Cycling along with walking is one of the most common forms of recreational exercise, and is seen as a simple and effective way to stay fit and healthy. Elite cycling on the other hand is one of the most demanding and competitive sports around. Cycling is broadly split up into two main categories, which are track cycling and road cycling, with this article focussing on the latter. The most well known example of a road race is the Tour de France which is a 3,600 kilometre annual cycle throughout France and neighbouring countries. Elite cyclists regularly participate in tours lasting a number of days or weeks and many other ultra-distance competitions that place huge physiological demands on their body.

Sport-specific physiological demands

Road cycling is mainly an endurance sport, but there is a strong anaerobic component that mainly occurs during ‘break-aways’ from a group and sprint finishes. During races, cyclists exceed speeds of 25 mph on the road for up to 8 hours. Training must consist of appropriate amounts of both aerobic and anaerobic conditioning, and cyclists training for competition may cover up to 1000 km a week in training. Resistance training is another important consideration for cyclists to improve strength and power, and hence, there are many different stresses placed on the body to improve performance. Bearing in mind volume and intensity of the training and competition demands of the sport, the importance of consuming adequate foods and fluids to maintain energy and hydration levels becomes clear.

Nutritional considerations

Energy requirements for professional cyclists can be over 6,000 kcal per day during heavy training and competition. This amount of calories will require a minimum of 6 meals split thought out the day and an excellent nutrition strategy before, during and after training bouts to maximise energy levels and recover quickly. Carbohydrate (CHO) should make the largest contribution to energy intake, with high quality protein and essential fats making up the rest.

The importance of carbohydrate

Carbohydrates are an essential energy source for competitive cyclists as they supply the majority of energy during training and races. As the intensity of exercise increases, so too does the utilisation of the body’s CHO stores (glycogen). If a cyclist begins the race with inadequate glycogen stores, the intensity and volume achievable will be impaired. Thus, it is critical that suitable CHO are consumed at appropriate times, and in sufficient amounts to ensure athletes are fuelled for races and can recover rapidly afterwards. The guideline for an athlete who exercises intensely on 4 or more days a week is to consume between 6-10 g of CHO per kg body mass daily, with intakes as high as 13 g per kg of body mass being reported in Tour de France cyclists.

Carbohydrate loading

Although high CHO intakes are the norm for cyclists, ‘CHO loading’ is a popular practice amongst cyclists prior to day races. CHO loading is science-based nutrition strategy used to maximise pre-exercise muscle and liver CHO (glycogen) stores. In the days leading up to the race, training intensity and volume should be reduced, thus energy and CHO requirements are lower. To super compensate glycogen levels (i.e. above normal levels) during this period athletes must eat a high CHO diet. For cyclists tapering training in the days leading into the race in conjunction with 7-12 g of CHO per kg body weight for 24 hours before competition is sufficient to maximally fill their glycogen stores.

Such high intakes of CHO may be difficult to achieve with solid foods, and athletes often turn to liquid sources. FUEL LOAD provides easy-to-digest CHO with a low glycemic index in the form of isomaltulose, thereby minimising excessive fluctuations in blood glucose and insulin, but providing an excellent source of fuel and fluids for pre-race preparation.

Additionally, FUEL LOAD can be used daily as a means of easily increasing daily CHO intake. Wholegrain foods, sweet potatoes and most fruit are also excellent CHO sources.

On the bike

Cycling differs to many other sports in the fact that athletes can eat and drink throughout performance i.e. on the bike. This provides the cyclist with an opportunity to maximise fuel and fluid intake during the race. The main nutrition goals when on the bike are to maintain energy levels (CHO supply) and limit the effects of dehydration. This is best achieved by consuming a suitable CHO-electrolyte drink at regular intervals. Recent research suggests that consuming multiple forms of CHO in sports drinks provides the highest rate of energy delivery to working muscle. CHO CHARGE has been formulated with this in mind by combining multiple CHO sources including fructose and the designer sugar Vitargo. As cyclists anecdotally report benefits of caffeine ingestion late in exercise, CHO CHARGE is available in caffeinated and decaffeinated versions.

Post-exercise recovery

After training and races the body is fatigued, dehydrated and energy stores are depleted. For optimum recovery a CHO-protein source should be consumed immediately to initiate recovery. Recover Ace Endurance contains a fast-digesting CHO source with high quality protein and other nutrients to maximise the rate of recovery in advance of preparing your major recovery meal.


Protein is required for growth, development and recovery from training. Cyclists can add a healthy, high quality source of protein to their diet with PRO GSH Whey. PRO GSH Whey contains added branched chain amino acids and glutamine, which are essential to speeding recovery between training and race efforts. These nutrients also help to maintain lean muscle mass during energy deficits, and reduce the risk of illness and infection in athletes training at high volumes.

ROS Recommends

Goal Why? ROS product
CHO loading Maximise muscle glycogen stores that are critical for performance RecoverAce Endurance
CHO and fluid supply during exercise Offset dehydration and muscle glycogen depletion, key factors contributing to fatigue CHO CHARGE Caffeinated
CHO CHARGE Decaffeinated
NUTRITION STRATEGIES FOR OPTIMUM RECOVERY Recovery product Restore fuel stores and support optimum muscle recovery RecoverAce Endurance
Amino acid supplementation Facilitate training adaptations Aid growth and repair ISO BCAA Max 1500 mg
ISO BCAA Formula
Quality protein intake Essential for maintenance of optimum body composition Blue Label Whey
Target Whey Protein
Calcium Caseinate
Multivitamins and minerals Ensure adequate intake of essential micro nutrients Accovit Performance