The Best Nutrition List for Cyclists
There is a wealth of information on the internet regarding nutrition, but much of it can be confusing, contradictory, or complex. In addition, it is a little challenging to find specific suggestions for cyclists, especially for our country. For this reason, we have prepared nutritional information and nutrition programs based on the most up-to-date research for you.
Nutrition Program for Cyclists
1. Consume the right amount of calories.
When you ride a bike, the first thing you’ll notice is that your calorie needs increase. Due to the nature of cycling, the desire to eat will naturally increase due to highly active body muscles (it should increase). An easy way to estimate your additional calorie needs on the days you cycle is to consume 25-30 calories per km driven. For example, for a 30 km ride, you need to consume an additional 700-900 calories on average. A GPS watch that estimates calories based on distance driving can also assist you in determining these figures. If your goal is to lose weight, you can leave 250 calories per day. Of course, the food types and timings where these calorie deficits are completed are also critical, and we will talk about them in our nutrition program at the end of the article.
2. Get to know the body’s fuel source, carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates are muscles’ primary energy source for cycling, as in all sports. Carbohydrates can be stored in the muscle and the body as fat. In other words, carbohydrates are essential for the muscles to have the energy to continue their movement, just as the engine needs gasoline to run. For standard people, the effect of carbohydrate consumption on energy may not be very noticeable, but when it comes to a sport that requires intense endurance such as cycling when your carbohydrate reserves are depleted during training, you have to pull to the right and rest like a car that almost runs out of gas 🙂 Carbohydrate consumption before and during exercise is of high importance to ensure continuity. offers. Scientists working on sports recommend that you take 5-9 g of carbohydrates per kilogram daily in the nutrition program for cyclists. In addition, it is recommended to have frequent but large carbohydrate meals to maintain the hormonal balance in the body. In this way, these small portions will provide enough energy without causing a drop in power. It’s worth noting that not all carbohydrates are created equal and will have a different impact on energy levels and health. It’s always best to opt for slow carbohydrates and fruits and vegetables packed full of nutrients rather than refined sugar.
3. Pay attention to your protein intake.
Protein is the main ingredient of muscle. Muscles are made of protein, so all the muscles we use for cycling are made up of protein. Without protein, a muscle cannot be nourished and strengthened. For this reason, regardless of the sport you do, it is necessary to pay attention to the daily protein intake for each sports branch. Especially on intense training days, the muscles will be damaged, the damaged muscle fibers need to be repaired, and amino acids provide this repair, the restored muscle group is now stronger than before, which means better performance on the bike. According to experts’ recommendations, a daily protein intake of 0.8-1 g per kg is recommended for standard individuals, and 1.5-2 g per kg for athletes. This means an average of 100-140 grams of protein per day for an average athlete of 70 kg. To complete this figure, dairy products with eggs in the morning meals + meat/chicken / fish in other meals + a protein powder supplement that you can consume after exercise or at night is required.
4. Choose a good oil.
The type of fat you choose is critical to health, performance and weight maintenance. Fats are grouped into ‘good’ fats and ‘bad’ fats. Good fats include polyunsaturated fats (Omega 3 and Omega 6 oils) and monounsaturated fats (Omega 9 oils). While you should limit the saturated fats found in meats and processed foods, Omega 3 and 6 fats are vital in maintaining good health and are found in oils like nuts, seeds, fish and flaxseed. These fats provide a stimulating benefit to the metabolism and aid in healthy weight loss. Good fats are known to reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) and are an essential part of the diet to help prevent heart disease. Consuming 20 grams of good fat a day is an excellent strategy for the healthy body functions.
5. Consume the right vitamins and minerals.
There are two main types of vitamins, fat-soluble and water-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K are stored in the body. However, water-soluble ones are not stored in the body and are required in the daily diet. Minerals such as calcium, iron, and zinc are also needed daily, but only in small amounts. These vitamins and minerals can be found in a variety of foods. With five pieces of fruit and vegetables a day, it is intended to help get these vitamins and minerals along with adequate fiber intake daily. A good multivitamin supplement would also be a wise choice when exercising regularly. It is also recommended to focus on magnesium, potassium, and sodium supplements, which are of high importance for the muscles to work with better efficiency.
6. Make sure you’re drinking enough water to look your best.
Drinking enough fluids is essential not only for better cycling, but also for better energy levels as you go about your daily life. An easy way to work out your needs is to weigh yourself before and after exercise. For every liter of water you lose, you need an additional liter of water. In addition, the body loses not only water but also electrolytes with sweat, and replenishing these lost minerals with water is another critical issue.
7. Program your energy needs correctly.
Easy rides of less than 50-60 minutes don’t always need additional fueling if you’re eating enough throughout the day and your nutrient intakes are correct. Your carbohydrate stores will provide the required fuel to the muscles during this time. If you’re going for a longer or more intense ride, replenishing your carbs beforehand will give you a much better performance so you’ll still have plenty of power towards the end of your route.
Studies show that a food that provides 30g to 60g of carbohydrates per 1 hour of cycling is ideal. Carbohydrate gel products are practical, quickly digested and easily consumed nutritional supplements used for this purpose.
The amount of carbohydrates that people can digest is very individual. Some can digest 30g per hour, while others can take 60g without feeling any stomach upset. Start at 30g and gradually increase this on subsequent rides to find out how much you can tolerate. If you can comfortably consume 60 grams, this will support better performance, so it’s worth getting your body used to it.
