Importance of Nutrition for Cycling
I learned the hard way that proper nutrition for cycling is important. I was peddling very slowly with much pain and difficulty. My energy melted away. Then the cramps came.
I struggled to dismount my bike. Then, I plopped down on the grass on the side of the road, moaning. I had no energy left. I was in this terrible situation primarily because I did not fuel properly before and during the ride.
Cycling is essentially a power versus weight exercise. Nutrition is key to both sides of this equation. And breakfast, being the first meal of the day, is crucial to performance and comfort during a ride. Therefore, breakfast is essential nutrition for cycling.
Without a doubt, mental discipline is essential to having a good day in the saddle. In addition, having a high-performance bike helps. But, neither compares to the contribution of nutrition in the life of a cyclist.
Professional cycling teams emphasize nutrition for their riders because they understand the importance of proper nutrition for cycling. They hire chefs and nutritionists to travel with the team during long tours and even off-season training periods.
Carbohydrates provide the fuel that powers cyclists and enables us to ride long distances. So, making that fuel available to the body deserves our study and thoughtful application.
Despite what you hear about “carb loading,” you cannot consume a massive amount of carbohydrates in one sitting and expect it to fuel you over an entire workout or rally. The body is only able to store small amounts of carbohydrates at a time. So, knowing how to keep carbohydrates renewed and topped off is critical.
A cyclist’s breakfast is important. I am not talking about dieting. At least not dieting to dump some weight. That is deserving of an entire post later on.
There is a counter-intuitive understanding that will pay you dividends on the road. Amateur riders like us need to take in between 5-8g carbohydrate per kilogram bodyweight. That means the heavier you are, the more carbs you should take on.
Remember, cycling fast is a matter of power to weight. Don’t let that fool you into eating sparingly before a ride. More carbs are needed to propel a heavy rider down the road, especially during high-intensity riding seasons.
For long rides, you need to load up on carbs the night before. Add more at breakfast. Keep topping off during the ride. Always remember that nutrition for cycling should always be a priority.
Pre-Ride Meal Breakfast
Far too many people skip breakfast – the first meal of the day. That is a mistake in any nutrition for cycling plan. I have heard many cyclists state that they do not eat before a morning ride, even a long ride.
You start the day with very little fuel for your ride because, during the night, your body uses up most of its store of readily available carbohydrates. Therefore, if you do not eat breakfast, you will lack sufficient fuel to complete a long ride at your potential distance and speed.
When you get up in the morning, you need to take on fuel for the new day.
Remember your mom telling you. “Don’t get in the pool within an hour of eating.” Well, first off, riding is not the same as getting in the pool or running.
Riding, simply because it is a physical activity that is usually much longer in duration, consumes more fuel. Therefore, even a recreational cyclist benefits significantly from taking on fuel before setting out on a ride.
Everyone has different comfort levels regarding eating around exercise, so it is important to experiment to figure out what works best for you. In general, if you are going to eat a large breakfast, allow 2-4 hours before cycling. On the other hand, you can eat a fuel-filled, moderate breakfast within an hour or 30 minutes before cycling without causing any discomfort.
A cyclist’s breakfast should be part of a regular riding routine. And according to the National Weight Control Registry, you should do so within an hour of waking to kick-start your metabolism before your body starts going into energy-conservation mode.
What to Eat
There are many cyclists’ breakfast menus out there. Nutrition for cycling is not a new topic among cyclists. I list links to some menus below. The most often recommended by cycling nutritionists is a bowl of oats and fruit.
I used to eat oats on the morning of a long ride. The bowl of sticky nutrition seemed heavy in my belly. So I have switched to a more well-rounded, light breakfast.
- A couple of slices of toast
- Two sunny-side-up eggs
- Banana and blueberries
- Orange Juice
I eat this cyclist’s breakfast about 90 minutes before a long morning ride. Then, just before clipping in, I may squeeze a gel down.
Some cycling nutritionists suggest eating two breakfasts. One three hours before the long, weekend ride. A second, light breakfast about an hour and a half later. This double cyclist’s breakfast can take the place of a large, carbo-load meal the previous evening, especially if you need to maintain or lose weight.
Eating lighter makes you lighter on your long rides.
The experts advise that breakfast is more important and serves more purposes than any other meal.
A cyclist’s breakfast does more than load you up with calories to call upon during the ride. Meals consumed in the morning jump-start the metabolism. They provide the day’s first dose of calories. It also kick-starts your metabolism, regulates your weight, supercharges your riding—and can even lower your risk for heart disease and diabetes.
What not to Eat
Here are some things not to include in a wholesome cyclist’s breakfast.
- Large quantities of fiber
- Fatty foods
- Highly spicy foods
- coffee is helpful but do not load up with too much
- of course, no alcohol
Below is a link to one of the best cycling diet and menu books. Check it out.
You can find other health-related articles here.