Tips to manage Easter treats: Find out how to have a happy and safe Easter break without unnecessary weight gain Read more »

Close

Articles

Sport & Exercise

Sports nutrition for cycling

Road cycling is gaining popularity in New Zealand as more events emerge such as Le Race, The Grape Ride, Tour of Northland etc.

Characteristics of the sport

Races vary in length from 40-200km or more depending on whether return courses are offered.

Cycling tests an athlete’s strength and endurance capabilities as well as their anaerobic energy systems during breakaways, hill climbs and sprints to the finish. For this reason cyclists are generally muscular, lean with low body fat levels in order to keep their power to weight ratio high.

Training

At an elite level, athletes train on a daily basis often clocking up 400-1,000km per week.  At a recreational level, cyclists often gain fitness by biking to and from work each day with longer 4-6 hour training sessions at the weekends and can average between 300-400km of training per week.

Competition

During competition elite athletes may rely on support teams to carry extra fluids and food supplies while recreational athletes tend to take their own supplies with them or try to pick up supplies from drink stations along the route of the race.

Good nutrition provides “The Edge”

While some athletes rely heavily on dietary supplements, these will not replace a healthy training diet that is high in carbohydrate, with moderate protein and low in fat.

  Elite Cyclists (600km/wk) Recreational Cyclists (300km/wk)
Kilojoules > 250kJ/kg per day 150 – 200kJ/kg per day
Carbohydrate 8 – 11g/kg per day 5 – 8g/kg per day
Protein 1.2 – 1.6g/kg per day 1-1.6g/kg per day

Hydration needs

Athletes should allow 0.7 – 1 litre per hour depending on their sweat losses. See Food to fuel the Speights coast to coast for more details.

Meal planning

The pre-event phase

This relates to nutritional intake up to 8hrs before the race so the dinner eaten the night before can make a difference to energy levels the next day.  Athletes should avoid high fat foods (such as fish and chips) and choose high carbohydrate, low-fat meals such as chicken with pasta or rice.  Alcohol should be avoided in the last week of the race as this has a residual effect and can alter mental functioning such as memory, decision-making  and perceptions of time for up to 48hrs after ingestion. See Alcohol and sport for more details.

Around 2-4hrs before the race cyclists should have a normal meal such as breakfast or lunch with a snack ½ to two hours before the event and 300-400mls of water. Ideally this meal should include low GI foods with low-fat protein as these provide a slower release of energy over a 2-4hour period. E.g. cereal, fruit and yoghurt  plus toast with honey; or rolls/sandwiches and fruit with yoghurt and water.

For athletes that are too nervous to eat a meal supplement such as Sustagen Sport®; creamy rice or a fruit smoothie may help.

During competition

Athletes should allow around 50g of carbohydrate per hour although more may be needed in the latter stages of the race when glycogen stores maybe running low.

Examples of 50g Carbohydrate:

2 cereal bars; 2 gels; 750mls sports drink; a honey or jam sandwich (toast slice); 70g dried fruit; 2 large bananas or 50g jelly lollies.

Post exercise recovery

Within the period of around 30min-2hrs post exercise an athlete’s muscles are receptive to nutrition that aids the re-synthesis of glycogen. If this phase is ignored athletes will experience fatigue the next day. Allowing 1g of carbohydrate per kg of body weight (around 50-100g see the list of ideas above) along with some protein e.g. yoghurt; smoothie; creamy rice or custard as this can aid tissue repair and speed recovery. Paying particular attention to re-hydration during the first hour or two post-exercise is important. Drinking water or a sports drink will speed recovery and should be taken before drinking alcohol.

Problems affecting Cycling Performance

Cramping

This can be due to a number of things:

  1. Poor fitness, lack of training or insufficient stretching before the event.
  2. The depletion of calcium and magnesium , while this is often promoted as a cause the actual loss of these minerals during exercise is usually quite small. An inadequate normal daily intake is more likely the cause and can easily be corrected with a healthy diet so contact us if you are concerned.
  3. Dehydration and a lack of salt are often stated as causing cramp however research of marathon and ultra-endurance athletes does not back up this viewpoint.
  4. Poor recovery techniques after a hard training or competitive session can result in muscle fatigue so athletes should allow time for this.
  5. Sudden changes in workloads can be a factor and so cyclist need to allow sufficient time when moving from low to high intensity, such as when beginning a hill climb, as tired muscles can take longer the adapt to heavier work loads and this may lead to cramp.

