The Best Foods to Eat While Endurance Cycling
If you ride for longer than an hour, you should focus on your nutrition and hydration. What you eat and the way you hydrate has a significant impact on how you perform.
Endurance cycling and preparing for different races is quite hard on your body, so you want to make sure you're taking proper care of it. You use a lot of water, calories, and fat while cycling and you have to replenish them over time
Everything that you eat reflects your performance, so if you had pizza last night, you'd probably feel it in the morning when you get on your bike.
Still, you don't have to be a nutritionist to figure this out. What’s important is that you stick to healthy foods and a diverse range of ingredients.
Continue reading to learn why diet is crucial for your performance and also when is the best time to eat. We also have some tips, tricks, and facts about calories, carbs, protein, fat and everything else you should know.
Why is your cycling diet important
Endurance cycling is super intense and tends to drain your body of all the energy and nutrients. All of the body is needed for this kind of training, so it’s only reasonable that a lot of it has to be recovered right after the ride.
Your diet is a crucial step in sustaining performance and even improving it. For example, if you’re feeling exhausted and unable to actually stay on a bike long enough, you probably just need more carbohydrates and other nutrients.
Plus, it can be dangerous to put your body through such an intense workout without giving it any fuel. Once all of your carbohydrate stores run out, you’ll probably feel very hungry, and tired.
If you ride for longer than an hour, you have to be prepared by having some intra workout carbs. It’s a good idea to have anything between 30 to 60g of carbohydrates every hour. You can find that in a handful of jellied sweets, a large banana, a cereal bar, a 500ml bottle of sports drink or a carbohydrate-based energy bar.
When should you eat?
If you eat before your ride and you don’t stay on the bike for longer than an hour, you don’t have to eat on the move. Anything longer than that requires refueling during cycling.
As we mentioned, endurance cycling is intense so you want to make sure your body can maintain energy throughout the training.
These little snacks during rides are an ideal way to fuel the brain and make sure your entire body can continue working as hard.
The most favorite part of anyone who’s ever started cycling was the increased calorie intake. Let’s say you could eat a bit more of your favorite treats, but be careful. Many people often go overboard with calories and intake far more than they need.
You can eat more, but make sure that’s a snack or meal in between your already existing ones. Don’t maximize your portions and try to always make healthy choices.
Multiple the distance you traveled in miles by 40-50 calories. This is an excellent manual way to tell the additional calories intake you should consider. If the manual isn’t your favorite way, you could opt for a cycling computer. These devices estimate how many calories you’ve burnt and how much you need.
You should feel hunger sometime after your ride. If you want to lose weight, you don’t have to add all the calories you wasted but try not to cut more than 250 calories a day.
Still, it’s not recommended you cut any calories when you’re long and high-intensity training or close to a race.
The interesting thing is that cyclists often don’t care about protein since it’s considered muscle food. Still, protein is crucial for your recovery, immune function, and overall health. It’s the main act that helps with tissue maintenance.
Muscle damage happens quite often in endurance cycling, so an adequate level of protein is crucial in order to recover what you’ve lost. Plus, it’s much more filling than as many fats or carbohydrates.
The most popular source of protein is red and usually processed meat, but we advise you to avoid that. Instead, focus on beans and pulses, fish, low-fat dairy and lean meats.
Also, avoid having too much protein at once as that can be hard to digest. Instead, add a little in each meal and snack.
Carbs are your primary source of energy and your best friend for endurance cycling. The great thing is that carbohydrates are stored in the muscles and any access above what you need is stored as fat.
It’s hard to tell how much carbs you need per week since it depends on how many miles you ride. A general guideline is to intake 5 to 9 grams of carbs daily for each kilogram you weigh.
If it’s tricky for you to count the grams of carbohydrates, try eating a fist-size portion of slow-burn carbs otherwise known as a low-glycaemic carbohydrate with every meal. Include ingredients such as oats, fruits, whole grains, and vegetables.
Such a portion is enough to supply energy but small enough for you to digest before you get on your bike.
However, keep in mind that not all carbs are the same. Too many sugary carbs will most definitely have a negative effect on your energy level, health, and recovery. For this reason, opt for slow-release carbs and nutrition-packed rather than refined sugar.
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You probably know about the good fats and bad fats. Omega 3, 6 and 9 are good fats, while saturated fats in processed food and meat should be avoided. You can benefit a lot from Omega 3 and 6 since those are vital for your overall health. Find them in seeds, nuts, and fish as well as borage, starflower, and flaxseed oils.
These are highly beneficial for people with asthma and allergies. They speed the metabolism and help you lose weight while also reducing inflammation in the body.
Also, good fats help prevent heath disease since they reduce bad cholesterol. Go for about 20g of good fats per day for best results.
Of course, you can’t go on with endurance cycling without enough vitamins and minerals. The two main types of vitamins you may have heard of are water-soluble and fat-soluble.
Fat-soluble vitamins are K, A, D, E and are stored in the body, while water-soluble ones aren’t saved anywhere. For this reason, you have to include them in your daily diet. Minerals like iron, calcium, and zinc are also something you need on the daily.
Of course, these are everywhere and quite easy to find. It’s recommended you have five pieces of veggies and fruit every day so you can get those vitamins and minerals as well as some fiber. The best way to do this is going with all the colors of the rainbow. Darker fruits and veggies are especially good for you.
You could use a good multivitamin but make sure you’re not overdosing. It’s best if you use them for short-term treatment or recovery from a cold or something similar.
What to eat after riding
You probably already know that the first 20 minutes after your ride are crucial. It’s the optimal refueling period when your body absorbs all nutrients more efficiently. Take a meal or a drink that’s rich in carbohydrates to ensure your body stores this energy for the next ride.
In most cases, take 1g of carbohydrate for every pound you weigh to get the best portion for this meal. Combine it with some protein, and you’ll notice your muscle recovery improved.
Simple stuff like soy or whey protein-rich smoothie, beans, and jacket potato, or any specialized recovery recipe can help depending on what you like the best.