Every form of physical exercise requires the right fuel. You need food and hydration to maintain the energy levels needed for the exercise that you need to do, cycling included. However, when it comes to fuelling the body for cycling, getting the right nutrition is very important. If you are going to perform at your peak and have successful rides, knowing what to eat and drink before, during, and after your rides is critical.
Your food and drinks choices also play a big role in your recovery. You can agree that there is a whole load of information on cycling nutrition out there that can be confusing and intimidating to any cyclist. We set the record straight; if you are thinking of your diet as a cyclist, here is what your nutrition intake should include.
Consuming carbs ensures that your blood glucose levels are maintained to help you keep performing at your best, gives an energy boost to the cycling muscles to help you ride harder and for longer as well as helps with your recovery. However, it is important to know what the best carbs to consume and at which time for maximum results. Carbohydrates are classified by their effect on the blood glucose level as they are digested into the body (the glycemic index, GI) If the GI is high, the quicker it will elevate the blood glucose levels. Before the ride, you want to consume low to moderate GI carbs about 2 to 3 hours before your cycling. This way, digestion will happen and glucose will be fed into the bloodstream by the time you are getting on your bike. Some great examples include sweet potato, porridge, whole grains, and rye toast bread. However, during the ride when you want an instant boost of energy, or after the ride for quicker recovery, carbs with a high GI are ideal. Here you can opt for a banana, raisins, or energy drinks during the ride, rice crispies, or corn flakes with milk for fast recovery after.
Vitamins & minerals
Vitamins and minerals are critical for enhancing energy production and aiding muscle healing after a race or ride. Iron is especially important in building red blood cells. These cells help in carrying oxygen through the bloodstream to the muscles. Iron is lost from the body through sweat, which is why it is important to replace it with iron-rich foods such as leafy greens, seafood, poultry, and citrus among others. It is also good to supplement your iron intake with vitamin gummies such as iron gummies to ensure that iron levels in the body remain at a good level. You also need magnesium, which is important in ensuring bone health and healthy cardiac rhythm. If you experience muscle cramps, magnesium is great at preventing or even stopping them. You can get daily intake from whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Other minerals include zinc for the faster repair of muscles that you can get from foods such as oysters, red meat, and seeds.
Proper hydration is critical for the body to function efficiently. Water plays a big role in transporting nutrients and oxygen to your working muscles. This ensures that your working muscles have the much-needed cycling energy and that your brain is functioning optimally. Water is also important for lubricating your joints to reduce the risk of injury and enhance movement. Moreover, water can help you lose weight easily to maintain a good weight for cycling. Additionally, staying hydrated ensures that your body is controlling heat efficiently to reduce the risk of heat illnesses such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and heat cramps.
For these reasons, it is important that you take enough water throughout the day including during the rides. However, you need to ensure that you are taking good quality water for your health. Installing a water filter at home is a good way to ensure that you have a constant supply of clean and high-quality drinking water.
Protein is known for strengthening the immune system. While it’s considered muscle food and not really necessary for cyclists, overall health is important for your cycling journey. Moreover, being a muscle food makes it important for endurance and muscle repair, and recovery. Ensure that you are including small portions of protein with each meal to meet your protein body requirements. Some great sources of proteins include lean meats, low-fat dairy, beans, pulses, cereals, seeds, and nuts.
Juicing fruits and vegetables is a good way to get the required nutrients to the body while eliminating the bulky volume that insoluble fiber causes. One of the healthy juices options is beetroot juice which supplies the body with potassium, iron, magnesium, folic acid, and vitamins A, C, and B6. It is also good for enhancing blood flow and increasing muscle efficiency and endurance. Another example is carrot celery and ginger juice which helps flush out toxins. It also has an anti-inflammatory effect, which makes it a good recovery drink.
If you are to remain healthy and have the required energy to power through your rides, whether short or intense, meeting your nutrition needs is important. Ensure that you are getting a mix of everything from carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and healthy fats. In addition, don’t forget to hydrate with water and healthy juices. However, when it comes to cyclist nutrition, timing is everything. Have your pre-ride meal at least 90 minutes before. If you need to refuel during the ride, choose snacks with high GI for faster digestion.