What Cyclists Can Learn From the Pros About Nutrition

Variety Counts

To keep eating and drinking hour after hour, racers have a lot of choices so that they can find something palatable.

Food Safety

Racers' food is kept cold in the team car. Any perishable protein food (sandwiches, rice cakes with eggs, etc.) should be unrefrigerated no more than one hour if hot (90° F / 32° C) or two hours at room temperature.

Recovery Begins Immediately

Riders start drinking and eating as soon as they get in the team bus; they don't wait until they are back at the hotel. Radioshack riders start with 1.5 liters (48 fluid ounces or 3 pints) of a diluted proprietary hydration drink. Pedialyte is the most equivalent commercial drink. They follow this with 1.5 liters of a simple sugar drink with 360 calories plus vitamin C. Riders are required to drink at least 1.5 liters regardless of weight loss. Most guys consume both drinks, totaling 3 liters (3 quarts) weighing 3 kilograms (6 pounds) of fluid within the first hour. For food, the team provides fresh steamed rice plus some protein, for example, chicken stir-fry or scrambled eggs, and fresh fruit, especially watermelon. Some riders drink a protein drink with 30 grams of protein per liter.

More: 12 Training Tips for an Ultra-Distance Ride


In addition to carbohydrates, Grealish prepares large quantities of meat (beef, chicken and fish). She also serves beets, kale and spinach. Some think that the nitrates in these vegetables enhance endurance.

As recreational riders, what can we learn from this and apply to our own riding?

Eat Primarily Carbohydrate

Like racers we are burning a mix of glycogen (from carbohydrate) and fat for fuel. Since our bodily stores of glycogen are limited, we should consume mostly carbohydrate during a ride.

Eat Plenty of Calories

Calories consumed per hour are more important than picking foods with a high GI. You should consume up to 300 calories per hour. However, if you start to bonk, go for something with a high GI.

Eat Unprocessed Foods

Foods with a high GI, like white rice, are highly processed and contain fewer micronutrients than unrefined foods like brown rice. We'll be healthier if we opt for less-refined foods such as fruit and whole grain products.

Recover for the Rest of the Day

For the pros, recovery starts before they even take showers! After a ride we should eat a healthy snack and drink plenty of fluids and then for the rest of the day be sure to drink enough that we are fully rehydrated and eat enough carbohydrate so that our glycogen stores are fully replenished.

Like racers we may get tired of bars and gels. Here are a couple of recipes popular with racers, which provide good nutrition at a lower cost than sports products!

More: Make Your Own Homemade Energy Gel


These small sandwiches are easy to make and quite tasty! Carry one or two in snack baggies. If it's hot to prevent spoilage you should only carry the panini for about an hour before eating.

  • 1/2 croissant or soft roll (so it's easy to chew) sliced and filled with:
  • A slice of ham or Canadian bacon
  • Cream cheese
  • Jam

Boiled Potatoes
You can carry and eat these all day. They're also easy to make, tastier than an energy bar and cheaper:

  • Boil 1 pound (1/2 kilogram) small new red potatoes, about 15.
  • While warm, roll around in a pan with:
  • 1 cup (90 grams) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) olive oil
  • Salt

Like the pros you can meet your nutritional needs on the bike with a wider variety of tasty foods and be the envy of your riding buddies!

READ THIS NEXT: 14 Things Pro Cyclists Do to Get Faster on the Bike

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