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Pro Cyclists Diet: What Should an Ideal Diet Plan consist of?

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When it comes to cycling performance, nutrition plays a big role. The type and amount of food that you consume would affect how much energy you have while riding. It would also have an impact on how you recover after the race. The right kind of very important for a cyclist and a pro cyclists diet must consist of the right amount of protein and carbohydrates. The food that you consume would depend on the race that you are participating in, your body weight and a few other factors.

For instance, for the Tour de France, the riders are supposed to cover 3,519 km in about 23 days. This is one of the toughest rides and to prepare for it, the riders need to ensure that they are fuelling their body appropriately. The race might be for a shorter or longer duration, your aim as a rider is to ensure that your food consumption is right. Making small changes to your diet makes all the difference.

So, what is a rider supposed to eat? How many calories per day are required by the body? Look at some of the essential factors related to the pro cyclists diet that you need to consider.

Nutritional Challenges Faced By Riders

The diet for cyclists in training must include appropriate amounts of nutritional foods. However, the riders do face a lot of nutritional challenges when it comes to consuming a fixed amount of calories per day.

Under-Fuelling

At times, it can be especially difficult for the riders to understand how many calories per day are required. More than often, the riders face suppression of appetite or even meal fatigue because of consuming the same carbohydrate-rich foods every day for weeks. This, therefore, needs to be managed. If not, gastrointestinal problems might occur. Therefore, be careful when making a diet chart. Make sure that it is tailored to your personal needs and preference.

Lack of Time

When you are a rider, each and every minute is crucial. Each and every rider needs to consume an appropriate amount of food so as to fuel their bodies when they are riding. This is especially true for time-pressed riders. Another challenge that the riders face is how many calories per day are to be consumed without upsetting the stomach. At times, dinner gets pushed back because the race ended way too late and the rider headed directly to sleep because the body needs sleep to recover from the exhaustion.

Your aim as a rider must be to manage your energy levels making sure that your sleep isn’t hampered in any way. The cycling diet for beginners must consist of foods rich in carbohydrates and protein.

Over-Fuelling

Another challenge that riders face is over-fuelling. You need to enhance your performance and ensure recovery from each stage while also making sure that you aren’t over-fuelling. The pro-cyclists diet should be adequate and never too much. If riders continue to over-fuel at multiple stages, it could lead to weight gain which isn’t good especially if you are riding in important events like Tour de France. Even a kilogram of weight gain during the race could be an important factor when it comes to winning or losing.

Pro Cyclists Diet:  What To Eat Before, During and After the Rides

training-nutrition-diet for cyclists in training
Consuming the right kind of food at the right time is the key.

The nutritional requirement varies in different people but these are a few things that you can consider including in your diet.

Before the Ride (Breakfast):

  • Whole grain toast with scrambled eggs and a few grilled tomatoes
  • Porridge consisting of milk or soya (if you are vegan) with bananas, fresh berries, and mixed seeds
  • A healthy smoothie consisting of banana, oats, peanut butter and milk

During the Ride:

You are going to need some extra carbs if you are riding for over an hour. Gels, sports drinks, and energy bars work great but natural foods are definitely a better option

  • 500 ml of energy drink with 6 dates
  • 500 ml of energy drink, one banana, and one cereal bar
  • Six jelly babies (as they have sugar) and 2 fig rolls

Three Recovery Meals you can have:

  • Steamed rice, chicken breast, and veggies
  • Tuna with baked potatoes and a healthy salad
  • A healthy smoothie consisting of banana, yogurt, peanut butter, fresh berries and chia seeds
  • Fluids to keep yourself hydrated

You can make changes to these according to your nutritional needs and body weight.

Pro Cyclists Diet: Tips to Consider and Follow

Tip 1: You Need To Consume a Lot of Food

In order to ensure that you can ride for really long hours, you need to consume a lot of food, as much as about 300 or more calories in an hour. The pro cyclists during long races consume gels and sports bar regularly that are provided by the team sponsors. For instance, in the Tour de France, the cyclists are supposed to be racing for about 21 days in a row and thus the pro cyclists diet needs to be full of calories.

