Cycling Nutrition

The first in a series of articles from coach Ric Stern of CycleCoach

Ric Stern, founder of CycleCoach talks about cycling nutrition
Ric Stern, founder of CycleCoach talks about cycling nutrition

Ric Stern started racing in 1984 and has been coaching riders since 1998. Since then he’s coached world champions and amateurs alike. He has also authored research work, had articles published in specialist cycling magazines, newspapers, and web articles. He’s also my coach, so I thought we’d let you see some of his ideas. For this first article, Ric talks about cycling nutrition.

Mastering Nutrition for Cycling Success: Fuelling Your Ride and Recovery

Nutrition plays a crucial role in both performance and health, fuelling our bike rides and runs while contributing to overall well-being. One of the most common inquiries I receive revolves around riders feeling challenged on uphill terrains. While the comprehensive solution involves factors like nutrition, optimal weight, increased power, and enhanced strength, weight management remains a significant aspect of conquering ascents. Let me share some personal stories to illustrate this point.

Ric still practises what he preaches both with cycling nutrition and racing
Ric still practises what he preaches both with cycling nutrition and racing

Two years ago, I underwent my first DEXA scan, revealing osteoporosis. Simultaneously, I had my body weight assessed, providing insights into muscle and body fat composition. Fast forward to this week’s follow-up scan: I’ve lost 6kg, maintained bone health or potentially improved it (awaiting complete results), increased muscle mass, and reduced body fat. This weight loss doesn’t only represent fat; it includes increased muscle mass, and my bone density has either remained stable or improved.

During a three-month period of dietary adjustments, mid-race season, I experienced no negative impact on my cycling; in fact, my FTP increased by 5 W. Importantly, I never felt hungry during this period. I’ve since maintained my weight (while increasing my calories), and am currently only 0.5 kg heavier than last year’s race season. An athlete using a similar approach with me reports losing weight without feeling hungry, enjoying training more, and experiencing positive body changes. This demonstrates the potential for creating a lifelong habit that keeps you lean, fuelled, and healthy for both sport and life.

The Role of Nutrition in Cycling Performance

The right nutrition for cyclists is a mix of protein (for muscle growth and repair), carbohydrates (for fuelling), and fats (for key hormones). This mix varies based on age, gender, and the training performed. While the importance of these components isn’t new, periodizing food based on training is a relatively recent concept that aids in weight loss and performance.

Pre-Ride Nutrition Tips

Before exercising, consuming carbohydrates is crucial to fuel your training. The amount needed depends on when you’re exercising in relation to eating. Fasted rides, once suggested, are now discouraged—especially for masters athletes and females of any age—due to potential negative health effects. Aim for 1g of carbohydrate per kg of body mass per hour before exercising. Adjust the intake based on the timing of your meal: 1 hour before is 1g/kg of bodyweight, 2 hours before is 2g/kg of bodyweight, and so on. Maximise carbs in the meal 1-2 hours before, and include protein and fat for satiety 3-4 hours before. In racing scenarios, consider more carbs and less protein and fat in the meal, as the latter two slow digestion. Sample meals include muesli with yogurt and fruit if you’re eating an hour or so before riding, or eggs, potatoes, veggies, and bagels for when you have longer. Avoid high-fat foods.

In-Ride Nutrition Tips

The need for in-ride nutrition depends on the duration and intensity of the ride. For up to 90 minutes of steady riding, you may not need anything, but beyond that, consider carbohydrates and protein until the intensity increases, where carbohydrates alone are preferable. In races, gels and drinks are effective, while training benefits from a mix of real foods and sports fuel. Stay hydrated during training.

Post-Ride Nutrition for Optimal Recovery

After finishing a ride, initiate the recovery process by consuming a decent amount of protein (20-40g) along with carbs to replenish muscle and liver glycogen stores. Even if weight loss is the goal, maximizing recovery is essential, and avoiding post-ride food (unless it’s a short, easy spin) isn’t the best option.

Sample Meal Plan for a Training Day

Not sure what to eat on a training day (~90-mins endurance or some intervals)? Here’s an idea for 2500 Kcal to 3000 Kcal. How much you need to consume will depend on age, gender, activity levels, fitness level, and training intensity.

(Approx. 500-600 calories):

  • Oatmeal/porridge with sliced bananas, a tablespoon of almond butter, and a sprinkle of chia seeds.
  • Greek yogurt with honey and a handful of mixed berries.
  • Coffee or tea.

Mid-Morning Snack (Approx. 200-300 calories):

  • Whole grain toast with avocado and a poached or boiled egg.
  • Apple slices with a small handful of almonds.

Lunch (Approx. 600-700 calories):

  • Grilled chicken breast or tofu (for a vegetarian option) with quinoa.
  • Roasted vegetables (broccoli, bell peppers, and sweet potatoes).
  • Mixed green salad with a vinaigrette dressing.

During Training:

  • Energy Gel 1 (25g of carbs): Consume one energy gel approximately halfway through your training session.
  • Energy Gel 2 (25g of carbs): Consume the second energy gel towards the end of your training.


  • Protein Shake (25g of protein): Consume a protein shake with 25g of protein to support muscle recovery post-ride.

Afternoon Snack (Approx. 200-300 calories):

  • Low-fat cottage cheese with pineapple chunks.
  • Whole grain crackers with hummus.

Dinner (Approx. 600-700 calories):

  • Baked salmon or lentil curry (for a vegetarian option).
  • Brown rice or sweet potato.
  • Steamed broccoli and carrots.
  • Side salad with a light olive oil dressing.

Evening Snack (Approx. 100-150 calories):

  • A small bowl of mixed berries.
  • A square of dark chocolate.


  • Stay well-hydrated throughout the day with water. Consider electrolyte-rich beverages if engaged in intense training.

Mastering cycling nutrition

Mastering nutrition is not just about going faster on the bike; it’s about embracing a lifestyle that enhances your performance, supports your health, and brings joy to your training. These stories, including my personal journey and the success of the athletes I work with, highlight the transformative power of strategic nutrition.

As you embark on your own nutrition journey, remember that one size doesn’t fit all. Our nutrition coaching considers your unique needs, and aligns with your goals and preferences. Let’s make 2024 a year of conquering hills, achieving personal bests, and enjoying every moment on the road. Your journey to cycling success starts with what you put on your plate.

Just like Ric you’ll also have the put the training hours in


Ready to elevate your performance and nutrition game? Discover personalised coaching options that cater to your cycling goals and nutritional needs. Whether you’re aiming to drop those extra kilos, boost your FTP, or simply enjoy the ride more, let’s work together to make it happen. Here’s to a year of cycling triumphs! Pedal Strong.

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