Create your own cycling-specific nutrition plan
Nutrition is an important part of your training. Food keeps you fuelled and allows you to complete even your most demanding workouts. And food makes sure your body recovers well from your efforts and inevitable damage is repaired. Correct food planning makes sure you're ready for your next workout as well as the demands of everyday life.
Perfect nutrition is difficult to achieve even when you have nothing to worry about than training, eating, and recovering. If that's you, congratulations. If not, you have a lot of responsibilities and things to do that have very little to do with sports. But don't despair, here are nine rules that will help you significantly improve your nutrition game and are actually not that hard to follow.
Nine tips to get you started with your nutrition planning
Here are some general guidelines for creating your nutrition plan on a daily basis. Follow these nine rules to get the most out of your nutrition, and your training:
- Plan your day in advance. In order to get the rest of these tips right, it's important to know when you're going to train, for how long, and with which intensity. Get a piece of paper, and scribble down what workouts you have planned for the week. Then, write down what you're going to eat on each day, for each meal.
- Make sure your input matches your output. If you underfeed, your performance will suffer. If you overfeed, your weight might go up in the long run. Calculate your daily energy need1 and check your workout data to see how much energy you've burned through training.2
- Take care about macro nutrients. 55% of calories should come from carbohydrates, 15% from protein, and 30% from (healthy) fat. Note that one gram of fat has roughly twice as much calories as one gram of carbs or protein3. You're an endurance athlete. Your body needs fuel in form of carbs. Don't believe any low-carb hype.
- Avoid processed or pre-made food as much as possible. Try cooking yourself, and consider preparing something for office lunch instead of grabbing a mystery-meat-sandwich at lunch time.
- Consider the timing of your food intake. Avoid "backloading" your day and start eating early and often. Accordingly, dinner should be the smallest of your three main meals. Start every workout well hydrated and well fed.
- Don't eat fiber-rich food in the two hours leading up to a ride and consider not eating anything solid at all in the last hour before the ride. The goal is to have an empty stomach when starting your training to avoid discomfort, and fiber-rich food significantly raises the gastric emptying time.
- For rides lasting longer than 1 hour, aim to consume 60g of carbs (240 kcal) per hour. This is done best with a sports drink. Don't bother with protein and other stuff. For longer rides, try to get to 90g of carbs/hour. This will not only keep you fuelled, but also help you with hydration.
- Recovery starts as soon as your ride stops. Eat immediately after a ride to start the refuelling process of your body. Consider drinking a recovery drink in the first 20 minutes after your ride. Chocolate milk is a good recovery drink (if you don't experience severe bloating). Otherwise, mix 1 part protein powder with 4 parts maltodextrin and a pinch of salt for the perfect recovery shake. The golden rule: First food, then shower.
- Keep hydrated throughout the day. Your performance drops significantly when you're dehydrated. As does your mood.
The most important thing is to be aware of what you're eating, and how you're eating it. These rules set the groundwork to help you think about your nutrition and what works for you, and what doesn't.
It deliberately doesn't contain any recipes or "forbidden food" lists (btw - those don't exist). The truth is that you need to find out what types of food work for you and which don't for yourself. But if you stick to these nine simple rules, you should see some very real benefits really quickly.
And if you need help with all of the above, consider signing up to Nutrfy for free. Nutrfy takes the guesswork out of your nutritionplanning and provides you with daily nutrition plans that are synced to your training.
There are tons of calculators out there. Checkout this one or this one, or just Google for "Daily Energy Need Calculator". Note that each and everyone will show you slightly different numbers, but that's OK.↩
Most training software will give you an estimate on how much calories you've burned in a workout. If you're using a power meter, that output can be computed pretty accurately.↩
1 gram of fat releases 9 kcalories, while 1 gram of carbohydrates or protein release 4 kcalories each. If you want it really, really, really precise, it's actually 8.8 kcal/g of fat.↩