Feature: Sports Nutrition

We all know that nutrition can play a big role in our performance and good nutrition can be the difference between winning and not finishing, so here are three trainSharp top tips to Sports Nutrition

RST Cycle Clothing & Trigon Bikes

Feature: Sports Nutrition
Brought to you by trainSharp

We all know that nutrition can play a big role in our performance, but often the information presented to us can be confusing and over complicated. Within cycling as a sport, practicing good nutrition can be the difference between winning and not finishing, so understanding the basics is imperative.

Frequently, athletes overlook their nutrition and as such, don’t reap the rewards of their hard work during training. This article will help to provide a basic understanding into the world of sports nutrition. With these tips, they are only a guide, context is key. If you have any questions or are unsure about any of these pointers, do not hesitate to contact a nutrition professional.

1. Understand your Calories

Understanding calories (more specifically kcal) can be confusing, but they do not need to be! All calories are, to put it simply, a measure of energy – when we eat, we consume calories and when we exercise, we burn calories. The most important thing to note when discussing calories is to understand what will happen if you consume too many or too little. Consuming a surplus of calories will result in un-used energy being stored and to little the body will be in a calorie deficient and start burning the bodies stores of body fat.

The best way for us amateur riders to estimate the amount of calories we need to consume is with our cycling computers. These devices take our body mass and work rate (power/heart rate) to estimate energy expenditure. These estimations are not perfect, but they certainly act as a good guide. Here at trainSharp we can test your resting metabolic rate to get a more accurate guide.

So how many calories should you consume? As a guide, males need approximately 2,500 calories per day and females roughly 2,000. However, context is key, this may differ substantially between individuals. One of the most effective ways to track calorie consumption is with apps such as My Fitness Pal; using this will allow you to keep a much better track of calories.

If you are aiming to lose body mass (more often than not, fat mass) this can be a great tool to help you achieve this. Half a Kg (0.45Kg) of fat equates to roughly 3500 calories. As such, being in a calorie deficit of 500 per day will result in losing 0.45 Kg per week. It is important to do this slowly, any weight loss that is too quick can be unhealthy, unsustainable and result in a loss of power output.

2. Use Carbohydrates and Protein as tools to improve your performance and enhance recovery.

There are three main macro-nutrients; carbohydrates, protein and fats. It is important for us to understand what these are and when to consume them as they are the basis of our diets. For the purpose of this article, only Carbohydrates and Protein will be discussed.

Ultimately, food is fuel, so let’s begin with the bodies primary fuel (in terms of nutrition) for cycling – Carbohydrate, which can be broken down into two types, simple and complex. Simple Carbohydrates include foods that contain refined sugars and complex ones that we call starchy, such as rice pasta and potatoes. The amount of Carbohydrate you need will be individual and context specific.

However, a recommend intake should be 5-9 g of Carbohydrate per Kg of bodyweight per day. It is important to consume the right amount of Carbohydrates at the right time. Try to avoid having big portions before rides or training, it is best to have these portions 2-3 hours before (this gives your body chance to digest the consumed food). This principle also applies to the ‘Fuel for the work required’ work, whereby you can manipulate Carbohydrate intake to enhance endurance training adaptations.

… continued after advert


The next macronutrient to discuss is Protein. This is the macronutrient that is responsible for maintenance of the body and can play a big role in recovery. When we train our muscles become damaged, as such it is important that we consume enough protein to allow optimal recovery. Foods such as meat, eggs, fish are the obvious key sources of protein, with other sources such dairy products also being high in Protein.

As with all of the tips in this article, Protein is another tool in your toolbox which can be utilised to improve your performance and thus subsequent recovery. Similarly to Carbohydrate, the amount and timing of Protein consumption is paramount to its effectiveness as a tool for improving recovery. Research suggests that 1.5-2g per kg of body weight is optimal. In addition, Protein intake should be spread throughout the day, 20g per serving is likely to be the most effective strategy.

3. Think about your post exercise nutrition

So how can sports nutrition influence your recovery? The answer to that was alluded to in the above text regarding Protein and Carbohydrates. Once we have completed exercise, muscle glycogen stores are depleted, as such they must be replenished. Additionally, as mentioned previously, muscles fibres are damaged and need repairing. Both of these factors should therefore influence your nutritional choices post exercise.

It is commonly thought that a ‘Protein shake’ must be consumed immediately after exercise to enhance all training improvements; this is simply not correct. Yes, there is a notion to suggest that consuming Protein and Carbohydrates in the period after training will enhance recovery, but this doesn’t have to be immediately. The research surrounding this was mostly driven by replenishment of Carbohydrates rather than Protein.

In the period post exercise, a high Protein meal with Carbohydrates should be consumed. This can be in the form of ‘real’ foods or a recovery drink; there are two main reason a recovery drink is more beneficial: 1. Because of convenience and 2: Because the type of Proteins and Carbohydrates will be more quickly absorbed by the muscles. Consuming these macronutrients at a ratio of 1:3 (Protein: Carbohydrates) is optimal for muscle glycogen replenishment and enhanced muscle protein synthesis.

One of my biggest tips regarding post exercise nutrition is that is it not necessary to pay a handful of pounds for a recovery drink to maintain optimal recovery. My go to post session is a Vanilla milkshake, which pretty much has the same nutrition as an expensive recovery shake, minus a few vitamins and minerals.

If you understand these three tips regarding sports nutrition, you can go a long way. It is by no means a full and comprehensive guide, but these pointers can make a significant difference to health, performance and recovery.

As always if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. Email paul@trainsharp.co.uk for more information.

Cycle Division’s Shop

Send your results as well as club, team & event news here

Other Results on VeloUK (including reports containing results)

Other News on VeloUK