To be able to perform at your best, you need to understand how different fuelling strategies, and different nutrients affect your performance. Different training sessions, different races both in length, time and difficulty require their own unique approach. You will read some instructions and suggestions about pre, during and and post nutrition based on scientific studies and my own personal experiences.

Before exercise

This meal is probably the most important one you can have before your workout. Imagine setting off for your long journey in your car and before turning onto the motorway, you fill up your tank with high quality 100 octane petrol. Your body needs “fuel” to burn during your session, let it be an easier shorter one or the race of your life. Eating a good portion of carbohydrate rich meal 2-3 hours before your cycling activity will enable your body to burn that throughout exercise. Let’s say you have a 2 hour workout with some hills to climb or some tough efforts on Zwift at 10AM. Eating a carbohydrate rich breakfast at 8AM for breakfast will give your body enough time to digest it and get ready for the workout. It’s important to allow some time for digestion as it is really not comfortable to start your hillclimbs with a full belly. Some of my favorite breakfast or pre-ride options are:


  • Oat porridge with jam and bananas
  • Rice pudding with cinnamon
  • Coconut milk Tapioca pudding


  • Sandwich with some ham
  • Pasta or Gnocchi with the sauce of your choice (don’t choose something too oily or fatty like cheese sauce, go with maybe tomato puree)
  • A bowl of rice with some tuna or chicken (More rice-Less meat)
  • Baked or cooked potato with some beans

Even though “fun foods” like pizza, Oreos and chocolate contain carbohydrates, they are far from the optimal choice. Unfortunately they are full of sugar, fats and processed ingredients that not only will make us fat but in the long run: unhealthy. Try to stick with more natural, healthier options.

During exercise

Many people and athletes neglect the importance of fueling your body mid-exercise. Even for shorter workouts, you need to eat properly to maintain your energy levels. I had a few bad experiences where I did not feel hungry or thought I could get through my training without food. Unfortunately, I was wrong and my blood sugar dropped and I “bonked” or “hit the wall”. Not only I couldn’t turn the pedals but my head felt light, I had nausea and felt dizzy which is not the best when you ride your bike. Studies have shown that during shorter workouts lasting approximately 1 hour in duration, a mouth rinse or small amounts of carbohydrate can result in a performance benefit. For exercise lasting 2-3 hours you will need to intake between 60g and 90g respectively. It is recommended, for long exercises or races you stick to 90 to even 100 grams per hour to keep yourself fuelled. (Jeukendrup 2014, ) You will need to experiment what food you like and what you can digest well. Believe me, if you start eating properly on the bike, your personal records will be broken in no time. Some mid-ride snacks include:

  • Granola bar (15-20g)
  • Energy drinks (30g/500ml)
  • Energy gels (20-30g)
  • Bananas (15g)
  • Dates, dried fruit
  • Oat cookies (5g/cookie)
  • Or my favorite choice: gummy bears (70g a pack)


After exercise

It is really important to take care of your body after the workout. Think about it this way: during exercise you are, in a way, breaking down your muscles and depleting them of energy. Therefore it is crucial that you start “rebuilding” them right after you finish exercising. Even though you’ve been fuelling 90 g/h and you are far from feeling hungry, you need to eat quick acting carbohydrates just after you stop. This will enable your muscles to start recovering quickly. When you have made sure you’ve eaten carbs, then you can focus on protein as it absorbs at a slower rate and it is not that urgent to eat. (Kerksick, 2008) You need to eat some quality proteins as well after your training, as it will help to maintain and build muscle fibers. Oh, and unfortunately I could not find any scientific studies backing up the importance of beer for performance… Some of my post workout meal combinations are:

  • Recovery shake right just after and Chicken salad with whole-grain bread for a meal
  • Rice cakes with Nutella just after and Tuna steak with potato puree
  • A banana right after and grilled tofu with Curcuma couscous
  • Granola bar right after and Bean salad with naan bread
  • Corn cakes right after and chicken and herb pasta (more chicken this time)

I really hope you have got an idea of what some of the key cycling nutritional strategies are. I tried to share some of the well-working methods I used throughout my racing and training career. The focus is on carbohydrates since it is a great and quickly acting energy source. Us cyclists want to ride fast therefore it is key to understand the role and the use of carbs.


Author: Dávid D.Kovács – Pro Cyclist in Team Electro Hiper Europa