There is no denying the fact that you will need to embark upon vigorous training if you are serious about improving your cycling stamina. Put simply, the harder you train the better your results will be - but we already knew that right?

Having said that, all of your efforts will be for nought if you do not:

1. Support Them With Adequate Nutrition;

and

2. Give Yourself The Added Boost That Comes With The Correct Diet.

In this article we’re going to look at what constitutes an appropriate diet for an endurance cyclist, as well as some of the best foods overall to help improve your cycling stamina.


Carbohydrates are a great source of fuel for cycling!

Carbohydrates

For moderate-to-high intensity physical activity, carbohydrates are your body’s preferred fuel source, and if you are going to be cycling for extended periods of one, two, three hours and beyond then you will definitely need to ensure your body is well fueled with them.

Upon you eating and digesting carbohydrates, they are converted into glycogen within your body and this is the form in which they are stored in your muscles, and to a lesser extent in your liver.

The glucose which flows freely in your bloodstream, typically referred to as blood glucose, is the readily available form of stored carbohydrates, and this is what you will be primarily relying on to fuel your longer duration cycling sessions.

If you are not adequately fed with foods rich in carbohydrates then you will notice your energy levels and ability to exert yourself quickly beginning to dwindle after 60 – 90 minutes, or even as soon as half an hour into a session.

With this said, it should be quite clear that carbohydrates are absolutely essential for our performance as cyclists, and they are crucial for improving cycling stamina. Food items that are rich in carbohydrates include:

    • Bread and other Wheat products;
    • Pasta;
    • Rice;
    • Potatoes;
    • Fruit*;
    • Oatmeal;
    • Energy bars; and
    • Sports drinks;

*Most fruits are very high in the fruit sugar fructose, which is stored preferentially as liver glycogen as opposed to muscle glycogen. Although this is not necessarily a bad thing, it is important to ensure you are eating a variety of starchy carb sources such as bread, rice, potatoes, and so on. Energy bars and sports drinks can provide a convenient source of fast-digesting carbohydrates.

This is not ideal for using as your primary source of pre-cycling carbohydrates because the sugars digest so quickly, so you will want to ensure you load up on the starchy carbs listed above as they digest a little more slowly to provide you with sustained energy release.

Sugary sports drinks are, however, certainly great for sipping during cycling sessions as they help to keep your glycogen levels topped up as well as keeping your blood glucose levels stable.

How Many Carbohydrates Should I Eat?

Gauging a general ballpark figure of how many grams of carbohydrates you should be consuming to fuel your endurance cycling sessions is easy.

If you perform one hour of endurance cycling then consume around 2.5g of carbohydrates per pound of bodyweight.

Add 0.75 – 1g per pound of bodyweight for each additional hour of cycling, and adjust accordingly based on how your body and overall performance responds.

Protein helps with recovery and repairs muscle damage.

Protein

Proteins are made up of amino acids, and these form the building blocks of most of the tissues within our bodies. Essential for growth and repair, protein is an absolutely vital component in the diet of any aspiring endurance cyclist as it will enable you to more rapidly and effectively recover from your sessions so that you can come back fitter, more agile, and with improved stamina.

Food items that are rich in protein include:

    • Meat (Chicken, beef, pork, lamb, etc.);
    • Fish;
    • Eggs;
    • Cheese*;
    • Yoghurt;
    • Milk;

*Cottage cheese is an interesting item as it is rich in the milk protein known as casein; this slow-digesting protein forms a gel in the stomach causing it to be released into the body more gradually to provide you with a slightly more tapered release of amino acids.

Items such as nuts, rice, and peas are also suitable vegetarian-friendly sources of protein; however, they do not provide a complete range of essential amino acids so it is recommended that you combine these foods to ensure your body has everything it needs to support optimal performance.

How Much Protein Should I Eat?

Anything from 0.7 – 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight should be acceptable for endurance cyclists; however, just as with your carbohydrate intake you should adjust your intake based on your performance and ability to comfortably digest slightly larger quantities of protein.

Healthy fats are essential for everything from optimal hormonal regulation to joint health and cognitive function.

Fat

Fat is essential for everything from optimal hormonal regulation to joint health and cognitive function, and it also serves as a fuel source in the body that is typically used for lower-intensity physical activities such as walking and gentler cycling.

It is also important to note that many of the vitamins and other nutrients such as Vitamins A, D, and E which are found in plant-based foods are fat-soluble, meaning that you must consume some fat with them in order for your body to be able to properly absorb and utilize them.

Foods containing large amounts of healthy fats include:

    • Oily fish such as Salmon (also high in protein);
    • Nuts and Seeds;
    • Plant-Based Oils (Olive, Coconut, Avocado, Walnut, etc.);and
    • Eggs (also high in protein)

How Much Fat Should I Eat?

Around 0.5 – 0.75g of fat per pound of bodyweight is suitable for endurance cyclists, and low-fat diets are certainly not recommended for optimal performance, and they may also compromise general health and wellbeing in the long term.

Rich in essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and other phytonutrients, vegetables and leafy greens are also an important part of a cycling diet.

Vegetables and Leafy Greens

Rich in essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and other phytonutrients, vegetables and leafy greens are also an important part of a cycling diet.

Be sure to include items such as:

    • Cruciferous Vegetables (Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower);
    • Spinach, Arugula, Watercress, Lambs Lettuce;
    • Zucchini;
    • Mushrooms;
    • Eggplant;
    • Tomatoes; and
    • Cucumbers

By covering all of your nutritional bases in this manner your body should have everything it needs to function optimally; all you have to concern yourself with now is your training so that you can improve your stamina achieve your best. I would love to know of any dieting tips that you have, or specific foods you eat to give you the extra boost! Leave a comment below.

Until next time, enjoy your ride.

James