Early Season Cycling Mistakes – Poor Nutrition

By Jiri Kaloc

The weather is getting warmer which signals the arrival of cycling season. Every cycling enthusiast is itching to explore new trails and roads and get back to cycling shape. It’s easy to get too excited and forget about all the good training habits. We will go over the most common early season cycling training mistakes in this series. Let’s start with nutrition.

A lot of cyclists either overdo it or under do it with nutrition in spring. Let’s take a look at both extremes and see how to avoid them and keep nutrition under control.

Cyclist in the city
According to research, the total amount of protein and carbs eaten in a day is far more important for performance and fat loss than any specific nutrient-timing strategy. © Profimedia

Don’t starve yourself

It is very common for cyclists who want to get into racing as soon as possible to be very strict with their diet. Cutting out some unhealthy foods and reducing calorie intake is a great way to get into race weight. The problem is when you also increase your training volume at the same time. This can result in a big calorie deficit that will make you feel terrible. In fact, it might slow your recovery so much that you won’t be able to stick to your training plan. This can hamper your early season motivation.

Solution: If your diet went off rails during off-season, then it’s a good idea to cut back on heavy fried foods, treats, and sugary drinks. But make sure to replace them with something, so that you don’t starve yourself. Focus on eating right around training, and you will do just fine. Here are three simple rules to follow.

1. Eat at least 150 kcal every hour you spend spinning in the saddle during rides that are longer than 60 minutes. This means 1-2 bananas or 1 energy bar.
2. Make sure to include an extra recovery meal after a longer ride. Go for something rich in protein and carbs with a 1:3 ratio between these two macronutrients.
3. Increase protein intake throughout the day. Try to get 20-30 g of protein in each of your main meals. Good sources are eggs, fish, meat, yogurts, cheese, legumes, nuts, or seeds.

Spring cycling
Recovery is what you need to actually get better as an athlete. If you take it lightly you will plateau or even get worse as you train. © Profimedia

Don’t overcompensate with junk foods

Many cyclists can’t wait for the opportunity to start binging after those first long spring rides. Feasting on your favourite junk foods after finishing a monster ride is a lot of fun and it feels like you earned it. The problem is that it’s easy to overestimate how much food you need to recover. It’s usually less than you think, and you end up overcompensating. Making this mistake consistently can cost you significantly in your power-to-weight ratio.

Solution: It’s ok to increase your food intake a little bit when you start training a lot in the early season. And you can definitely enjoy a treat after hard sessions. Bu try to stick to your fundamentals. The same advice as above applies here too. Make sure to get enough protein in your recovery meals and throughout the day. And choose good home-cooked meals over fast food when you can. Check out our series on how to maintain cycling weight. You will get several tips on how to stay motivated on a healthy diet and how to keep your diet flexibility.

The next article in the series will be about a mistake that sucks the joy out of your early cycling season.