Cycling Nutrition: Sports Nutrition Overview
To get the most of your bike ride means that you’re giving your body everything it needs to perform optimally. Knowing when and what to eat and drink can help your ride your best. Broadly, there are three different phases to proper nutrition, and they are Fueling, Hydrating and Recovery.
Fueling means giving your body the tools it needs, carbohydrates, to have the energy to keep going through a long ride. Ideally, you want to start fueling with 200-400g of carbohydrates a few hours before setting off, and then topping off the tank with additional 150-200 calories every hour or so. This will ensure that your body has a ready supply of energy to keep going.
Hydrating involves not only consuming plenty of water, but balancing it with the proper electrolytes to ensure peak performance. Hydrating is arguably the most important aspect of nutrition, since dehydration or electrolyte imbalances can lead to severe declines in ride quality and how you feel. A rough guideline is to alternate drinking about 20 oz. of water and 20 oz sports drink every other hour.
Recovery is the phase where you replenish the vital energy stores your body has expended during your ride. Muscle glycogen, blood glucose and muscle proteins will all need to be replaced, so eating right after your ride is as important as the fueling you do during the ride. Eating plenty of carbohydrates and protein in the first 30-60 minutes after a ride is the key to helping your body repair itself and prepare for the next ride.
Important Note: This guide provides a basic overview of cycling related hydration and nutrition, but should not be considered exhaustive. If cycling is a major part of your lifestyle, or if you are dealing with a particular health issue, we highly recommend that you seek out a qualified sports nutritionist. (Our lawyers made us say that, but it's actually good advice)