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What Kind of Nutrition Does a Road Rider or Mountain Biker Need?

6 August 2021

Whether you’re on the road bike as a professional, or you only ride in the weekends, good nutrition is essential. Unfortunately the importance of sports nutrition is underestimated frequently. Consequently halfway through rides you’re on the side of the road with jelly legs because you just ‘hit the wall’. Or your muscles still ache for days afterwards. With good nutrition, cycling not only gets more fun, recovery also takes less time. Our colleague Ruurd gladly tells you something about the importance of nutrition and everything you need.

To prevent yourself from hitting the wall, a good nutrition plan (food and drinks) is important during your rides. Apart from a training plan a nutrition plan also helps you going faster.

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Somebody who’s training for a tour can also use different foods than somebody who’s mostly performance focussed, such as competitive riders.

Why do you need sports nutrition?

Effort costs energy. During cycling you burn energy by pedaling. Apart from that your body needs energy to stay in balance and not fall over, the latter being mostly important for mountain bikers.

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The substance ATP in your body enables your muscles to move. ATP is made in the body and needs fat, carbohydrates, protein, and alcohol. During cycling we generally use our fat reserves as primary energy source.

During high intensity efforts only carbohydrates are used as energy supply, mostly in the shape of glucose (sugars). The glucose comes from carbohydrate reserves, also the glycogen stored in the muscles.

Energy supply from the muscles

During short but high intensity moments, such as a short climb or sprint, your body does not have enough oxygen to burn fat. Then the energy supply in the muscles is necessary to deliver enough power.

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This supply is unfortunately not infinite. A good meal plan however, can make sure that the carbohydrate supplies last longer before they are depleted, so you can ride longer and perform better.
Your bowels digest the carbohydrates and make sure that the muscles can take up energy from the blood instead of the muscles. This way you still have energy left to go for the final sprint. It’s better to prevent burning protein (and alcohol) if you want to perform your best.

How much do you need?

If your training is shorter than two hours, you don’t have to eat necessarily. The body has sufficient carbohydrate and fat reserves to provide enough energy for the entire ride. If your rides are longer than two hours, it is recommended to prevent carbohydrate depletion by eating.

good sport nutrition

Your body can digest 60-90g carbohydrates an hour, however your body cannot take in more than 60g glucose per hour. Digesting more glucose than that is not possible because your bowels can’t transport more glucose to the blood.

Luckily your body can also take in 30g extra carbohydrates in the shape of other kinds of sugar. This way you’re able to achieve the maximum of 90g.

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If your rides takes three hours then you can take in up to 270g carbohydrates when you time it well. These carbs can come from energy bars, gels, and/or energy drinks.

So what do I need?

A competitive rider’s energy requirement is different to that of a tour rider. This because of the intensity of the rides. First I will look at the energy requirements of a rider who doesn’t compete in races.

To keep the body nourished and hydrated you can use three products: energy bars, gels, and energy drinks. An important difference between a competitive rider and non-competitive riders is which energy bars are best to use.

good sports nutrition

There are bars with many fibres and fat and bars without shose. The fibres and fat in an energy bar make sure that there is a gradual absorption of energy in the blood. It also fills you up more than low fibre energy bars.

These bars are also considered meal bars. Perfect for people who ride tours and/or are training for a ride. Below you can find meal bars and energy bars that have a smaller amount of fibres.

Meal bars (rich in fibre and fat)

Low fibre and low fat energy bars

Energy gels for quick energy

Apart from eating energy bars you can also consume gels of course. Gels are perfect to provide your body with quick energy. Do take care to drink something after consuming a gel.

good sports nutrition

Not drinking after eating a gel can cause nausea. Gels are available in many different flavours. From apple to blackberry: enoug choice to find something that you enjoy.


Drink to resupply

Then the last option to replenish your energy supplies; rest drinks. If you have to drink anyways then better add some energy. This also makes sure that moisture is absorbed quicker. It’s best to drink an isotonic or hypotonic solution.

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An isotonic drink has 6-8g sugar per 100ml, and a hypotonic soluation about 1-5g carbohydrates per 100ml. The added minerals also help increasing the absorption of moisture.

There are both minerals and sugars in our assortment. You can also simply add a powder or tablet to your water bottle (as wished). Shake and you have an energy drink for on the road.

good nutrition

Try drinking half a liter per hour to keep hydrated. If you add 5g carbohydrates per 100ml, then you can take in some 25g sugar per hour.

Energy drinks with energy and minerals

Energy drinks with mostly minerals

Nutrition to recover

After a long ride or race your muscles are fatigued. They need to recover. You can help this process by restocking your energy supplies.

You also need to make sure that the muscles themselves also recover. For a fast recovery you need proteins and carbohydrates. A protein shake quickly offers the protein that you need to recover.

good nutrition

After a training a shake with about 25g protein is sufficient. The amount of carbohydrates that you need is dependent on the effort. A trained athlete has a glycogen supply of about 700-800g. About 3000kcal!

How much you need to eat is personally and depends on too many factors to be able to give a guideline. Recovery shakes contain a combination of carbohydrates and proteins to help your recovery.

Protein shakes

Apart from that you can also use protein shakes if you just want the extra protein after a heavy (powerlifting) session.

Protein shakes

We also have products for people who rather have something to eat instead of drink.

Recovery bars

Protein rich energy bars

Ruurds tips and tricks for eating on the road

  • Test your meal plan during training. This way you can find out if the plan is good for your body.
  • Cut the packaging of your energy bars to be able to quickly eat them during a race.
  • Drink after a eating a gel to prevent nausea

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Eva van den Berg

Eva van den Berg

Since starting work at Mantel, I’ve been reading and writing about bikes on a daily basis. This added to the fact that I am testing new products, has caused me to get excited to expand my own bike collection. I wonder what the inside of my garage will look like in a few years. Luckily I have a big garage at home!

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