Cycling nutrition guide: fuel your engine

Correct nutrition is critical for getting the most out of your time on the bike. Get properly fuelled up with these simple tips from James Spender of Cyclist magazine.

London Marathon nutrition, Marie Curie

Carb up in advance

A quality, balanced dinner the night before will help to top up your energy levels ahead of a big ride. Aim to eat a fistful of cooked, wholemeal carbohydrate such as pasta, with a lean protein source such as chicken breast and some nutrient-rich green veggies or a salad.

Keep it light

Ideally you want to fuel up a couple of hours before a ride with a meal containing a combination of slow release carbs and protein that’s not too fibrous, heavy or bloating – think scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast or porridge with fruit and honey. This should sit comfortably in your stomach and drip-feed you energy while you ride.

Stay hydrated

The wind whips so much water off you when you’re riding, it often doesn’t even feel like you’re sweating. But you definitely are - pedal on an exercise bike indoors at the same intensity and you’ll see exactly how much - so you should always stay hydrated, regardless of the conditions. Aim to consume 400-700ml of fluid per hour, depending on the temperature. To keep this simple and avoid bloating, drink a mouthful of water every 15-20 minutes.

Top up on carbs

If your session lasts longer than two hours, you should aim to ingest 80g of combined glucose and fructose during every subsequent hour past that point to help replenish your glycogen stores and keep you feeling fresh. Energy gels or drinks are a great option for doing this, as they’re convenient to consume and easy to digest on the bike. You can also stick a dissolvable electrolyte tablet in your water bottle to top up with hydrating salts.

Treat yourself

If you’re able to digest solid food while riding (or energy gels just don’t agree with you) a flapjack makes for a perfect mid-ride snack, as it’s packed with an ideal mix of slow and fast digesting-carbs from the oats and honey. Never has such an indulgent treat offered such legitimate performance-boosting benefits!

James Spender is a staff writer at Cyclist. For more information, contact him on Twitter @jamesspender  

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