What to eat before cycling

Iader Fabbri, the nutritionist for the Italian national cycling team, reveals all the secrets for eating and hydrating before and after a ride

Home Road Bicycles Tips What to eat before cycling

Cycling is probably one of the best ways to take up sports again after a long period of inactivity. Nutrition plays a very important role for both professional cyclists and amateurs. Eating correctly before, during and after a cycle makes a difference in the ability to manage effort and in general the well-being of your body.

In this regard, Pirelli interviewed Iader Fabbri, a biologist, nutritionist and science popularizer who has monitored the diet of the Italian national cycling teams for years, has edited nutritional columns on Rai Sport in several editions of the Giro d'Italia and has also published books on the subject.

Dr. Fabbri, what should we eat before cycling?

"We need to take nutrients that will allow us to keep our blood sugar levels stable and ensure that there are no changes in our blood sugar in the lead-up to the cycle itself. This, contrary to what is usually said, is not achieved just by eating a lot of carbohydrates. The best thing, especially for those who race, is to have a balanced meal: you need to eat a small quantity of carbohydrates, so a plate of pasta, some cereal or bread, without exaggerating and then combining this with a source of protein, to keep your blood sugar stable and feel fuller. I recommend that you season it with some good olive oil and eat about three hours before you set off, so that you are not mid-digestion and all the nutrients have reached your muscles”.

Instead, what should I eat while cycling?

"While you're doing sports, it's actually simpler. Depending on your speed and effort, this stage can be dealt with in a more or less fun way. A professional cyclist will use high-technology products, such as gels and energy bars, testing them during their training sessions. For amateur cyclists, who like to ride more slowly and enjoy the scenery, the best thing to do is to indulge in something good. So make a stop at a restaurant or a bar, or carry rewarding snacks with you that will also gratify you, because you don't treat yourselves to them during everyday life.

Are there any foods that should be avoided while cycling?

"It would be better not to eat foods containing proteins and fats if at all possible. For professionals, on the other hand, I would recommend against the use of products they haven't tested during training in a race”.

As for after cycling, what should be eaten when pedalling is over?

"We must try to make up for all the energy used during physical activity as much as possible. First of all, we need to recharge the muscular and hepatic glycogen stores as quickly as possible: to avoid losing much of the benefits triggered by the effort, I therefore recommend eating carbohydrates within the next hour. Then, in order to trigger the process of muscular anabolism, and to allow the muscle mass to build up and not destroy itself, we need to eat proteins”.

How do I stay properly hydrated?

"Drinking is essential, but you don't have to exaggerate in your desire to hydrate before you get on your bike. During the activity, mineral salts are good for you, but I wouldn't only drink those: I would carry a bottle of water and one with supplements with me”.

How much can cycling help us get back on track after months of closures?

“A lot. It is an ideal way to get fit again as it doesn't cause much trauma or injury, unlike for example running: this gives us a great advantage. However, you should start gradually, step by step”.