Cycling Diet Plan For Weight Loss

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Cycling diet plan for weight loss will help you lose weight faster. Cycling helps burn up to 420% more calories than jogging. Aside from this, a cycling diet plan will help you lose weight easier. So if you are looking for a safe and healthy lifestyle change, it is better to choose to cycling as the way of exercise.

Fat-busting for cyclists: healthy foods for weight loss

Eat yourself thinner with our guide to foods that make shedding weight both easy and healthy

12 MAR 2021

Keeping weight down is often a key aim for racing cyclists, but that doesn’t mean you have to starve yourself – or make yourself miserable.

In fact, according to David Dunne, Team Wiggins’s nutrition supremo, ‘The worst mistake a cyclist can make is to go out on a fasted ride for hours where they have nothing.

‘Not only will you lose fat, but you’ll also lose muscle, too. And that’s the worst scenario when you’re trying to increase your power to weight ratio.’

So whether it’s preparing meals to fuel your rides, restocking after a hard session, or just filling your belly, we’ve assembled a cyclist’s kitchen cabinet of ingredients that are healthy and nutritious – yet also low in fat.

The 40 foods we’ve collected are divided into eight categories: Meat and Fish, Vegetables, Fats, Grains, seeds, pulses and nuts, Leaves, Fruit, Protein, and Flavouring.

1. Meat & fish

Salmon

Good for: This fish is packed with important nutrients so is a great one for satisfying your hunger for longer, and is relatively low in calories. It also contains a significant amount of iodine. This essential nutrient helps control your thyroid and so can help prevent low metabolism. 

Rich in: Protein, healthy fats, calcium, vitamins D and E. 

Sardines

Good for: They may be tiny but sardines are crammed with protein, which helps stabilise blood-sugar levels, making you less likely to get food cravings. They also contain most of the nutrients your body needs.

Rich in: Calcium, healthy fats, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, protein, sodium, selenium, vitamins A, B, C, D and E, zinc.

Chicken

Good for: Chicken is a superb form of protein, low in calories but absolutely rammed with nutrients such as iron and magnesium that your body craves, it feeds you while filling you up at the same time. Plus it’s low in fat – just eat it skinless, and not deep-fried!

Rich in: Vitamins A, B3, B6, and K plus iron, sodium, potassium and magnesium.

Mackerel

Good for: Oily fish should be a staple of your diet because it’s high in protein and low in fat, making it a super-efficient food for building lean muscle. Mackerel is also rich in omega-3 – which is vital for healthy brain function, so it could make you both a slimmer and smarter cyclist!

Rich in: Calcium, selenium, vitamin E, omega-3 essential fatty acids.

2. Vegetables

Carrots

Good for: Carrots are high in fibre and so are a great way to fight hunger pangs by filling your stomach with a low-calorie, non-fat food that’s rich in nutrients. Rich in beta-carotene, a compound your body changes into vitamin A, this can help keep your eyes healthy – although, sadly, it won’t do anything to help you see in the dark!

Rich in: Calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, beta-carotene.

Sweet Potato

Good for: Stifling hunger. Wonderfully high in fibre, sweet potatoes not only make you feel fuller, but they also help regulate blood-sugar levels, releasing energy into your body slowly. So no sudden energy crashes and no desire to stuff your face with sugary snacks or junk food.

Rich in: Beta-carotene, calcium, magnesium, folic acid, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, vitamins C and E.

Cucumber

Good for: About 96 per cent of a cucumber is water and dietary fibre, making it a low-calorie, no-fat food that will make you feel full. But they’re also packed with nutrients that help improve your digestive system.

Rich in: Potassium, beta-carotene, calcium, iron, magnesium, sodium, vitamins A and C.

Beetroot

Good for: Team Sky’s favourite vegetable. Want to improve your endurance and lose weight as a result? Believe in the mighty beetroot. High in nitrates, it’s believed that cooked fresh (not pickled) beetroot can have a positive effect on oxygen levels, meaning you can train for longer. Result!

Rich in: Nitrates, calcium, iron, potassium, folic acid, vitamin C.

Potatoes

Good for: Stifling your hunger. Arguably the most satisfying food for filling you up, these also contain most of vital nutrients we need. Ideally, eat with the skin on to benefit from its fibre. Packed with resistant starch, this survives your stomach to nourish microbes in your gut. Allow your spuds to cool after cooking to help increase this trait.

Rich in: Potassium, magnesium, iron, copper and manganese, vitamin C and most of the B vitamins.

3. Fats

Olive Oil

Good for: Managing your weight. It’s strange to think that fats can actually help you lose weight, but healthy unsaturated fats like those found in olive oil can help stave off hunger pangs. The oil also contains oleic acid, a compound that actively helps to break down excess fat.

Rich in: Unsaturated fats.

Avocados

Good for: Hunger pangs are your body’s way of asking for more of the nutrients it needs. Avocados are a rich source of healthy monounsaturated fats that provide slow-burning energy and suppress those pangs. 

