Just because you cycle doesn’t mean we all eat the same amount of food. Cycling is fantastic in the way that it has so many disciplines that suit all sorts of talents, abilities and passions. The list of different types of cycling is amazing. You can road ride, mountain bike, hill climb, track race, time-trial and BMX. Each discipline needs to be fuelled slightly differently, so we’ve put together a nutrition guide for a number of disciplines.
Road cycling can vary from 1 hour crit races to 4+ hour road races. We like the way Torq explain their fuelling system, it’s easy and simple to understand and a good rule of thumb. 1/2 units per hour and this generally works in most cases. The advice we would also give is to ensure that you eat before you get hungry or start to feel tired. Taking on energy too late wont have the desired effect…leave it too late and the cramp could set in and then there is now way of getting back from it. If the races are into the 3/4 hour region, it is ideal to take on bars or food to assist in replenishing the lost carbohydrate stores.
The same unit measurement goes for mountain biking. The only difference is that it is almost impossible to take on bars in mountain biking when you are racing. The terrain doesn’t lend itself to taking your hands off the bars and munching on energy bars! So we would always advise to take on the easier gel option and carbohydrate drinks to replenish the carbohydrate loss.
Even the longest track races only last a max of 1 hour so no fuel is taken on whilst racing. Any fuelling is done before or in-between races. This can be very complex if you have certain heats throughout the day, so low fat, carbohydrate foods need to be taken on board accompanied with caffeine gels approx 15 minutes before the effort. As track racing tends to be high intensity efforts you have to be careful how much food and water you are taking on so not to throw it up on the boards!
This again can vary in terms of distance. Some crazy people out there like to race 24 hour time-trials which require the 1/2 unit per hour rule. 10 mile time-trails are much simpler and a carbohydrate bar and energy gel can be taken on. The bar 1 hour before the race and then the gel 15 minutes before to give you the awareness and sharpness you require.
This is a nasty sport and doesn’t require any carbohydrates to perform at your best. You could say the easiest of all the disciplines to fuel for and whilst this is correct in one sense it is also extremely hard to fuel your body on the months leading up to it. Being powerful and lean is key to getting the ultimate performance from yourself. So in this instance its all about the fuelling in the months before! The effort itself generally tend to be very short, sharp intense efforts. The risk of riding heavy and throwing it up is not really worth it. So we would recommenced a caffeine gel 15 – 20 minutes before.
Eating off the bike
It’s so hard to gauge how much food you should be eating when off the bike. Power to weight is often a hot topic amongst cyclists of recent now more and more power meters are becoming more readily available. So eating off the bike is quite important these days.
A good place to start is an app such a myfitnesspal where you can input your gender, height, current weight, goal, food intake and exercise output. This will then tell you how many calories you need to consume to reach a goal weight. It is very clever in the fact you can put in the level of intensity which it then re-calculates to accommodate for extra effort you are putting out.
We have also put together some meal options for cyclist that are full of the right balance of protein, carbs and fats.
If you are struggling for snacks in-between meals we would recommend:
Rice cakes – Very low in fat and high in carbs.
Nuts and seeds – nice to just keep your hands and mouth buys when your are craving food. they are full of healthy fats and good source of protein.
Bananas – Simple, easy and provide enough energy for 1 hour of exercise!
Torq snaq bars – easy low fat and tasty with a good balance of carbohydrate and protein.
Homemade flapjack – Shop bought one can be full of fats and excessive butter, syrup and unwanted ingredients – make your own and then you know whats in it!
Popcorn – Tasty treat that’s low in fat and high in carbs.
If you need any help or advise on this topic then feel free to ask us @probikekit or on the #YourRide and we will be more than happy to help!