Nutrition for Cycling and Training

Nutrition for Cycling and Training

There are two main forms of energy that muscles use during cycling; fats and carbohydrates. Even the leanest person will generally have enough stored fat for 100+ hours of cycling but the body only has a limited supply of carbohydrate in the muscles and liver, known as glycogen. In order to keep this small glycogen store topped up it is important to include some nutritious carbohydrate rich foods the day before a ride session.

Nutritious carbohydrate choices include:

Oats, Weet-bix, muesli, ‘whole grain’ bread and wraps, brown rice, quinoa, sweetpotato and potato, wholemeal pasta, fruit, yoghurt and milk.

What to eat just before cycling

If you are cycling for more than 1.5hrs then it is wise to have food or drink before that includes some carbohydrate. Everyone’s tolerance to eating is different in the hoursbefore they get on the bike so you may need to test a few foods out. Aim to eat or drink somewhere between 1 to 3hrs prior to riding.

Good choices include:

  •   An instant oat sachet with some honey
  •   Banana or toast, or a banana on it’s own
  •   A fruit smoothie with, or without milk
  •   An English muffin with some jam
  •   A couple of pieces of toast and avocado
  •   A muesli bar and a piece of fruit

What to eat during cycling

Energy (glycogen) stores will generally become depleted enough to start to experiencing fatigue if we ride for longer than 1.5hrs without top ups. Plan to take carbohydrate-rich foods and drinks with you if your ride is going to be longer than 1.5hrs. As a rule of thumb start taking some carbohydrate at the 1hr mark into a longer ride and aim to have something every half an hour.

Good choices include:

  •   Sports bar e.g. Clif, Megabake, Em’s Power Cookie, Skratch
  •   Sports gels e.g. Endura, Produrance, Powergel, Hammer, Gu, Clif, Shotz
  •   1⁄2 a white bread vegemite or jam sandwich
  •   Sports drink e.g. High5 EnergySource/Isotonic, Produrance, Infinite Go Far,Tailwind, Pure Sport, Skratch Labs
  •   Banana
  •   Jelly beans or jelly lollies
  •   Energy chews e.g. Shot Bloks, Gu Chews, Skratch Energy Chews

What to eat after cycling

To adapt to the physiological effects of training rides recovery is crucial. Recovery meals and snacks should contain carbohydrate (fuel), some protein (for muscle repair and development) and fluids and electrolytes to replace sweat losses.

Some nutrient rich-choices include:

  •   A smoothie including fruit, milk and/or yoghurt
  •   Bircher muesli with nuts and seeds
  •   Chicken, avocado and salad sandwich on wholegrain
  •   Burritos with beans or beef, cheese, avocado and salad
  •   A vegetable and bean soup with a whole grain roll
  •   Tuna pasta


You should aim to start your ride session sufficiently hydrated. You will need to have fluid available on all your rides. Water is a great choice for shorter rides that are less than 1.5hrs. For longer rides it is good idea to have both water and a sports drink, or electrolyte drink available to you on your bike. The amount you need to drink to keep you reasonably hydrated during a ride will change with the weather, how well trained you are, and the length and intensity of your ride. In cooler weather you are likely to need less fluid, and in warmer weather you will need more fluid.

Thanks to Kirsty Shaw