Many new cyclists get into the sport to lose weight. However, you have to eat. Nutrition is an important part of cycling. Over the years I’ve gotten a lot of advice on what to drink and eat. Most of it helped, some of it did not, and some of it was wrong. Here is the truth of some myths out there.
1. Counting calories – You do not need to count calories to lose weight. It’s more important to think of the three T’s – the Timing of the food, the Type of food, and the Total amount of food.
2. Sweat more – If you want to lose weight, overdress and just sweat it out. Not only is this wrong, but it is dangerous. You’ll be dehydrated and feel awful.
3. Stop eating during rides – Big mistake. If you don’t eat, eventually you will bonk (run out of energy). The rule of thumb is to eat something at least once per hour while riding.
4. Fat makes you fat – A high-fat diet is not good, but avoiding fat entirely is not necessarily a good thing. You need to read the label. Many times sugar is added to low-fat foods. Also, reduced-fat foods can still have a large amount of fat.
5. Carbs make you put on weight – There are high protein diets that avoid carbs, but in cycling, you need those carbs to have enough energy to ride. Carbs are your friend. Eating carbs the night before a big ride and eating them during a ride will keep you from bonking.
6. Just drink lots of coffee – There is no evidence, in general, that shows that caffeine will help you lose weight. A cup before a ride will help get you going, but don’t overdo it. I observed many of the riders at the Giro d’Italia pounding down a few cappuccinos before a stage, so there must be something to it.
7. Vegan diets stunt optimal performance – Many top athletes are vegans. As long as you can maintain a balanced diet, you will be fine.
In summary, there are a lot of ideas out there to lose weight. However, when it comes to cycling, you need to eat. Here are some basic rules for eating before and during a ride.
• 1 to 3 hours pre-ride: Consume easy-to-digest, low-fiber, higher-complex carb breakfast. Aim for 300-400 calories. Good options are toast or a bagel with jam, instant oatmeal, and a banana.
• During the ride: Your calorie intake should be 1.4 to 1.8 calories per pound of bodyweight per hour. That adds up to 250 to 325 calories for a 180-pound rider. You can focus on energy bars, but it’s even better to eat homemade items such as a peanut butter sandwich.
The video below explains these myths in more detail.