Other than energy bars and gels, they also consume other calorie-rich foods to provide their body some variety. During a stage, the cyclists would generally eat rice cakes, boiled potatoes, panini (small sandwiches) along with some fruits. Consuming a wide variety of foods having a lot of calories per day is the key to getting through weeks of racing.

daily-nutrition-cyclist meal plan
Consume lot of healthy food.

Tip 2: Keep Yourself Hydrated

To keep yourself going, you need water. Hydration is essential in the cyclist meal plan and depending on the conditions, pro-racers need to drink about 1-3 16 fluid-ounce (0.5l) bottles in every hour. Most people often wonder as to what pro cyclists drink during a race. Depending on what you prefer more and what your stomach is okay with, you could sip sports drink, water or Coke.

Pro-tip: The amount of water that your body requires varies from person to person. Factors like weather conditions, body weight or intensity of exercise influence fluid losses. So, depending on the sweat rate of an individual, the fluid consumption would be measured.

Another great and more practical way for the athletes to monitor the changes in hydration is with the help of body mass which is 1kg of sweat loss is equal to 1kg of body weight. This is measured with corrections made for food and fluid intake along with urine losses. You could measure this and make a plan for yourself during your training sessions in various conditions. The cycling diet for beginners must have adequate water.

Tip 3: Consume plenty of Calories primarily Carbohydrates

As discussed above, the pro-cyclists diet consists of a lot of food. But, you might be wondering as to what do cyclists eat during a race specifically. Well, they consume a lot of calories and primarily carbohydrate. When you are riding, you are going to be burning a combination of glycogen (from carbohydrate) and fat for the fuel. But, as the glycogen is only available in a limited quantity, you should focus on consuming carbohydrates during the ride.

cycling diet for beginners
Consume foods high in Carbohydrates (Source)

The amount of calories you eat per hour are undoubtedly more important as compared to choosing foods that have a high GI (Glycemic Index). As a cyclist, you should be consuming 300 calories per hour. However, if you begin to feel overly exhausted, opt for something with a higher GI.

Tip 4: Consume Unprocessed Foods

Foods that have high GI like white rice are processed highly and contain fewer micronutrients as compared to the unrefined foods. What you can do is consume brown rice instead of white rice as it is less refined. Whole grain products and fresh fruits would be a much healthier option when you plan on riding for long hours.

Tip 5: Recovery Starts Immediately

Your recovery begins as soon as your race ends. Consume a lot of fluids to make sure that you are properly hydrated. Most riders begin with 1.5l of diluted hydration drink. They follow this up with 1.5l of sugar drink and 360 calories of Vitamin C.

what do pro cyclists drink during a race
Drink plenty of water (Source)

The riders are required to drink a minimum of 1.5 liters regardless of their weight loss. For food, consume some steamed rice along with some scrambled eggs or chicken for some protein. You could also have some fresh fruits. Just make sure that you are having enough carbohydrates to replenish your glycogen stores.

Is Consuming Food At The Right Time Important?

Consuming food at the right time is in fact as important as what you are eating. Eating the right kind of food in the appropriate amount but at the wrong time doesn’t make any sense.

Also, it won’t do you any good. When thinking about how many calories a day, you also need to consider the timing. For instance, your recovery nutrition must begin right after riding. The type of foods that you need for pro cyclists diet would be:

  • Foods rich in protein for repairing damaged muscle tissue
  • Foods rich in carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores
  • Electrolytes and fluids (especially sodium) for effective rehydration

Summing Up

Along with all of the above, sleep also plays a vital role during the recovery stage and nutrition can have an influence on it. It is also important to understand that different people have different nutritional requirements. How many calories a day or the calorie intake for men would be different from calories intake for women. Similarly, each and every man would have different needs according to the factors discussed above. The one-size-fits-all logic doesn’t work in this case. Therefore, consult an expert who would let you know what your body actually needs.

Do you have any other pro cyclists diet plans or training or fitness tips that you would like to share with us? We would love to hear from you in the comment section below!

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