Cycling Nutrition and Drinks



What are your recommendations for pre, and during-ride nutrition?

It seems to me that riding long climbs (like a Tourmalet, etc) or long fast pace sections when you are 90kg is taking more energy than we can provide.  Is there something else we can provide for food/drink or have them stop more frequently?

Is there a preferred drink? Full strength or half And what do you recommend we carry in the car for during ride eating?   Thanks

Kelli’s Answer:

Hi Cristi and thanks so much for the question.  There’s no doubt about it, it is simply tougher for bigger athletes to stay fueled and hydrated during intense, long training.  One issue is that they simply burn more calories than someone smaller than them, but they don’t necessarily have the ability to utilize more during intense activity than anyone else – this is a function of how much you can absorb and digest without causing cramping or overloading your system and diverting bloodflow from your muscles to your gut.  Second, they also sweat more and lose more fluid and electrolytes, and it can be extremely difficult to recovery these amounts.

Here’s my recommendations:

Fluids: First, instead of relying on an average of 20-32 oz. fluid per hour, have your athletes weigh themselves immediately before and after training in different conditions to estimate fluid losses (take into consideration the amount of fluid consumed during the ride).  It may be surprising and these athlete’s may be losing double the amount of average.  Then, form a plan to replenish as much of these fluids as possible during subsequent rides, in sips throughout rather than rest-stop gulps.  I prefer and recommend and backpack-hose system for this rather than water bottles.

Lytes: Next, consider the amount of lytes needed per hour, and form a plan to consume at the top of the range.  These recommendations are in huge ranges, and when I work with an athlete I consider past experiences with bonking, sweating amounts, size, and temperature.  Most athletes need 400-700 mg sodium, 100-300 mg potassium, 80-120 mg calcium, and 40-60 mg magnesium PER HOUR.  Go for the top of these ranges.  You can’t depend on most commercial products to get you these amounts – use salt, Morton’s lite (has potassium) and/or chewable supplements such as a Calcium/Magnesium supplement (crushed and added to drinks) to get these.  You can find my HomeBrew Recipe @

Calories & Macronutrients: Third, for calories, these athlete’s can use higher estimates per hour for carbs and try to use easy-to-digest proteins and fats.  Carb recommendations are usually 40-60 grams per hour, but there’s no harm in 60-80 grams per hour as long as the athlete is using easy-to-digest foods and only taking small amounts at once.  For example, a ½ clif bar and a gel every hour (taken at different times, @ the mid-hour and full-hour mark) + 32 oz. of full strength sports drink every hour = 80+ grams carbs every hour.  Since the gut is never overloaded at once, cramping shouldn’t be a problem.  Other foods that work, but need trial and error, are those that have more fats and proteins (other calorie sources) such as drinks like Ensure/Boost, organic coconut oil (very efficient energy source, but can cause some stomach issues in some athletes), and whey protein added to drinks (should be in a 4:1 carb:protein ratio).  So, for calories, first look to get enough carbs, then add other foods in small amounts that will add calories but always be mindful of overloading and cramping.

Schedule: I’m a big believer in eating/drinking to a schedule rather than to thirst/hunger.  Call it forcing if you wantJ.  If I’m hungry on a long ride, I know I’m in trouble.  You don’t wait for your car to start sputtering before you give it fuel, don’t let your body get there either.  Consistency is key – if cyclists are drinking 2 bottles per hour for one hour, but then a lot less the next, it doesn’t help.

Preparation:  It’s crucial to come into a ride hydrated.  For someone who’s 200 pounds and possible eating 3000-4000 calories per day, this means 90-128 ounces fluid per day in addition to extra for training.

I hope this all helps.  This is no easy task and I wish you the best with it.

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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One Response to “ Cycling Nutrition and Drinks ”

  1. richard on July 20, 2011 at 10:37 am

    For pre ride choose lower GI foods which provide more long lasting energy release.  During ride you will want higher GI (i.e. glucose / maltodextrin)


    January 2023
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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.

Sports Drink Homebrew

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

Nutrition Tips