Rich in: Iron, copper, phosphorus, potassium, beta-carotene, folic acid, vitamins B3, B5, K and E, plus fibre and protein.

Peanut butter 

Good for: Stifling your hunger. Like avocados and olive oil, peanut butter is rich in fats that will actually help you lose weight by keeping those pesky hunger pangs at bay, meaning you’ll feel fuller for longer. Keep to two tablespoons of it when spreading on wholemeal toast or rice crackers.

Rich in: Magnesium, potassium, protein, unsaturated fat, vitamins B6 and E

4. Grains, seeds, pulses and nuts

Chia Seeds

Good for: These South American superstars (Chia is the ancient Mayan word for strength) are rich in fibre and dense with omega-3. Sprinkle a spoonful of these into your breakfast cereal and you’ll get essential fatty acids while stifling hunger pangs for longer.

Rich in: Fibre, protein, B vitamins, zinc.

Wholegrain bread and pasta

Good for: Carbohydrates are important to your diet, so eat the right ones. That means thinking brown rather than white when it comes to bread, pasta and to some degree rice. Your body burns twice as many calories when it digests whole foods compared to the processed versions.

Rich in: Calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, vitamins B3, B5, zinc.

Oats

Good for: Thanks to their high-fibre content, oats are incredibly filling. They also provide you with stacks of slow-release energy, which will help you feel fuller for longer. Not only that but they also stimulate your digestive system and lower your cholesterol. 

Rich in: Calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, manganese, vitamin B5, folic acid, silicon.

Lentils

Good for: High in protein and fibre, lentils are also packed with resistant starch, which can help you burn more fat. They’re also full of iron, which is vital for maintaining high energy levels. Eat with foods rich in vitamin C like kale or broccoli for the best results.

Rich in: Calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and folic acid.

Quinoa

Good for: Managing your weight. This South American seed has more and better proteins than most grains. It’s actually a perfect vegetable protein, which makes it ideal for converting fat into lean muscle, while the high fibre content will leave you feeling full up and hunger-free.

Rich in: Calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin B3.

Nuts

Good for: Stifling your hunger. Almonds (although technically a seed, not a nut), cashews and pistachios are the three lowest-calorie nuts, and all contain enough nutrients to help make you feel fuller for longer. Avoid roasted nuts as heat can destroy those all-important nutrients. 

Rich in: Potassium, calcium, protein, fibre, omega 3 fatty acids.

5. Leaves

Romaine Lettuce

Good for: Stifling hunger. To lose weight you need to expend more calories than you consume and lettuce – high in water content and low in calories – can help. Eating a large salad will fill you up. Mix up the leaves for taste but be sure to include nutritionally rich Romaine ones.

Rich in: Fibre, iron, potassium, sodium, magnesium vitamins A, B6 and C. 

Kale

Good for: Managing your weight. Kale is one of the healthiest things you can put into your body. High in fibre but low in calories, it will make you fill fuller for longer, and will also supply you with a dazzling array of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. A perfect food.

Rich in: Fibre, potassium, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, vitamins A, B6, C and K. 

Broccoli

Good for: Managing your weight. Like kale, this is one of the best things you can put in your body. Nutrient-rich, fat-free, low in calories, high in fibre, protein and water content, it’ll feed you and fill you up, leaving you satisfied for longer. A perfect food. 

Rich in: Calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, vitamins A, B2, B6, C, D, K, beta-carotene and folic acid. 

Spinach

Good for: Stifling hunger. Spinach contains green leaf membranes called thylakoids which decrease hunger pangs and increase weight loss. How? By producing a hormone in our body that tells our brains that our tummies are full. Ain’t nature clever?

Rich in: Beta-carotene, calcium, folic acid, iodine iron, magnesium, potassium, selenium, vitamins B6, C and K, zinc.  

Cycling Diet Plan

A cyclist diet is A LOT different than a “normal person” diet. Cycling expends a lot of energy and if you want to get the most out of yourself, it is crucial that you get your biking diet figured out.

What is different about a cycling diet compared to a “normal person” diet?

  • Increased Calorie Intake: If you want to put a lot of watts out in training, you’re going to have to put a lot of the right food in. You can’t expect to drive a car across the country with an empty tank. How many Calories? This depends a lot on how much you’re training, how fit you are, gender and body size, but you will likely need between 3,000-6,000 Calories.
  • Nutrient Timing and Meal Planning: It’s not just about what you eat, but when you eat it. This is hugely important. You might consume the right amount of Calories, but if you don’t eat at the right times, you will struggle to perform. We’ll dig into this later, but you need to stack carbohydrates before, during and after you training to optimize your performance.
  • Carbohydrates: To support your cycling training, you will have to shift your diet to focus primarily on carbohydrates. This is your rocket fuel. Many riders tend to overconsume proteins and fats. More on this later.

If you’re new to cycling, the sooner you dial in your cycling diet, the quicker you will make gains and crush your goals. 