Iron deficiency

This can affect female athletes, see Iron makes us happy for more ideas.

Sore knees and joints

See nutrition for tendons and ligaments for more information.

Lack of energy

If you would like to check your training diet for energy and nutrient adequacy along with your nutrition plan for competition then contact us for an appointment or discussion over skype.

About the author View all

Lea Stening

Lea is one of New Zealand’s leading paediatric dietitians and also specialises in Sports Nutrition. She has specialised in Paediatric Nutrition for 31 years and in 1985 was the first paediatric dietitian to enter private practice in New Zealand. Lea helps families through her private consultations, public lectures, newspaper and magazine articles as well as television and radio interviews. Read more »

View all posts by Lea Stening »

Comments

Leave a Reply

Showing 3 comments

  1. Impressive facts! I have already been looking for something like this for a while now. Appreciation!

    » Reply
  2. I was recommended this website by my cousin. I am not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my difficulty. You’re incredible! Thanks! Best Regards SchaadAndy

    » Reply
  3. I was recommended this blog by my cousin. I am not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my trouble. You are wonderful! Thanks! Best Regards Cassetta

    » Reply

Also in Sport & Exercise View all »

  • Athletic man drinking energy drink

    Taste is important to fluid consumption

    Taste is an important factor affecting fluid choice and level of consumption and therefore is an important consideration to overall sporting performance Read more »

  • muesli bars in supermarket

    Muesli and sports bars can aid performance

    Muesli and sports bars are designed to provide a convenient source of energy to be thrown into a lunchbox, gym bag or pocket and eaten “on the run”. However if eaten daily as a “lolly” or relied on as a meal replacement they can lead to unnecessary weight gain. If used wisely during training and competition they can provide athletes with a measured source of carbohydrate vital to performance. Read more »

  • Tourists at wood

    Food planning is important for hiking safety

    Research does show more injuries occur in the mid-late afternoon in open country than other times of day. This is often when people become dehydrated, their muscle levels of energy (glycogen) can become depleted and blood glucose levels may be falling, all factors which lead to fatigue Read more »

  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    Dietary help for depressed athletes

    Although athletes may benefit from an exhilarating endorphin rush on exertion that elevates their mood and suppresses feelings of pain it will not stop them from experiencing, at times, anxiety and bouts of depression just like the rest of us. Nutrition is one treatment option that can speed recovery. Read more »

  • Young Girl Enjoying Hot Drink In Café At Ski Resort

    Diet can offer protection when cold conditions...

    Cold injuries and illness occur in a wide range of physical activities. An understanding of the importance of sports nutrition and planning appropriate meals and snacks can offer some protection and may also improve overall performance Read more »

  • senior cyclist

    Sports nutrition for senior athletes

    Everyday we require sufficient energy and nutrition to meet our needs for life, activity and body repair. As we age changes occur to our body's ability to absorb and process nutrients. Senior athletes need to be aware of these factors in order to maximise their performance, long-term health and enjoyment of events. Read more »

  • Cyclist racing

    Can a high fat diet improve sports performance?

    Fat carries more energy than other macro nutrients (9kcals/37kJ/g compared to 7kcal/29kJ/g for alcohol and 4kcal/17kJ/g for protein and carbohydrate respectively). So with so much energy to offer does eating more improve performance? Read more »

  • girl on a bike

    Getting weight goals back on track after setbacks

    It’s what you do between the "all on" and "all off" phases that really matters to overall performance. Read more »

  • Father helping child.

    Playtime helps combat childhood obesity

    NZ children are getting fatter at a younger age That doesn't mean that we need to consider dieting our children or dragging our toddlers around the race track but we do need to look at some simple things we can do to get healthier together. Read more »

  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    Vegetarians face extra hurdles

    Despite the apparently healthier lifestyle vegetarian athletes (like anybody) can still become overweight, hungry, bloated and suffering from multiple nutrient deficiencies. Read more »

  • Beautiful fit young woman exhaused after training

    The gut-brain axis is important to sporting...

