Optimizing Nutrition: Part 1

Unleash Your Best Cycling Fitness this Year

Written by Sarah Hawthorne Written | June 29, 2017 Photography by Various Photographers Filed in | General

Sarah Hawthorne is a certified Holistic Health Coach and expert nutritionist. After focusing on her own nutrition and self-care, she decided to share her knowledge to improve the wellness of those around her. Read more for her advice on fueling your body for maximum cycling enjoyment and performance.


Competitive cyclists need enough energy, stamina and endurance to perform optimally. Therefore, what they eat has a huge impact on the outcome of their ride or race. Cyclists need good calories to improve their health and fitness. Good calories are those found in nutrient dense whole foods such as organic vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, high quality oils and animal proteins.



Counting calories isn’t a sustainable food plan or “diet” for most people. In my practice as a Certified Holistic Health Coach, counting food quality and nutritional density is. When I refer to quality, I think of food that has been grown or raised naturally (organically without the use of harmful chemicals or genetically modified organisms) and is in its whole form (minimally or ideally unprocessed). When I refer to nutritional density, I think of food that offers a vast array of macronutrients, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients, water and / or fiber.



Macronutrients are proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Your body’s nourishment for your cycling endeavors depends on all three of these macronutrients. Below, I am going to teach you the best sources of proteins, fats, and carbs to fuel your workouts.



Protein creates a sense of satiety and stabilizes blood sugar levels, and is especially important to cyclists and athletes in general, as it helps to repair the body’s tissues such as muscles post workout. The amino acids that protein is comprised of act as the bodies building blocks. So to be fit, healthy, and strong, we need enough of these clean sources of protein in our meals and snacks.


Animal varieties of protein are quite obvious, with some of the most common and preferred sources coming from beef, lamb, pork, chicken, fish and eggs. It’s extremely important to purchase high quality animal protein – think organic, grass fed and grass finished for land dwelling animals and sustainably/responsibility caught seafood. Some of the richest plant sources include nuts, seeds, legumes (beans, peas and lentils), quinoa and some whole grains.



Fats are essential for hormonal balance, which is essential for being able to shed excess body fat, AND maintain your ideal healthy body weight. When you eat fat, you help to achieve a state of satiety and stabilize blood sugar levels. You also get a hefty boost of fat-soluble vitamins. Enjoy an abundance of nourishing fats such as avocados, “cold pressed, organic and extra virgin” oils, fatty fish rich in anti-inflammatory omega 3s (salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines and anchovies), nuts, seeds, eggs and grass-fed organic meat.



Call it unfair, but just because you are an athlete doesn’t mean you can get away with eating anything you want. Relying on processed grains in the form of flour products such as bread and pasta aren’t going to make you perform optimally because they are high glycemic / “simple” and nutrient poor carbohydrates that cause a drastic spike in blood sugar levels, quickly followed by a drastic drop.


Instead, opt for lower glycemic / “complex” and nutrient rich carbohydrates provide a long lasting and steady source of energy. Some of my personal favorites include sweet root vegetables due to the higher levels of energy they provide (beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, yams, turnips, parsnips and winter squash), whole grains (brown rice, buckwheat, millet, teff and amaranth) quinoa, wild rice, and legumes.



When you plan each meal and any snacks you may have to fuel your future workouts, be sure to include each one of these macronutrients on your plate for a balanced diet that allows you to thrive. To inspire you, I have included some links to healthy recipes I think you will find energizing and delicious.

*Pre-workout: https://food52.com/recipes/69337-energy-packed-pre-workout-green-smoothie

*During workout: https://youtu.be/SKUC56z4SL8

*Post-workout: http://goop.com/recipes/chicken-paillard-with-zucchini-noodles/



“According to Cycling Weekly magazine, it is recommended that for every mile you bike, you consume an extra 40-50 calories. For example, let’s say you bike 30 miles, you will want to increase your calorie intake by around 1,200 calories.” – Integrative Nutrition