, vitamins and minerals in addition to carbohydrate

Carbohydrates & Glycogen (Energy) Stores

[edit | edit source]

After exercise, glycogen stores (the muscle’s energy source) are fully restored on a high carbohydrate diet. Low carbohydrate diets do not fully replenish glycogen stores; instead they continue to decrease after each exercise session leaving the cyclist with little energy. Therefore, it is very important to have a diet high in carbohydrates to provide the muscles with plenty of energy to cycle long distances without burning out!

For further information or to seek professional advice from an accredited practicing sports dietitian visit:


[edit | edit source]