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PERFORMANCE ENERGY

NUTRITION FOR
CYCLING

The nutrition needs of cyclists can vary greatly, depending on the intensity and duration of their rides. But carbohydrates are crucial for performance, whether you’re on the road, the trail, or the indoor bike.

Before

When it comes to cycling nutrition, carbohydrates are king. How much you need depends on where you’re going—and how quickly.

Indoor cycling? If you haven’t eaten in more than 2 hours, grab a snack that’s mainly carbohydrates, with modest amounts of fiber, fat, and protein. For a big ride of 2+ hours, splurge on a carbohydrate-packed meal 3–4 hours before you start. The harder and longer the ride, the more carbs you’ll need!

CARBOHYDRATES

Sustain Energy

TIMING

Snack 1–2 Hours Before an Indoor Ride

During

Performance foods like gels and chews are great when you’re going hard. On long (2+ hours) but less intense rides, your body has the time to digest foods with nuts, whole grains, and fruit for more sustained energy. 

Sports drinks help replace sodium and fluid lost in sweat, while fueling working muscles. Aim for 4–8 ounces every 15–20 minutes.

CARBOHYDRATES +
FAT + PROTEIN

Maintain Steady Energy

TIMING

30–60 g of Carbohydrates/Hour

After

A combo of carbohydrates and protein is great for recovery following a long ride. Carbohydrates help restore muscle energy stores (glycogen), while having 20+ grams of complete protein (like meat, dairy and soy) in your post-exercise snack or meal encourages muscle repair.

PROTEIN + CARBOHYDRATES

Repair & Restore

TIMING

Within 30 Minutes

After
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“I HAVE REALIZED THAT ONE CRUCIAL COMPONENT OF MY RIDING IS HOW I FUEL MYSELF BOTH ON AND OFF THE BIKE EVERY SINGLE DAY. CLIF BARS HAVE BEEN PART OF MY ADVENTURESOME LIFE EVER SINCE I CAN REMEMBER.”

— Haley Batten, CLIF Pro Team

Check out our Active Nutrition Guide, a science-backed tool designed to help professionals customize nutrition recommendations for active people based on exercise intensity and duration.

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