What to eat for optimum performance and recovery on a bike

Like many Sportive and Triathlete participants that I consult with you have most edurance-training likely tried different dietary methods and supplements to get the edge over your competitors’ performances. But which of these changes are actually working?

The first thing to remember is that nothing can replace hard work during training –the only way to get to the top of your game is with practice and technique. In addition to hard work, physical therapies, psychological and biochemical strategies can take you to the next level. Nutrition comes under the umbrella of biochemistry, and a little under psychological as you adapt to a diet that you may not be accustomed to.

Nutrition is then broken down into 5 components;

  • Dietary analysis
  • Nutritional status
  • Menu planning
  • Recipe ideas
  • Supplemental additions

Whether you are competing at the 30km level and dream of stepping it up to 60km or if you are focussing on decreasing your times at 150km then I strongly recommend you consider the best nutritional strategies available, just as you would insist on having the best equipment you can afford.

Before a race – planning

To prevent yourself becoming fatigued while cycling you should ensure you consume adequate carbohydrates. Carbohydrate loading could enhance performance by 2-3% and extend the duration of exercise by ~20%. This can be achieved by eating a carbohydrate rich meal 4-6 hours before getting on your bike. If cycling in the morning have this meal the night before and try to have a lighter snack such as fruit, a bowl of cereal or a cereal bar 1-2 hours before to exercise

During the training or race – on your bike

The advice here is fairly simple. Firstly you are on a bike so you cannot carry much with you, secondly you are training or racing so your Parasympathetic Nervous System that controls your digestion is being overridden by your Autonomic Nervous System so you wont be able to digest much.

The aim is to avoid cramping in your large leg muscles, small sprinting leg muscles, arms, hands, and shoulders and also to restock the body’s glycogen levels.

To avoid cramping it is vital to replace the fluids and electrolytes, or minerals, you will be using when cycling by drinking water and mineral containing drinks. If you only have water it will act as a diuretic, so you will urinate more and the urine will contain those much-needed minerals. An electrolyte drink that contains minerals is crucial.

To restock your body’s glycogen levels eat some fruit or an energy bar mid-exercise. Choose one that is easy to chew and digest and that tastes good! If your glycogen stores decrease you will feel light headed and dizzy, causing accidents t yourself or others.

After – refuelling

Recovery is a key component of any exercise regime. If you are unable to prepare or eat a protein and nutrient packed meal within 30 minutes of completion it is important to consider food replacement or supplements.

To prevent post exercise cramping, increase muscle recovery, and replace all those calories that you’ve burned you will need to refuel by drinking further fluids, mend your bodies muscle fibres with protein rich foods and supplements and ensure your body is ready for the next bout of exercise with a strong anti-oxidant.

I hope you found this useful as I am by no means a ‘Cyclist’ however I do enjoy helping others with their cycling fuelling.

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About the author

Emma Wight-Boycott MSc is a natural health advocate with a passion for simplifying the science. Emma works with postnatal mums, weekend runners and those with digestive issues to rediscover their health mojo!

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