This may sound like a stupid question. Cyclists are like any other people and what their diet consists of varies from one person to the other just as it does in the general population. The question what do cyclists eat should be What should cyclists eat. If you compare the human body to a precision motor vehicle, the performance is at its best when the fuel used is the best quality.
Depending on your level of cycling what you feed yourself will reflect in the performance of your body. If your nutrition is high quality you will get better physical output from your body.
Do you know what your eating.
Unfortunately the majority of people basically have no idea about nutrition. They don’t know good fats from bad fats or know how much food they should be consuming to supply the calories needed to function without over consuming. You can often get away with bad eating habits when you are young. As youth passes your metabolism slows down, those extra calories are more likely to end up as fat. Remember excess weight is is a health risk as well as a handicap when it comes to cycling. Having a favorable power to weight ratio improves your cycling performance, the more weight you carry around the harder it is to cycle, especially up those hills.
What is the best food for cyclists and athletes
You can probably read 100 variations of how cyclists should eat and for all their differences if you look closely they follow the same principles.
Consume unprocessed food. Your diet should be predominantly fruit and vegetables. Protein, fats and carbohydrates should be chosen to give you the best fuel for your body. Be careful not to over consume these. Energy dense foods such as processed foods, bars, fast food and packaged food should be avoided..
Many people avoid fats as they consider they are bad for your health, but the truth is your body needs fats to function correctly. Current thinking is our diet should be higher in fat than has been the norm previously. Good quality fats are essential. Choose avocado,butter,olive oil and coconut oil. Check labels, avoid any Trans fats as these are bad for your health and lead to weight gain..
Whats the best ratio of food types
To make it simple, look to filling over half your plate with vegetables and fruit and some whole grains, one quarter from fats ( olive oil, butter, coconut oil, avocado) and about 20% from protein (meat, fish, eggs, nuts, soy or chicken).
Eating a consistent diet with the ratio above helps promote the body to burn fat for energy rather than carbohydrates. This helps create a leaner body that metabolizes fuel more efficiently.
When training or before a race increase the amount of carbohydrates and decrease the fat/protein ratio.
Carbohydrates are processed by the body to produce sugar which is fuel for the cells to function. Any excess not required immediately is stored in the liver as glycogen and or deposited as fat around the body. Only about 90 minutes worth of glycogen based energy can be stored in the liver.
When many people think of carbohydrates they think bread, pasta and rice but fruit and vegetable are a good source of carbohydrate. Processed foods such as chips, cakes deliver high amounts of energy quickly so its easy to overeat these. Your sugar levels rise quickly, your brain is satisfied but wants more, this is how food addiction occurs. Unfortunately this excess sugar gets stored as fat and over time insulin resistance occurs. This is a condition where the person eats excessively to quell a hunger which is only appeased by eating more carbohydrate.The body hormones become dysfunctional, stored fat is not broken down for energy, high circulating levels of sugar are not removed by insulin efficiently and the body continues to demand more carbohydrate.
Bread, rice and pasta release sugar quickly into the bloodstream. You should limit these as sources of carbohydrate and instead consume more vegetables and fruits as these contain fiber which slows the digestion process and ensures a slower rise in blood sugar. Be careful not to eat too may sweet fruits as these are rich in fructose a type of sugar.
By consuming too many starchy carbohydrates you are teaching your body to burn sugar as fuel rather than fat. By deceasing the amount of starchy food you eat your body will become efficient at burning fat which will enable you to ride for longer and burn up those fat stores.
Protein is broken down during digestion to amino acids which are the building blocks of life.These are required to repair muscle and tissue. This is important especially after a hard ride.Sufficient protein will enable your body to repair any damage so limit muscle aches and pain.
Protein is also used as an alternate fuel source by the body especially if glycogen levels are low. The amino acids in protein are found to increase endurance limit mood and brain function during endurance events.
Protein helps curb your appetite and increase your metabolism helping you to become a leaner athlete. Remember nuts and seeds are a rich source of protein and can be used as a subsitute for animal proteins.
Just remember fats are not bad for you. Bad fats are bad for you. Avoid trans fats ( hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable fats) like the plague. Your body doesn’t know how to process these and they end up as fat stored in your body. Unfortunately trans fats have been a common ingredient in most processed foods.
Stick with olive oil, pure butter,avocado, fish oil, flax seed or nut oils.
What do cyclists eat.? Cyclists like anyone else should eat a diet of predominantly unprocessed foods. Plenty of fruits and vegetables, a smaller amount of good fat and quality protein.
Avoid energy dense foods such as processed foods, fast foods, and sweets as these contribute to fat gain in the body and upset efficient metabolism.
By ensuring you fuel your body correctly you will be rewarded with a better performance and leaner body.
If you want to read more on nutrition for cyclists read our article.