Nutrition and Fueling for Cycling


Cutting through the performance nutrition crap

by Scott Price

Let’s look at what is going on with food and cycling. At the front of every athlete’s mind are a host of questions about nutrition, diet / body weight, fueling and recovery. Here we are going to cut through some of the confusion and give you some clear effective knowledge you can benefit from. Realize that the most important thing is that each athlete has to know themselves.

We all have different body types, blood types, metabolisms, performance goals, allergies / sensitivities and so on. This is why adopting someone else’s diet without listening to your body and applying your own unique situation often results in failure.


Ok this is a broad section but let’s look at some fundamental concepts you can apply right now to your life, your health and performing better.

  1. Natural nutrients > Toxins and artificial substances. Unrefined sugar is way better for you than nutra-death, um sweet.
  2. Nutrients trump calories. Think fruits and vegetables over “flour” foods bread, cereal, and pasta.
  3. Listen to how you feel. Do you get symptoms when you eat certain foods? Excess gas, skin bumps, headaches? Listen to YOUR body and use your intuition when eating.
  4. Have you ever seen an obese wild animal? Never. Movement, facing the elements and no refined sugar and flour / carbos = Beast mode. You can be too, it’s simple.
  5. We are all different. Some people thrive on a vegetarian diet, others try it and realize they feel and perform better with animal food sources. Your diet should be a balance of things you enjoy and things that serve your health and support your goals.

Nutrition Table

So basically focus on high nutrient content foods with minimal processing. Eat plenty of high nutrient content foods like FRESH fruits, vegetables, greens, nuts and seeds. These provide the “nutrition” we need to be healthy, be vital and perform well. The rest are fill calories. Your body will more or less convert any food into energy to burn or replenish blood sugar and fats. Simply think before you buy / eat. Is a Ritz cracker food? Hmmm let’s see; bleached flour, orange coloring, artificial cheese flavor and salt, yum.


There is a lot of confusion here on what to eat before training and racing. Realize that most of your performance energy, especially in events under 2 hours is already stored in your blood sugar and available fats gas tank. So there are 2 important things we want to consider for performing our best.

Eye of the TigerDo you have the eye of the tiger? Fuel to be ready to pounce!

  1. Have a relatively empty digestive tract. Dropping a bagel or oatmeal into your stomach 2 hours before an event is good as you will have time to digest it. These carbs absorb water like crazy so you need to follow them up with lots of water or you are in effect dehydrating yourself.
  2. Empty your elimination system. Yep, nothing worse than having to #1 or #2 during an event. Get up early, massage your lower abdomen, drink hot coffee, a few deep knee bends and you should be good to go, literally!

For shorter events I suggest something simple an hour before your event like a banana with a nut butter or something like a Clifbar. If you are doing an event much longer than 2 hours then you will benefit from additional calories. Since this will be a moderately sized meal it should be eaten 2-3 hours before the event and should include sources of fat like butter, nut butter, oils and 10-15 grams of protein.

The important thing to realize here is that your energy does not come from your breakfast. Nearly all of your energy even in a 100 mile century ride will come from stored blood sugars and fats. How effectively you use them is determined by your training. We cannot eat our way to success; we need to train our body to run efficiently on our stored fuels. The biggest thing to be concerned with in pre-exercise fueling is:


Eat too much too soon before or during the event and enjoy cramps, inability to hydrate, heartburn, vomiting, peristalsis you name it. Good times. The best athletes fuel lightly pre-event, moderately during and then eat to replenish and rehydrate after the effort is done. Pro athletes can do 4-5 hour rides easily without any calories and on water alone. The best way to discover this and tap into this performance secret is a specific fasted training protocol.

Contact me for details,

FUELING DURING YOUR EXERCISE / EVENT Bike Time to tear it up! Let’s get straight to the chase. Your endurance and energy does not come from what you are fueling with during your effort. The majority of it is how well-trained you are and how effectively you use your stored blood sugars and fats. Fueling is not the holy grail of performance.

Again the first thing to consider is how to not screw up your performance with dehydration or eating to many solids that do not get digested. Also, who is telling you to consume 2 scoops of energy drink each hour in training and racing? Who is telling you this and what do they have to gain?

