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Should I consider the type of carbs in my pre-cycling meal to boost performance?

Yes, considering the types of carbs before cycling allows you to customize your nutrition strategy based on the characteristics of your ride. This optimization can lead to improved performance.

Image of The Athlete’s FoodCoach
Written by: The Athlete’s FoodCoach, on 22-12-2023
Tasty smoothie bowl with banana, strawberries, blueberries and some granola

Why is the type of carbs before cycling relevant?

Different types of carbs are processed differently by the body, which influences:

  1. Energy release: Carbs that are processed more slowly, promote a steady release of energy during cycling.
  2. Blood glucose levels: Some carbs result in a slower increase in blood glucose compared to other types. This helps maintaining stableblood glucose levels during cycling, contributing to sustained performance.
  3. Substrate utilization: Carbs resulting in a slower increase of blood glucose, potentially encourage the body to rely more on fat for energy. This enhanced fat oxidation can be beneficial for endurance cyclists, potentially sparing muscle glycogen and contributing to sustained energy levels. However, research findings on this effect have been inconsistent.
  4. Gastrointestinal comfort: Carbs that are harder to digest and absorb, can cause gastrointestinal discomfort during your ride.

How do I get the type of carbs in my pre-cycling meal on point?

Carbs in foods can be ranked according to how they are processed and consequently affect blood glucose levels, known as The glycemic index (GI). In general, low-GI carb sources, cause a lower and slower rise in blood glucose compared to high-GI foods. You may use this principle to customize your nutrition strategy based on the characteristics of your ride:

  1. Endurance rides: Choose mainly low-GI carbs, for a steady release of glucose, ensuring consistent energy and stable blood sugar. Low-GI carbs may additionally promote the use of fat for energy, making them ideal for long rides.
  2. Short- and high intensity rides: Opt for a mix of high- and low-GI carbs that are more easy to digest. Easy digestible, high-GI sources cause a more rapid increase in blood sugar, provide quick energy and swiftly replenish glycogen stores. This making them suitable for a pre-cycling snack as well.
  3. Gastrointestinal comfort: Choose carbs that are easy digestible, which are often high-GI carbs, to avoid gastrointestinal discomfort especially during intense rides. However, since individual tolerance varies, pay attention to your body's response to different types of carbs.

Working with the GI of foods to customize your nutrition strategy before exercise works well if you are dealing with isolated carb sources. However, combining several foods influences overall digestion and absorption of a meal and therefore influence the GI response and its effects.

Use The FoodCoach App to structure your training and receive customized pre-cycling meal recommendations. Experimenting with different types of carbs and paying attention to how your body responds allows you to tailor your nutrition to your unique needs and preferences. Keep in mind, every meal is a chance to enhance your performance!

Example of FoodCoach app

Popular low-GI foods

Popular medium-GI foods

Popular high-GI foods

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