    Do you ever suffer from” runners diarrhoea”, bouts of anxiety , fatigue, abdominal pain or gas when facing competition? Read more »

  • Female butterfly swimmer

    Swim for your life

    Whether you are swimming for fun or competition this sport has many health benefits that can be enhanced with good nutrition. Knowing what to eat and when can also greatly improve your enjoyment of the sport as well as your level of performance. Read more »

  • coffee cup

    Can caffeine fix performance?

    You only have to view the pile of bikes outside a coffee bar on a Saturday morning to realize that many cyclists are coffee addicts who need their caffeine fix each day. So does caffeine hydrate, dope up or enhance performance? Read more »

  • Exhausted runner

    Skin care for active people

    The stress of competition, the sun and wind, sweat, chaffing and high sugar levels are just some of the things that can aggravate the skin conditions of athletes and very active people. Read more »

  • Male Gymnast

    Don’t let disordered eating ruin your...

    An eating disorder can affect anyone at any age, any sport, any background and any gender. The symptoms may build slowly well before the illness becomes evident. Often it is an athletes support team such as parents, friends, team mates and coaches that pick up on the symptoms and can prevent the disorder from ruining the athletes sporting career. Read more »

  • construction worker

    Put Sports Nutrition to work

    Many workers use enough energy and essential nutrients each day to power a marathon. If not replaced then a lack of these key nutrients can lead to fatigue, accidents and injury that can affect their long-term health and mobility. Read more »

  • athlete brushing teeth

    Athletes protect your winning smile

    Athletes protect your smile and your wallet as painful tooth erosion is not only expensive it can also rob your training time and performance. Read more »

  • athlete with broken leg

    Facing the down times without weight gain

    Nothing can be more infuriating for an athlete than after months of intense training an injury sees you ‘sidelined’. Read more »

  • tennis player with sunglasses

    Nutrition and eye health

    Good vision is essential for good health and sporting performance especially when athletes are involved in precision sports that require good hand and eye co-ordination such as archery, pistol shooting, cricket, golf etc. Read more »

  • Female butterfly swimmer

    Sports nutrition for women

    Women who push the boundaries of their lives to take on new challenges and sporting events are usually also trying to juggle their work, home and training existence. With good sports nutrition advice It is possible to find renewed energy. Read more »

  • athlete with milk drink

    The protein needs of young athletes

    Many secondary school athletes are training for more than 10hrs per week and are competing nationally or alongside adults in events such as The Speight’s Coast to Coast, La Grande Swim, Le Race etc. At a time when they are also growing, young athletes may need as much as 50% more protein than their more … Read more »

  • mountain runner

    Food to Fuel the Speights Coast to Coast

    Whether you are a novice or seasoned triathlete your nutrition plan could make or break your race. All those competing should read the excellent nutrition tips on the official Speight’s Coast to Coast website and seek professional help if they have any concerns. In addition here is a check list of things you should also consider. Read more »

  • The All Blacks perform the Haka during the All Blacks v Australia Semi Final match of the 2011 IRB Rugby World Cup. Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand. Sunday 16 October 2011. Photo: Andrew Cornaga/ Photosport.co.nz

    Nutrition for tendons and ligaments

    The recent Rugby World Cup has placed the spot light on sports injuries and so we thought it might be interesting to look more closely at the protective role of sports nutrition and in particularly the nutrients important to tendon and ligament health. Read more »

  • Couch potato

    Tips to move you off the couch

    Are you wanting to get into exercise but are finding every excuse under the sun? E.g. my neighbour wants to join me but is away right now; I’m waiting for the gym to open; I’ll get back into it when school goes back. Does this sound familiar? If you wait for all the conditions to … Read more »

  • Young boy drinking a sports drink

    Dehydration and young athletes

    Young children and adolescents are not little adults – dehydration can be a real problem for young athletes. Find out more about adolescent dehydration, recommendations and the preferrable types of fluid your son, daughter or player should be consuming. Read more »

  • Running

    Motivation to keep training

    The earthquake has certainly taken its toll when it comes to sport. All around the city gyms, pools, tennis courts, golf clubs and stadiums have been closed due to structural damage or liquefaction. Many athletes, in training for major events, have now also lost gear making training a lot harder. Finding the motivation to keep … Read more »

  • Cadbury Creme Eggs

    What is the “Exercise Price” for...

