Ten Mantras for Endurance Cyclists

by Susan I. Barr, PhD, RDN, FACSM

Susan Barr, is a Professor of Nutrition, University of British Columbia. She is a veteran of the Rocky Mountain 1200, Paris-Brest-Paris, Team Furnace Creek 508, Pacific Crest and PAC Tours

Ten Tips

1. One-way Principle
~ Food and drink should be palatable, go down easily, and stay down.


2. Moderation, Variety and Balance
~ Moderation: no good foods or bad foods; rather, healthy diets and not so healthy diets.
~ Variety: nutrients are distributed in different foods.
~ Balance:
· your diet isn’t too lopsided (e.g., so high in carbohydrate that protein is neglected).
· energy balance (eating enough to meet your energy needs).
· fluid balance.


3. Water, Water Everywhere
~ Maintain fluid balance while riding. To estimate your rate of fluid loss, weigh yourself nude before and after a ride.
~ Sweat rates when exercising hard in hot weather can exceed 1 L/hr (35 oz) and average stomach emptying rate is just over 1 L/hr, so it’s not always possible to keep up.
~ Drinking on the bike is learned and that you can get used to the feeling of more fluid in your stomach.


4. Pass the Salt
~ Sweat contains about 1 g of sodium / liter!


5. I Never Met a Carbohydrate I Didn’t Like
~ A minimum of 5 g CHO/kg of body weight/day, and up to ~10 g/kg/day for those in heavy training.
· 154 lb person: 350 – 700 g CHO / day (1400 – 2800 calories from carbohydrates)
· 176 lb person: 400 – 800 g CHO / day (1600 – 3200 calories from carbohydrates)


6. Fat is Not a Four Letter Word
~ For those in heavy training, fat calories are a good way to meet high energy needs.


7. Where’s the Beef?
~ Lean meat is the best source of iron and is also a good source of zinc, B vitamins, and high-quality protein.
~ Although there’s still some debate, athletes may need more protein — perhaps 1.2-1.5 g/kg of body weight
· 154 lb athlete: 84-105 g protein / day (336 – 420 calories from protein).
· 176 lb athlete: 96-120 g protein / day (384 – 480 calories from protein)
~ As examples, 3 oz. of meat, fish, or poultry provides about 20 g protein; 1 oz cheese,1 egg, or 4 oz of tofu provides 7-10 gm of protein.


8. Calories or Convenience?
~ Bars, gels and sports drinks are convenient, but don’t provide superior nutrition compared to “real food”.


9. Timing is Everything
~ Before cycling: 50 – 200 g CHO, 1 – 4 hours before activity if you want your stomach empty when you start cycling.
~ Before a long ride, larger quantities in closer proximity to the start of the ride.
~ During a ride 50 g/hr for a 70 kg cyclist riding a century
~ Longer rides, balance the energy you’re using with what you’re taking in over the course of a 24-hr period.
~ After a ride, take in carbohydrate soon after exercise to help replace glycogen stores.

10. Be Prepared
~ Eat before you’re hungry; drink before you’re thirsty.
~ Know how far it is to the next minimart!