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Cycling for weight loss: What's the best way to lose weight?

Michael Donlevy
15 Nov 2020

You may think it’s just a matter of eating less and exercising more, but it's not quite that simple

Cycling nutrition: Four rules for eating to lose weight

Cyclist, 16 August 2017

If you're a keen cyclist looking to shed a few pounds, there's no substitute for getting out on your bike and putting in the miles.

But tied to that is the need to eat properly, and at the right times. Here are four golden nutrition rules for eating to lose weight as a cyclist.

1. Eat before training

The idea that training while fasted will aid weight loss is a dead end.

In reality, you’re more likely to bonk or build up such a hunger that when you do get off the bike, you’ll stuff your face with the first thing that comes to hand.

So instead, make sure you munch within three hours of the start of a training session. If you haven’t eaten for more than three hours, get a carb-heavy snack down your neck at least an hour before you start – a banana is ideal.

Eating and giving your body enough time to digest food before you train gives you the fuel you need without making you feel bloated.

2. Eat during training

If you’re in the saddle for 90 minutes or more, you’re definitely going to refuel at some point or risk running out of steam.

Up to around 60g of carbohydrates an hour is recommended depending on the intensity of the ride.

The carbs will provide the energy to keep your legs moving which, in times of greater effort, will allow your body to burn its fat reserves on the bike.

So don’t neglect this important part of your food intake which can be satisfied by anything from chia seeds or pistachios (Mark Cavendish’s favourite) to bananas and energy gels.

3. Eat after training

When we say eat after training, we mean almost as soon as you come off the bike.

We can’t overstate how important this is to the nutrition process because it will maximise recovery, refuel your energy levels and enhance the adaption process – the part of recovery where your body improves its fitness and strength through muscle repair.

Eating straight after a long ride – even if you don’t feel like it – will stop you overeating later.

Protein improves muscle repair, so you’ll need to get at least 30g of that in as soon as you can – perhaps in the form of a protein shake.

4. Eat the right foods

Whether you’re sitting down to breakfast lunch or dinner, your plate should contain roughly one third energy foods (ie carbs, such as brown rice or oats), one third functional foods (ie protein, such as tofu, natural yogurt, fi sh, chicken etc), and one third nutritionally rich foods (ie fruit and veg).

With all three food groups, try to eat wholefoods as opposed to processed food as much as possible.

Which means cutting out things like cookies and fruit juices, but don’t skimp on fats. Just make sure they’re the good ones (ie unsaturated) not the bad ones (saturated).

You’ll find them in fish, avocado, and nuts and some oils – when dressing salads use olive oil, and when cooking stick to the likes of rapeseed or rice bran oil.

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