Nutrition for Cyclists: Fueling the Transition from Winter to Summer


Most of us have spent a good deal of time on an indoor trainer or some type of training program over the past months. Those long, sweaty, and often boring hours do make the difference between winning and losing when race season comes around again, and can be the stepping stone to taking your riding to the next level even if you don’t race. With all of that in mind, your nutrition is definitely important! So, rather than use the first part of the season to “race into shape” let’s keep in mind that optimal fueling promotes training adaptations that go beyond the hours on the bike. Practicing good eating habits in training can only further your success into the summer moths. Here are some ideas on how to properly fuel your body as we transition into the summer months.

Pre-ride Fuel

Consume this meal 2-3 hours before you head out to allow digestion time and full glycogen (the storage form of energy in our muscles) capacity. If you have to eat closer to training, choose a lighter meal and make sure your on-the-bike fueling includes electrolyte mix with calories and that you have plenty of ride food. Riding on an empty stomach is not wise, as you limit yourself by not having any energy to burn. So have that pre-ride meal, you’ll feel so much better with some cereal, fruit and granola, banana with toast, or fresh fruit smoothie before you hit the road or dirt. Now, what to take in your pockets…

Continue Fueling During the Ride

Aim to consume 30-60g of carbohydrate per hour, depending on body size, intensity, and duration of ride, to sustain your energy. On rides that are 90 minutes or shorter, it isn’t necessary to consume carbohydrates as you ride as long as you have fueled well beforehand and consume a recovery snack/meal straight after. Aim to drink a minimum of 500ml of fluid – many water bottles are 500ml – per hour as well. Ideally drink two bottles per hour, at least one of those having electrolyte mix, especially as it starts to get hotter in the summer months! A great way to get proper energy and hydration is to drink your carbs and electrolytes. A quality mix is designed to fuel you well, as long as you drink it, and drink it often.

Recovery: Re-Fuel and Fuel for Tomorrow

Getting your post-training nutrition right is going to make a huge difference towards helping your body replenish what you lost on the ride, and prepare you to be able to ride again the next day. You want a 3:1 combination of carbohydrates and protein – carbs to replace the energy you expended and protein to aid the recovery of muscle damage. Opt for something that’s easy to prepare and our bodies can absorb, as we have a 30-minute ‘window of opportunity’ for recovery post-ride. Typically, a smoothie is the most convenient choice, and most sport recovery products are designed with the proper amounts of carbs and proteins, as well as being rehydrating. The sooner you eat and hydrate the better your recovery and adaptation will be.

Breanne Nalder, MS, RDN has a Master’s degree in nutrition with an emphasis in sports dietetics at the University of Utah. She is a Registered Dietitian, the nutrition coach at PLAN7 Endurance Coaching, and raced for the DNA Pro Cycling team for 5 years. For individual custom nutrition coaching, contact her via email: [email protected]

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