Nutrition for Cycling Perfromance 101: The Basics

Where do we even begin? Let’s get really basic…

What fuels a bike ride? What is the best diet for cyclists? Let’s figure it out so we can make a cycling nutrition plan that works for you.

Carbohydrates

  • Fruits
  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Vegetables
  • Sugary Sweets
  • Milk / Dairy
  • Cycling Specific Sport Food


What is the other macronutrient that can be used as fuel, but not as effective of a source for endurance activities like cycling?


Fats

  • Dairy
  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Oils
  • Meat
  • Tofu
  • Avocados
avocado.png

What helps you recover from intense, muscle shredding activities?

Protein

  • Meats
  • Milk / Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Lentils
  • Seafood
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Quinoa
  • Vegetables
cyclist protein

Are you confused that many items are in multiple categories?

It makes it hard to understand what are you supposed to eat, and when, if you want to optimize your biking diet for cycling performance.

We’re going to break it down for you and make a cycling nutrition plan.

It’s not only what you eat, but when you eat it

When do you want to focus on eating carbs?

Carbohydrates should be the mainstay of your cycling meal plan. That said, you really want to focus on extra carbs before high intensity interval sessions (Zone 4 or higher) or long duration sessions (3+ hours).

When do you want to focus on eating protein?

Immediately after a mega hard session of lifting, intense intervals, or a 4-6 hour ride.

When do you need to specifically eat fat?

For most of us; never. It will naturally get into your cycling diet. Ideally, you’ll be consuming healthy fats like nuts, seeds, fish, and oils, but a nice steak or pork chop a few times a week is a great way to change things up.

But, the carbs and protein proportion can be way off.

The following points are based around these tenets from (these are taken from Asker Jeukendrup, a leader in Sports Nutrition):

  • Glycogen concentration in the muscle is dependent on diet. The more carbohydrate in the diet the higher the glycogen stores
  • Glycogen concentration declines during exercise, especially higher intensity exercise
  • Higher glycogen concentrations in the muscle resulted in less fatigue and better performance


If Carbs Fuel Cycling, Why Can’t I Just Eat Them All The Time?

While we shift our cyclist diet towards carbs, remember that you need protein to repair your body after hard sessions and you need fats for healthy body function. NOT EATING FATS is a recipe for sickness and poor performance. But again, you most likely don’t need to seek fat out; Just don’t avoid it.

The other main reason you can always go crazy on carbs is that you will retain more water and look a little puffy, like the Michelin man, not P. Diddy, after carb loading, so you need some time to “unpuff”. This does not mean that you should avoid carbs, but you simply don’t need to overly focus on them.

For every 1g of carbohydrate consumed, you will retain 3g of water. If you carb load, do not look at the scale and think you are fat; you are just retaining water.

Many times when cyclists think they’ve gotten fat after a long weekend of riding and racing, it’s just the puffiness from all the carbs and inflammation. So, eat less carbs the following days to reduce this (this does not mean NO CARBS).

When To Shift Your Focus To Carbs?

During Race Season, carbs are king, and really need to be eaten often to keep your energy rolling along.

Let’s assume the following schedule, and these are how focused you should be on carbs. The issue with laying out a cycling meal plan like this though is that some people ride in the morning, others at night, and some swap back and forth. In order to really get this dialed in, we’d need to know at what times you are riding, so these are GENERAL guidelines.

Monday: OFF, lean more towards a well rounded diet with protein and healthy fats to stay full; extra carbs are not needed, BUT YOU STILL EAT CARBS. Use this day to UNPUFF from all the carbs over the weekend by reducing the carb loading (we’ll get to that). Fit extra carbs into your biking diet at night to prepare for the next day.

To clarify, we do not cycle off carbohydrate EVER. We are always consuming carbs, but shift the amount based on the workouts. When in doubt, I lean towards carbs and just watch the amount that I intake.

Tuesday: Intensity, 2 hours; carbs for breakfast (oatmeal, cereal, breads, jams, etc). Just lean breakfast towards carbs, aim to finish solid foods 3h before the ride. This may take some adjustments due to work and depends on when you are riding.

Wednesday, Moderate riding, 2 hours, no major focus on carbs, eat normal proportions.

Thursday, Endurance Riding, 2 hours, no major focus on carbs, eat normal proportions, unless you have a big day on the weekend, in which case you want to start carb loading.

Friday, OFF, lean more towards protein and healthy fats to stay full; extra carbs not needed, unless you have a big day on the weekend, in which case you want to start carb loading

Saturday, Big Ride or Race: CARBS before the ride, protein and carbs after to recover and rebuild

Sunday, Big Ride or Race: CARBS before the ride, protein and carbs after to recover and rebuild

Take a look at this infographic which will break down our Nutrition Fueling Suggestions:

Carbohydrate Intake Schedule Cycling

So that’s it – that’s the basics. Keep in mind the key word: BASICS. We get more into carbohydrate loading at the bottom of this article.

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