Solid foods such as Protein + Carbohydrate bars are generally better tolerated than at the start of a workout and are ideal for the first half of the track, for example, but for a high-intensity race like time trial, it will be challenging to consume a bar. As the duration or intensity increases, switch from bars to gels to get extra carbs in addition to your drink.
8. Plan feeding timings correctly.
The first 20 minutes after a ride is known as the ideal nutrient replenishment time, during which nutrients are more efficiently absorbed and transported to muscle stores. Eating a carbohydrate-rich meal or drink during this period will increase the rate at which your energy stores are refilled, which will have a direct impact on how much-stored energy is for your next ride.
For example, for a 70 kg cyclist, feeding 70 grams of carbohydrates is excellent to supplement the energy lost of 1 gram of carbohydrate per kilogram at the end of exercise. Combining this with 15g of protein will help improve muscle recovery, reduce muscle soreness, and even speed up the delivery of carbs to the muscles. A milk-based beverage or a whey protein is a good and sensible option. After strenuous training sessions or races, you can take advantage of amino acid supplements such as BCAA and glutamine, two amino acids that extra support repair.
9. Caffeine: Good or Bad?
Caffeine is something that varies widely from person to person. According to scientific studies, it is a known fact that 1-3 mg of caffeine per kilo has positive effects on performance and increases focus. However, exceeding the recommended doses does not provide any additional benefit. The body-based effects of caffeine vary; while it gives good results for people in general, it can cause conditions such as palpitations / nausea that can negatively affect performance, this issue is a bit related to caffeine sensitivity. At the same time, if you consume caffeine supplements or a caffeine-containing gel, etc., you should pay attention to the amount of caffeine you get from other products during the day (from tea to coffee).
Caffeine will naturally raise your heart rate so you will have to change your pace, if you are not used to it, you may struggle to find the right tempo. As a recommendation, for example, if you are aiming for a long ride, you can take caffeine-containing products in the last 30-40 minutes of the ride, so it will make it easier for you to spend the moments when you are close to exhaustion. One caveat, due to its structure, caffeine increases body temperature and sweating by making a thermogenic effect, so it is not recommended to consume high caffeine if the air temperature is very high where you exercise.
Note: If you are thinking of consuming a high-caffeine beverage, try it first in training. Caffeine is not recommended if you have high blood pressure or a heart condition, and if you are on any medication, consult your doctor before trying it.
10. Time your pre-workout meal well.
Deciding what to eat before a workout can be quite difficult, and for most cyclists, cycling with a full stomach or an upset stomach is a really bad feeling. To avoid these situations, it is recommended that at least 90 minutes have passed between your last meal when you go out for a ride.
Nutrition Program for Cyclists
Our muscles can store 400-500 g or 2000 kcal of glycogen to be used as energy. Glycogen is the main fuel you will use and is stored when you eat carbs. You can increase your total carbohydrate intake within 48 hours before the race to make sure these stores are fully stocked(1).
To do this, increase your carbohydrate portions, including foods such as rice, potatoes, pasta and cereals, and add foods such as cereals, fruits or carbohydrate drinks such as SiS GO Electrolyte. Aim for 8-10 g of carbohydrates per kilogram of body mass per day.
Below is a sample diet plan for a typical 70kg cyclist providing a great 3200-3500 kcal with an average of 500-600g of carbohydrates:
1 glass of milk with 3 glasses of oatmeal + 1 banana + 250 ml of juice + 2 eggs
SiS GO Electrolyte carbohydrate powder with raisin cake + 500ml water
2x Whole wheat bread sandwich or multigrain pasta + low-fat yogurt
Drink consisting of a mixture of banana, yogurt, honey, cereal and 1 scoop of SiS Advanced Whey Isolate Protein Powder
Grain pasta with tomato sauce, 2 slices of bread, a portion of meat and salad
A few kinds of seasonal fruits + peanut butter + 500ml SiS GO Energy Powder carbohydrate powder
Tips Outside the Nutrition Program
Breakfast: Breakfast is important for cyclists. Have breakfast 3 hours before the race. Since glycogen stores in the liver decrease overnight, we need to supplement this with carbohydrates in the morning. Do not leave your breakfast too late, it can cause stomach cramps on the bike.
Hydration: Hydration is one of the most important factors of the race. Aim to consume 500ml-1000ml of fluid total during the race period, ideally 500ml for breakfast and 500ml for exercise. Don’t just drink water, SiS GO Electrolyte increases the water retention in the body thanks to its electrolyte content, that is, you go to the toilet less during the race (2).
Energy: Carbohydrate gel consumption is important for long trails with proper hydration and fluid intake. For example, 3 x SiS GO Isotonic Energy Gel or 1 x SiS GO Electrolyte and 1 x SiS GO Isotonic Energy Gel
If the race is shorter than 90 minutes, you can reduce the number of gels. As additional information, consuming caffeinated gels (eg SiS Go Caffeine Gel) towards the end of the race will increase your efficiency.
Importance of Protein at Night: Sleep is very important for the recovery and recovery of the body. It is necessary to have a source of protein (i.e. amino acids) in the body to help heal the muscles worn out during sleep. A night of protein before bed can help provide you with this source of amino acids. Also mixing with milk can provide extra carbohydrates for the recovery of glycogen stores. Example night protein: SiS Overnight Protein
- Jeukendrup, A. (2014). A step towards personalized sports nutrition: carbohydrate intake during exercise. Sports Medicine, 44(1), 25-33.
- Thomas, D. T., Erdman, K. A., & Burke, L. M. (2016). Position of the academy of nutrition and dietetics, dietitians of canada, and the american college of sports medicine: Nutrition and athletic performance. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 116(3), 501-528.