    Find out how much exercise you may need to do to burn off those extra Easter calories Read more »

  • exercise and asthma

    Diet may help exercise induced Asthma

    Exercise induced asthma (EIA) occurs in approximately 90% of people with asthma.Traditionally it has been treated with medication. However, there is now convincing evidence that a variety of dietary factors can also be of help: Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the form of fish oil Antioxidants in particular flavones which are to be found in … Read more »

  • Exercise and pregnancy

    Safety If your pregnancy is uncomplicated then daily, regular exercise is safe and may benefit your health in the following ways: It helps to relieve aches and pains Reduces constipation Strengthens your joints and muscles Reduces anxiety and stress Helps you to sleep better Overall it can make you feel more confident about the way … Read more »

  • walking to work

    Walk more sit less

    Take up the challenge! If you want to loose weight and get fitter you have to walk more and sit less right now. It has been estimated that if everyone in the USA were to walk briskly 30mins each day they could reduce chronic illness by up to 40%. If we did the same we … Read more »

  • Issues of concern to young athletes

    Developing young athletes are an incredibly challenging group to work with because they are usually in the middle of adolescence and experiencing considerable physical and emotional change. Read more »

  • Vending machine

    Dietary supplements for sport

    Concern has been growing over recent years about the use of dietary supplements by athletes. The Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra have developed categorises to assist their athletes to sort out which ones are permitted Read more »

  • Erechtheum temple in Acropolis at Athens, Greece

    Sports nutrition issues to consider for the...

    If you are planning to take a team to an Olympic games as we did with Athens or you plan to compete yourself then there are a number of issues you may like to consider in order to maximise performance and preserve good health. Read more »

  • Athlete refreshment with water

    Water intoxification!

    Believe it or not there is such a state. It is more commonly known as Hyponatraemia, and occurs when the concentration of sodium in the blood is lower than normal (<136 mEq/L). Sodium is essential in nerve and muscle function and also helps to maintain blood pressure. Symptoms range from confusion, lethargy, nausea and muscle … Read more »

  • running up steps

    10,000 steps Rockhampton

    The general population is becoming more aware of the health risks associated with an inactive lifestyle, however the major task is to find innovative approaches to encourage a more active lifestyle for everyone. Projects like the 10,000 steps Rockhampton program may be just the thing we need! Read more »

  • children running

    Active young adults reap cardiovascular benefits...

    Those who enter adulthood with a good level of cardiovascular fitness have been found to be least likely to develop cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes and even metabolic syndrome later in life. Read more »

  • whitewater cayaking

    Sports nutrition for triathletes

    Ideally, experienced athletes will have started preparing months before their major event with an improvement in their baseline nutrition for body maintenance. Read more »

  • berries

    Exercise and increased antioxidant requirements

    To provide additional energy needed during exercise, the oxygen used in the exercising muscles increase by about 10-20%. A bi-product of the increased oxygen use is increased production of free radicals and therefore increased oxidative stress Read more »

  • alcohol and sport

    Alcohol and sport

    Alcohol and sport are often interrelated. Not only in relation to the athletes themselves, but also coaches, parents and supporters may also be involved with surprising effects on performance. Read more »

  • pregnant woman swimming

    Exercise in pregnancy

    All healthy women without any contraindications should participate in moderate intensity aerobic and strength conditioning exercises as part of a healthy lifestyle during their pregnancy. This is to ensure a good fitness level is achieved and/or maintained throughout pregnancy which assists physiological reserves of both mother and baby without affecting growth. Additional pelvic floor exercises … Read more »

Do you know you can subscribe to our fantastic FREE monthly newsletter?

Each month we'll keep you up-to-date with the latest nutritional articles and healthy recipes from LeaStening.com. You are free to opt out at any time, but we think you'll enjoy what we've got in-store for you.

Plus as a bonus offer — subscribe today and receive FREE weight loss tips for two weeks! Learn how a number of foods, many one would consider 'healthy', may in fact be slowing your progress.

Subscribe

Yes please, sounds great! (and it's FREE after all).


OR

Enter

No thanks, I'm not interested (or I'm already a subscriber and really enjoying these fantastic newsletters!).