Ok, again the top endurance athletes train in a calorie deprivation mode to train their system to use their stored energy more efficiently. Train on water and low-calorie intake so your body learns to use your stored fats as energy. You will increase your endurance, increase your threshold power and get leaner, spend less on processed energy drinks / products. Win win for you! For an event or heavy training day, the primary concern is hydration. Aim for a large water bottle per hour depending on duration and temperature.

For calorie intake it depends greatly on how well-trained you are but 150-200 calories per hour is a good target. You have to listen to your body to see that the energy drink, gel or food is actually being processed and absorbed. If it is not moving down past your stomach you need fewer calories, more water and more time before putting anything else in your stomach. Let’s look at where our energy comes from for a 100 mile 4000 calorie ride.

We have 2,000 calories available as blood sugar / glycogen We have 90,000 calories available as adipose and free fats, for this example we use 1,000 stored fat calories We then need approx 1,000 calories from fuels on a 100 mile ride to meet the energy demands. 5-6 servings of energy drink bottles, gels or bananas and presto. You have met the demands. Now you have a 3,000 calorie deficit that needs to be replaced to recover so eat up after the event! I personally like Heed, Sustained Energy by Hammer Nutrition and Skratch or Osmo as my source of 150-200 calories per hour. Getting your calories through fluids is the easiest to process and supports staying hydrated.


Duration is everything. How long did you actually exercise and how much energy did you burn? Do a hard 60 minute effort and you don’t need to eat 3,000 calories to recover. Here are some fine points to consider. Water Um yea, water is good.

  1. Rehydrate first. Hydration is primary. Drink water first, let that go into your system which happens quickly and then start the calorie train.
  2. Your body does not care where the calories are coming from after intense / long exercise. It will metabolize just about anything. A donut, a banana, a smoothie, a chicken sandwich. The key is to get calories in immediately after your effort and a quality source of protein is important to speed recovery , lessen soreness and support strength building. Recovery smoothies with protein powder are awesome and recovery drink mixes are perhaps the easiest and most practical as you can drink one down after an event, get your calories, protein and hydration all without any effort or time-lapse.
  3. After event until bedtime is when you want to make up the calorie deficit to recover. You should never eat until stressed or full. Digestion takes a ton of energy and overeating puts another stress on your overworked body. Again know yourself, are you fueling to lose weight, gain strength or recover for day 3 of a stage race. These variables all determine what choices you will make. Know yourself, give pause and ask yourself what am I trying to accomplish with what I am putting in my mouth?

Stay tuned, next in our 2015 series on cycling better than ever is how to tap the mystical, jedi and real powers of your mind to bend your cycling reality! I welcome your questions and comments, contact me for a FREE performance evaluation.

Contact Scott

If you like what you see, Scott offers remote coaching programs to cool athletes around the globe.  I guarantee you will gain something that boosts your cycling, and/or your life.

Scott Price – Master Cycling Coach and Canadian National Road Cycling Champion:

Scott PriceScott Price is a unique cycling coach that is at the leading edge of what the future of sport will look like. Highly conscious, highly intuitive, personally responsible athletes creating incredible performance, experiences and raising the bar for all humanity. Scott is applying his lifetime of knowledge, study, experience of racing with grand tour greats and scoring over 100 victories in over 1,000 endurance events to provide remote coaching to athletes that want to discover what we are really capable of physically as well as the internal state we embody. In walking this walk, when you team up with Scott and his coaching program you gain a wealth of knowledge, inspiration, an advocate and a friend that only cares about your highest good and best interest. The challenges we take on are at the heart of what it is to be alive and it can be awesome.

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Sugar Alternatives for Energy and Hydration

Question: I am using the homebrew sugar formulations (sometimes added to green tea).  I am also trying to wean myself off 1/2 dose adrenalean “lip tonic delivery system” (biorhythm brand- caffeine, hoodia g, synephrine, yohimbe) capsule for energy.

My question is other than juice, can you suggest modifications in lieu of table sugar for energy and hydration.


Both raw/organic honey or agave can work great in the homebrew (substitute in the same quantities for the sugar, or to taste), but you do have to shake well in order to make sure they don’t settle out.  Have you tried either of these?  Also, make sure to use at least the minimum amount of salt recommended in the homebrew as the temps rise, you need the sodium replacement if you’re sweating.

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Please send us your questions for our Expert Sports Nutritionist, Kelli Jennings to “Ask the Sports Nutritionist“. Kelli Jennings is a Registered Dietitian with a passion for healthy eating, wellness, & sports nutrition. For more information go to

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