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Welcome to our insight into nutrition for cyclists

Whether you cycle to work, cycle for fun, fitness or both, or enjoy setting yourself a more adventurous challenge of a long ride or race, eating correctly will help you maximise your performance. Here are a few tips and templates to enable you to construct a daily eating plan and provide you with a nutritional strategy for fuelling your body which will hopefully mean you won’t be “hitting the wall” on your ride!

Energy needs while cycling

Cycling uses up a lot of energy from your body. The number of calories you burn depends on your speed, your weight and the length of the ride. Below you will find an approximation of how many calories you might use on a ride. The three levels are: Leisure (7-8 mph), Moderate (10-14 mph) and Hard (16-20 mph). For a leisurely ride you will burn roughly 250 calories for a 60kg person up to 400 calories for a 100kg person per hour. On a moderate ride this goes up to 400 calories for a 60kg person and up to 600 calories for a 100kg person per hour. If you’re taking on a hard ride you will burn around 600 calories for a 60kg person going up to 900 calories for a 100kg person per hour. This is why you need to keep topping up your carbohydrate levels to fuel your system and avoid burn out and avoid the risk of possible injury.

Cycling for over an hour

Taking on longer rides mean energy demands are greater so you will need to refuel often, usually every hour you’re riding. Carbohydrate staken in is stored is turned into glycogen in your muscles, which then fuels yourbody for the ride. If your glycogen stores are high your ride will feel easier and you won’t get tired so quickly. If you are taking on a shorter ride (around 60 minutes) you don’t need any extra carbohydrates as you should have sufficient glycogen in your muscles and so only need to take in water to keep your hydration level up. For longer rides it’s good to have a supply of carb snacks with you, try granola or energy bars, energy gels, banana’s, flapjacks or dried fruit. The first of these should be taken within the first 30 minutes of the ride as it will take a further 30 minutes for the carbohydrate to reach your active muscles. Aim to consume 30 to 60g of carbohydrate per hour. Try to eat little and often to save your digestive system working too hard during the ride.

After the ride

Begin your recovery after a long and tiring day in the saddle almost immediately if possible, there is a 2 hour window when glycogen is restocked one and a half times quicker than the normal rate so the sooner you restock the carbohydrate in your system the quicker you’ll recover. Fluids will also need to be replaced so try to have 500ml within 30 minutes of finishing and then drink small regular amounts for a couple of hours. A pint of milk is always a good thing to drink after a long ride, this will give you the exact amount of protein necessary to help your body with muscle recovery. We’ll add more nutitional information in the coming weeks including, how to calculate your daily calorific needs and tips on preparing for a challenge.
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