BHealthy Blog

BDB 100 | Nutrition for Cyclists

By Mitchell Kirby, MS, RDN, LD, Baptist Health Bariatric Center-Little Rock

Are you an avid cycling enthusiast seeking to optimize your nutrition for peak performance during the Big Dam Bridge 100 race? Proper nutrition plays a crucial role in supporting your cycling efforts, whether you’re a casual rider or a competitive cyclist. 

Our sports nutritionist Mitchell Kirby, MS, RDN, LD at Baptist Health Bariatric Center-Little Rock, shares six nutrition tips before, during and after the race to help you achieve your goals.

Essential Nutrition to Fuel Your Cycling Experience

Cyclists’ nutrition is a vital component of performance and recovery. The following essential nutrition tips can refine your fueling strategy and elevate your cycling experience. Whether you’re gearing up for a long-distance ride or a competitive race, prioritizing proper nutrition will undoubtedly enhance your performance on the road.

Pre-Race Meal: Fuel Your Body for Success

Plan your pre-race meal carefully. Consume a balanced meal 2-3 hours before your race, focusing on carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats to sustain energy levels. Consuming too much fat, or greasy foods can cause GI upset, resulting in poor performance or feeling sluggish while riding. 

Before any race, it is recommended to consume the following:

  • 15-30g of quick absorbing carbohydrates 30 minutes before (honey stinger energy chews, 12oz Gatorade, 1 TBSP of honey, etc).
  • 100-300mg caffeine (depending on body weight) 30-60 minutes before the race, as it can have a significant positive effect. The dose can also depend on tolerance, as too large a dose can cause negative side effects that are detrimental to performance. 

During Competition: Stay Fueled and Hydrated

Stay adequately hydrated by consuming plenty of water before, during, and after your ride to maintain optimal performance and carry convenient snacks. Keep easily accessible snacks like electrolyte drinks or energy gels on hand to sustain energy levels throughout your ride. You don’t necessarily want to consume a lot of fat, fiber or protein during a ride because that will slow how quickly the sugar is able to be used for energy. 

During the competition, it is recommended to consume the following:

  • 30-60g of quick absorbing carbohydrates every hour (15g every 15-30minutes in 6-12floz electrolyte solution during event)
  • 500-700mg of sodium per hour during competition

To fuel your ride without experiencing stomach discomfort, choose easily digestible carbs, such as bananas, energy bars, and sports drinks.

Post-Race: Replenish and Recharge

After the race, prioritize your post-race recovery with the following:

  • 20-40g of protein (whey protein isolate, or an animal-based protein will be the highest quality)
  • 30-90g of carbohydrate (based on body weight)

By integrating these nutritional guidelines into your cycling routine, you’ll notice a significant difference in your energy levels, endurance, and overall ride quality. Prioritizing proper nutrition is key to unlocking your full potential as a cyclist.

If you have conditions like diabetes, kidney disease or heart disease, consult your physician on specific guidance regarding carbs/sugar, sodium, and caffeine.