The ABC's of Cycling Nutrition

By Shelley Marenka | 02/15/12
The ABC's of Cycling Nutrition

US Department of Agriculture, “20111025-FNS-RBN-1980” October 25, 2011 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.

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The following tip was authored by Shelley Marenka, USA Elite Cycling Coach and owner of CycleFit Biking Adventures, Coaching Camps and Tours.

The ABC's of Cycling Nutrition

Everyone can benefit from a well thought out nutrition program. However, when it comes to athletes and active individuals, making nutrition an integral part of your training is critical for success. Here are some tips to help you fuel your body so you can train and compete at the top of your game.

Always eat breakfast. A healthy breakfast consists of protein, fiber and carbohydrates. This combination will start your day with long-lasting energy and give your body the nutrition it needs. Protein shakes, oatmeal, high fiber cereal, fruit, Greek yogurt, English muffins with p-nut butter or almond butter are a few suggestions.

B-complex vitamin: Begin your day with a multivitamin –mineral supplement along with a B complex vitamin. B's are vital for energy metabolism, vital body functions and a huge stress reliever. B's can enhance your body's overall performance. Go get some!

Carbohydrates are a winner for endurance athletes. Muscles need carbs for energy during training and competition and glycogen replacement once the workout is over. Choose slow burning carbs during the day and quick high burning carbs before workouts and events.

Drink a lot of fluids thru out the day to avoid dehydration and diminished performance. Dehydration can become a problem for endurance athletes when training in the heat. To maintain endurance & energy levels, and avoid dehydration issues, drink 8 –16 fl. oz. of a sports drink every 30 minutes during training.

Endurance electrolyte drinks and gels can be used as the sole fuel during a 90 minute segment in training. They fulfill all of your calorie and fluid requirements and most of your electrolyte needs. (Refer to Sports Nutrition Product recommendation handout)

Foods to Avoid consist of those which contain white flour, sugar, and hydrogenated oils. Processed foods are known as "fake foods" providing very little nutrition and mostly fat calories. Avoid fiber and heavy protein foods prior to competition. They take too much time and energy to digest and can be the cause of gastrointestinal distress during training.

Glycogen depletion in lay terms converts to "fatigue and feeling tired". Your body has depleted its energy stores from your workout and now those muscles need to be refueled. Be sure to eat regularly to avoid bonking during workouts and feeling fatigued after your workouts.

Hydrate When you push your body to the max you are losing important fluids, burning through your energy reserves, and subjecting your body to fatigue and pain. In fact, serious athletes can sweat away as much as 5-8 pounds during a game or event.

Incorporate a variety of foods into your diet. Your body requires vitamins, minerals, micro and macronutrients, protein, carbohydrates, and water to perform optimally. The best way to get all you need is to include a wide range of foods into your daily diet.

Junk foods should be limited to "a chosen few" now and then. They should be the exception, not a daily thing. Junk foods include candy, junk snacks and carbonated beverages. These rob your body of energy, health and good nutrients. Fast Foods like burger joints and fried foods should not be part of the daily diet. They can make you feel sick and sluggish and are loaded with chemicals and preservatives. Fast foods contribute to fat weight, toxicity in the body and provide little to no nutritional value.

K-calories taken in each day should be based upon energy expenditure. This means if you worked out hard, then you need to eat the right amount of kcalories to refuel and repair your body. If you are trying to lose weight, eat a little bit less each day until you reach goal weight. A good training website for tracking workouts and food intake is This is the coaching site I use for my clients and it works well.

Listen to your body. Pay attention when it feels tired, hungry, or sore. Address pain and ailments before they become injuries. Adjust workouts when you've strained a muscle or experience cramping. Take appropriate measures to allow your body to recover and heal.

Muscles need carbohydrates for fuel: Grape Nuts, oatmeal, granola, bagels, fruit, juice, hearty breads, bean burritos, spaghetti. Your job is to eat carbs throughout the day (as opposed to skimping on meals by day, then gorging on treats at night). By having the right foods at breakfast, a mid-morning snack, lunch, and an afternoon snack, you'll have steady energy all day, without lags.

Nutrition is almost more important than the workout itself. Eat well and often.

Olive Oil is a healthy alternative to all other oils. Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fat and antioxidants like chlorophyll, carotenoids and vitamin E. Use it daily.

POWER foods are protein foods; chicken, fish, lean steak, eggs, cottage cheese, peanut butter, protein shakes. Protein foods are needed for recovery and help the muscles rebuild from workouts. Buy these protein foods with NO antibiotics, hormones, or artificial anything in them. Look for organic as well as natural choices.

Quality nutrition begins in the grocery store. Shop the outer aisles and purchase the freshest food you can find. Use a lot of garlic and onion for your health and food flavor.

Rest and recover your body. Getting the right foods at the right time and enough rest after exercise is essential to high-level performance. While you are sleeping, your muscles can recover, rebuild and strengthen. This is the time that the body adapts to the stress of exercise and the real training effect takes place. Recovery time allows these stores to be replenished and allows tissue repair to occur.

Sugar and sweet cravings are an indication that you haven't eaten enough protein, fiber and B vitamins. Increase these foods along with B vitamins thru out the day and watch your blood sugar levels remain stable, giving you the energy you need.

TRY a variety of foods in your daily diet. Include dark colored vegetables of red, green, and yellow. They pack a powerful range of antioxidants for recovery and immune support. Discover new grains such as quinoa and experiment with whole grains.

UP your Omegas - Omega 3 fatty acids create healthier cell membranes and are important precursors to anti-inflammatory components of the immune system (which, btw, is highly strained by intense exercise) Omegas enhance blood oxygen transport and reduce post exercise muscle inflammation.

Vitamins for the athlete are important for nutritional insurance, to meet the unusual demands that heavy training puts on the body, and to produce an ergogenic effect upon performance and training recovery. (Refer to supplement handout for recommendations)

Water, Water, Water! Drink water throughout the day to keep your body well hydrated. Pure water rids the body of toxins, increases endurance, prolongs fatigue, regulates body temperature, transports nutrients to the cells and aids in food digestion to name a few.

X-tra ordinary benefits for good nutrition, Y for youthful energy you'll gain, and Z for the Zestfulness you will experience applying these tips!

Article written by Shelley Marenka, Nutrition Coach
USA Elite Cycling Coach and Fitness Expert
Owner of CycleFit Biking Adventures in Murphys, CA
Coaching, Cycling Camps & Tours
(209) 890-6244, (530) 864-7891

To find out more about her Coaching services visit
For current articles and training tips visit her blog at

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