A 3-Day Meal Plan for Cyclists

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athlete eating

Cycling is a sport that requires a big focus on nutrition. Due to the endurance nature of the sport—you spend hours training on the bike, how you fuel will make or break the effort. Of course, it isn't just about what you take to eat on the ride that matters.

Cyclists should start by working toward developing overall solid eating habits off the bike to provide the energy, vitamins and nutrients needed for a strong athletic and general health foundation. Having a well-balanced, nutrient-rich diet is crucial for meeting the energy demands of the sport. If you're not able to take in the nutrients you need to be healthy and energized, you can't expect to ride well.

While diet is a vital part of successful performance, there is no need to over-complicate it. Aim for a variety of whole foods in portions needed for your body and training goals while not being overly restrictive of energy or food groups. If you're having trouble defining eating habits that support your health and cycling, reach out to a sports dietitian for assistance. 

The best advice is to keep it simple, routine and generally repetitive. This basic eating structure should rely on whole, nutrient-dense foods, paying attention to digestion and hunger/satiety cues. The meal options can be swapped around to match training needs day to day, and ingredients can be substituted for nutritionally similar options for variety. Due to the specific training needs of cyclists—long rides, early pre-work sessions, two-a-day sessions, evening group rides and rest days—many athletes do better on a schedule of eating smaller amounts more frequently throughout the day. On top of your dietary foundation, remember to tailor needs to match each training session as much as possible and stay hydrated between meals.

Base Structure

  • Breakfast: oatmeal with eggs and coffee
  • Mid-morning snack: fruit and cottage cheese/yogurt
  • Lunch: whole grain bread sandwich with soup/grain bowl with vegetables and protein
  • Mid-afternoon snack: fruit and nuts
  • Evening meal: fish or other protein with vegetables
  • Pre-bedtime: small milk beverage or popcorn

Variation 1: Long Ride

  • Breakfast: oatmeal with fruit, eggs and coffee
  • Four-hour ride: take in 60 to 90 grams of carbohydrate with small bits of fat and protein throughout 
  • Post-rider recovery: granola bar and protein shake
  • Late lunch: whole grain bread veggie burger sandwich and fruit
  • Evening meal: fish with roasted broccoli and sweet potato
  • Pre bedtime: small milk beverage or popcorn

Variation 2: Evening Group Ride

  • Breakfast: toast with eggs and coffee
  • Mid-morning snack: cottage cheese or yogurt with fruit
  • Lunch: burrito bowl with rice, beans, fajita veg, and guacamole 
  • Pre-ride mini meal: PBJ with banana and a sport beverage
  • Two-hour ride: take in 30 to 45grams of carbohydrate per hour 
  • Post-ride mini meal: whole grain bread sandwich with protein drink and fruit

Variation 3: Morning Intensity Session

  • Pre-ride: coffee and banana
  • 60-second intervals: hydrate
  • Breakfast: oatmeal with eggs and coffee
  • Lunch: whole grain tuna sandwich with tomato soup
  • Afternoon snack: cottage cheese and piece of fruit
  • Evening meal: grass fed steak with grilled vegetables
  • Pre-bedtime: popcorn with nutritional yeast 

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