Cycling Nutrition Plan: Tips To Improve Riding Performance

How you fuel your body makes all the difference in athletic performance. Dig into creating a cycling nutrition plan that keeps you at your peak. 

How a Cycling Nutrition Plan Differs From an Average Diet 

Cycling requires a higher calorie intake than the average daily requirement. Also, you must focus on clean, nutrient-dense foods that fit your individual needs. Therefore, your regimen requires constant attention and fine-tuning. 

The Importance of Nutrient Timing  

Your body has to be able to burn calories when you need them most, making nutrient timing critical. Prepare to become proficient at meal planning before, during, and after races, considering each macronutrient. 


Fad diets often paint carbs as an enemy. However, carbs convert into energy quickly and are perfect for cyclists who need a robust resource of fuel for rapid metabolization.

Your cycling nutrition plan should include carbs with every meal. Fruit, grains, and vegetables are ideal, but dairy sources and a few sugary sweets can work, particularly for intense sessions. Rely on carbs to raise the glycogen concentration in your muscles, boosting your performance and reducing fatigue. 


Proteins help you rebuild muscle, but you don’t need to overdo it. Focus on eating proteins after intense intervals, long rides, and weight training. For this macronutrient, look to reliable standbys such as meat, eggs, lentils, seafood, and nuts. 


Fat is easy to come by, so you shouldn’t focus your meals on it. However, don’t try to avoid it, either. Your body requires this nutrient to function correctly, and too little fat can result in vitamin deficiencies and immune problems. 

Ensure that your carb and protein sources contain healthy fats to avoid hindering your cyclist diet. For example, meat eaters will enjoy fish and pork chops, while nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils are great vegan-friendly options. 

Vital Pointers About Carbs and Cycling Nutrition 

Since carbs are the core of a cycling nutrition plan, understand how to use them so you can put together a plan for maximum performance. 

The Basics of Carb Loading 

The science of carb loading is still valid for cyclists. If you’re new to the sport, prepare to augment your carbs consumption dramatically before intense sessions. 

Carb Loading Timing 

Start focusing on carbs before any big race or high-intensity training. Doing so maximizes your glycogen stores, and you’ll need every last bit.

Begin carb loading at least 48 hours before the event. Recent data also reveals you need to ramp up your carbs even higher in the 24 hours before a race. 

Carb Loading Levels 

The calculation for your carb loading requirements in your cycling nutrition plan is 2.3 to 5.5 grams per pound of body weight. If you prefer metric, that’s 5 to 12 grams per kilogram. Stay toward the lower end at the beginning of carb loading and push higher in the last 24 hours.

Newcomers often feel this level is too high and commonly underestimate their needs if they don’t track their carbs. Stick to the formula to stay in the right zone.   

The Best Foods for Carb Loading 

Carbs high in fiber can lead to cramps, so go easy on them at this point. Still, you can mix in a variety of choices, including:  

- Bananas 

- Sweet potatoes

- Oatmeal

- Rice

- Multigrain bread or pasta

Of course, results vary for each person, so experiment with what works best for you. Opt for natural choices over processed foods in your cycling nutrition plan for the best results.   

Potential Carb Loading Side Effects 

Don’t get anxious if you gain a little weight and look puffy after carb loading. You’ll naturally retain water, which your body needs when racing.

Also, the extra sugar might make you feel a little hyperactive. Channel that energy into the race! 

Why Proper Periodization Is Important 

Some cycling teams have decided to “periodize” their carb intake, reserving carbs only for race days and going low-carb while conditioning. The problem with this approach is that you may lack the energy to train effectively and build up your endurance.

In fact, your body probably won’t be able to use carbs effectively on race day with this type of periodization. It’s as if your system is “out of practice,” and the influx is a shock, making periodization risky. 

How To Periodize Carbs the Right Way 

Remember: Never skip carbs in your cycling nutrition plan. If you want to back off at any point, recent studies show the best time is right after a race. Still, you want to listen to your body and ensure you get enough nutrients and hydration to recover. 

Meal Planning for Cycling Days 

Monitor your diet strictly for cycling success. Build meal plans that meet your needs for the kilojoules you’ll burn while racing. Health and wellness coaching or an accountability program can help you make good calculations and stay on track. 

Meal Plans on Rest Days 

The same principle for race days applies to rest days. Consider your energy needs and what you require to recover from riding or exercising. Don’t be afraid to treat yourself with snacks here or there as a well-earned reward for your dedication to your cycling nutrition plan. 

Considerations for Different Types of Cycling 

Whether your sessions are long or short also affects your cycling nutrition choices. 

Short Sessions 

For sessions under two hours at an average or low-tempo pace, you only require about 60 to 80 grams of carbs. If you’re going hardcore, carb load and plan for 2.7 grams of carbs for every pound of body weight at a minimum. 

Long Distances 

If you’re keeping the intensity low on long rides, don’t overdo it. Shoot for 60 to 90 grams of carbs per hour. For high-intensity training, go full bore on the carb loading. 

Weight Loss Concerns and the Cyclist Diet 

A lot of people ride with weight goals in mind. Just remember that successful professional cyclists are not rail thin.

You should maintain a healthy racing weight and not lose tons of weight after a ride. Focus on fat loss and building muscle instead of only dropping pounds. 

A Simple Solution for Executing Your Cycling Nutrition Plan 

Like many cyclists, you may lack the time to devise the ideal personal cycling nutrition plan on your own. Fortunately, Fitlife Foods can help. Visit our online menu to craft a meal plan that enables you to perform at your peak, and don’t be afraid to ask us for some coaching and help in putting it together! Your success is our success at Fitlife Foods.