Cycling requires very high energy expenditure, which needs to be constantly replaced before, during, and afterwards. The main energy source is glycogen, which is stored in muscles and the liver.
There are three main macro substances which are intricately connected. These are carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins. The ideal nutrition ratio for an athlete is:
We will now look at all the substances more closely.
Carbohydrates are the most important source of energy. One gram of carbohydrates provides four calories. The main disadvantage is that they have half of the energy value of lipids, they are not easily stored in the body, and turn into body fat if consumed in excess. Carbohydrates are divided into two types – simple and complex.
Simple carbohydrates (monosaccharides)
Complex carbohydrates (polysaccharides)
Fibre, which the human body is not able to completely process, also falls into the category of carbohydrates. If we want to lose weight, we should eat foods with high volumes of fibre.
Proteins are the basic building component of all living organisms, therefore including the human body. They are the building material of our muscles, but they also act as a source of energy. In cycling, this happens especially during long rides. Proteins can be gained from both plant and animal sources. Meat, eggs, and dairy products are the best sources of proteins. There are many other types of plant products that also include proteins but these aren’t usually so complex and they are harder to digest. The best approach is to combine all such accessible sources.
One gram provides double the amount of energy than carbohydrates or proteins. Lipids play an especially important part in our diet as they contain fatty acids, which the body is not able to produce by itself, yet are crucial for good health. Such lipids can be found in sea fish, seaweed, linseed, and hazelnuts. Some vitamins are only soluble in lipids. Therefore, if the body lacks lipids, there is also a lack of these vitamins and this can result in serious health complications. However, excessive consumption of lipids results in obesity.
The biggest threat to our body and figure is the quite common combination of fats and simple sugars that we find in biscuits and chocolates. Healthy lipids are, however, beneficial and essential for cyclists. A well-trained athlete is able to cover up to 90% of their energy expenditure from lipids.
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