Top 5 Foods for Cyclists

Friday, February 9th, 2024

Marine Lenehan, Sports Nutritionist, Massage Therapist & Yoga Teacher

As any cyclist knows, good nutrition plays a crucial role in optimizing performance and endurance on the road. Here is a non-exhaustive list of 5 superfoods for cyclists.

1. Oats/Oatmeal : sustained energy 

As cyclists, we require sustained energy to power through long rides, climbs and sprints. Oats provide a slow and steady release of glucose into the bloodstream. This means keeping fuelled for longer, avoiding energy crashes during long rides and maintaining consistent performance levels.

Oats are also nutrient dense, such as vitamins (B vitamins), minerals (magnesium, iron, zinc), and antioxidants. These nutrients play a crucial role in muscle function, oxygen transport, and overall endurance, all of which are essential to help cyclists perform at their best.

2. Leafy Greens : a stronger immune system

Leafy greens including kale, spinach, roquet, and chard are undeniable superstars in the world of nutrition. Low in calories, yet high in fiber, vitamins, and phytonutrients, the benefits of leafy greens are incredible for your health in more ways than you would even suspect. They help regulate your blood glucose levels, helping your carbohydrates metabolism. They also play an undeniable part in making the immune system stronger which can be weakened by regular hard training.

3. Bananas : Nature’s equivalent of a carb bar

High in carbohydrate, easy to eat and digest, bananas are a cyclist’s best friend. They not only provide 25-30g of carbohydrates to supply energy to our muscles, they also help replace the electrolytes lost through sweat, especially potassium.

Don’t just eat bananas on your bike, the fiber in bananas called pectin helps to moderate your blood sugar levels and can reduce your appetite, making them a good snack between meals. They also make a great recovery food for after a ride, add them to a smoothie or eat one on a slice of sourdough bread with some peanut butter.

4. Dates: Nature's equivalent of a sports gel

A much healthier choice when it comes to fueling the body as they are packed with a number of nutrients such as potassium, magnesium and copper which helps to maintain a healthy nervous system and blood pressure.

1 deglet Nour dates = 6g carbs
1 medjool date = 18g carbs

The sugar in dates is usually glucose, fructose and traces of sucrose and maltose providing you a quick burst of energy accompanied by a slow release over an extended period of time. They are great for satisfying a sweet tooth when not cycling as the fiber in Medjool dates slows the rate at which the carbs can be digested, so you avoid spikes in blood sugar levels and energy remains more constant. You only need one or two dates at a time as they are so intensely sweet and energy dense.

5. Beetroot: the performance enhancer

Regular beetroot juice intake has been shown to enhance performance. It improves oxygen capacity. Beetroot is high in nitric oxide. When nitric oxide levels increase in the body, blood vessels are opened (vasodilation), which increases the blood flow bringing more oxygen to the muscles. In the long run, this reduces resting blood pressure, reduces oxygen cost of submaximal exercise & increases mitochondrial biogenesis. Drinking beetroot juice can make you faster in a 20 km time trial, it may only be by 10 seconds but that is enough to win a medal instead of being a runner-up.

To get the effect you need 500ml of beetroot juice a day, more than most of us would normally choose to consume.