Improve Your Cycling with Your Diet

If you’ve just taken up cycling, you might be celebrating the fact that you can now increase your calorie intake. However, don’t just decide to overindulge on your favourite treats as you might end up overdoing it.

Menu –

How many calories are burnt during cycle training?

A simple way of calculating additional calories is to multiply your cycle distance (in miles) by between 40 and 50 calories. So, if you have completed a ride that is 30 miles long, you can consume an extra 1200 to 1500 calories. If you are lighter or slower than average, go for the lower figure and if you’re heavier or faster, aim for the top figure.

You can work calories out more accurately by using a cycling computer or a GPS watch with a heart rate monitor.

When you ride, you will notice that your appetite increases because your body releases hormones in order to try and maintain its fat stores. Thus, if you want to lose weight, you will need to maintain a calorie deficit – 250 calories a day is enough and won’t mean you will lose cycling strength.

How to use carbohydrates to fuel your body

Carbohydrates are so important for cyclists as they are the body’s main energy source. Carbohydrates are stored in the muscles. Any extra carbohydrates consumed are stored as fat.

If you consume large amounts of carbohydrates, you might end up having being lethargic so make sure you eat a portion as big as your fist. These carbs also should be low-glycemic carbs like fruit, vegetables and whole grains. If you indulge in too many sugary carbohydrates, you will notice that this has a negative impact on your health and energy levels.

Protein – do you get enough?

Many people think of protein as muscle food and cyclists need to make sure they get adequate amounts of protein in their diet. Protein is responsible for maintaining tissue and also plays an important part in maintaining the immune system.

What’s great about protein is that it is much more filling than carbohydrates and fat, calorie for calorie.

Protein doesn’t just mean eating meat, pulses, beans and low-fat dairy all count.


Fat gets bad press but the truth is that good fats are healthy in the right quantities. Good fats include monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats (Omega 9, 6 & 3). Saturated fats that are found in processed food and meat aren’t good fats. You can get healthy fats from seeds, nuts, oils and fish.

Good fats have the additional benefit of reducing inflammation. They’re great for people with allergies and asthma and help to stimulate your metabolism.

Vitamins and minerals for cyclists

Minerals like iron, zinc and calcium are important and are needed daily. Vitamins are also essential to health. When training regularly, it is a good idea to take a multivitamin alongside a healthy diet to ensure you’re in tip-top condition.

Hydration for performance

If you are well hydrated, you will cycle better. In a typical day, the average person should drink between one and a half and two litres of water a day. When cycle training, this needs to be more so that you are replacing fluid lost through sweat.

Being dehydrated affects performance quite significantly so making sure you drink enough is an easy way to make a difference to your cycling.

Fuelling your cycle training

If you’re healthy and eating well in general, you won’t need extra fuel for rides shorter than an hour and a half and at an easy pace. Your body’s carbohydrate stores will provide fuel for you.

If your ride is going to be longer or more intense, you should top up your carbohydrate stores so that your performance isn’t affected. The optimum amount of fuel is 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate for each hour that you ride. You can choose gels, bars or a drink.

Eating after cycle training

When you finish your ride, you have about 20 minutes for optimal refuelling. This means that nutrients are transported to muscle stores efficiently. During this time, have a drink or meal that is rich in carbohydrates.

Is caffeine good or bad?

Some cyclists try to avoid caffeine while others rely on it to boost their performance. If you want to use caffeine to boost your performance, then 1-3 mg per kg of weight can help enhance your performance. Anything in excess of this won’t help. If you’re in a hot place, caffeine won’t help.

Timing of your pre-training nutrition

It is hard to get your pre-ride nutrition right. It’s not good to ride on an empty stomach nor is it ideal to ride on a heavy stomach. Try eating smaller meals with snacks in between and you will never be too full or too hungry for a ride.