ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO CYCLING NUTRITION
14 key numbers that will help you ■ Ride faster ■ Recover quicker ■ Lose weight Could your phone replace your cycle computer?
How many times have you set out on the bike and found yourself wondering how many calories your ride is going to burn? The thought is usually accompanied by speculations about whether you’ve eaten enough… or too much… and whether you’re earning the right to an extra piece of cake at the halfway cafe stop.
Once you get home and begin your recovery routine, thoughts tend to drift towards protein: how much is your body actually able to synthesise, and do you really need a recovery shake as well as a decent meal?
What follows is a set of handy numbers and guidelines that every cyclist needs to know in order to maximise their performance on the bike. Of course, nutrition is a complex field, and the right eating plan needs to be individually tailored to match your specific goals and training load. Nonetheless, the following figures will act as useful rules of thumb. Eat well and ride strong!
Calorie burn while riding: 900kcal per hour
Nine hundred per hour is a useful guideline figure for the rate of calorie burn for an averagely proportioned male cyclist (75kg) riding at a moderate training pace of around 18mph. Of course, there are several key variables such as wind and road resistance to bear in mind.
Measuring effort via heart rate or power output is more useful for training purposes — but here are some guideline figures:
Daily carb intake: 5-7g per kg bodyweight
According to Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes (3rd edition),
on any given day when you’re planning a moderate ride — under one hour at moderate intensity or several hours at low intensity — you should consume 5-7 grams of carbs per kilo of bodyweight.
Nutritionists prefer to tailor carb intake for the individual. “I take into account the individual, the goal, the training load, the intensities, the training background and current bodyfat level,” says Will Girling, head nutritionist for the One Pro Cycling team. “I look at the training programme over the week, the specific goal — weight maintenance, gain or loss — and then I allocate the calories for the week into days: when they need them more and when less.
“This allows for a more appropriate carbohydrate and calorie periodisation, because you don’t need the same amount of calories on a rest day as you do on a day when you ride for four or five hours.”
If the intensity of the exercise increases, so does the need for energy — the main source being carbohydrates: six to 10 grams per kilo bodyweight per day for heavy training (one to three hours at moderate to high intensity). If riding at a moderate to high pace for more than three hours, you’ll need to increase that intake to eight to 12g per kg bodyweight.
The human body either uses glucose, the simple sugar building blocks of carbohydrate, or glycogen, the stored form of glucose, to produce energy and ATP aerobically. At close to your aerobic limit, you are running almost entirely on carbs. What happens once you go anaerobic?
“You can break down carbohydrates anaerobically [without oxygen], which forms lactate,” says Asker Jeukendrup, a sport scientist who has worked as a consultant for several pro cycling teams including Lotto-soudal. Lactate itself is an energy source, he explains. “If you form lactate
KCAL/HR Burnt while riding CARBS Daily intake per kg bodyweight CARBS per hour while riding