Your diet plans play a significant role in performance and recovery throughout your MTB training journey. Do you know the saying “You are what you eat”? That statement is true when it comes to mountain biking and many endurance sports. Getting your diet wrong is not an option if you want to crush that uphill climb or ride longer with plenty of stamina. Here is my list of 5 common mountain biking nutrition mistakes that a lot of newer and seasoned riders make.
1. Not enough carbohydrates during MTB rides
Typically, athletes I have worked with don’t eat enough. For rides over 2 hours, consume 30-60 grams of carbs per hour or aim to eat about every 45 minutes. To avoid bonking, try to eat before you are hungry. Check out my previous post to learn more about what to eat during mountain bike rides.
2. Only have protein after MTB rides
Have back-to-back rides planned over a weekend and want to feel your best both days? Want to recover optimally after that Saturday ride for Sunday’s ride? I find that people have protein after rides for recovery but forget about the carbs. People will often pack protein drinks that contain large amounts of protein but few carbs! Ideally, a recovery snack or shake should have a ratio of 3 or 4 to 1 carbs to protein. Aim for a recovery drink or snack that contains 15-25 grams of protein and 45-100 grams of carbs. Check your protein powder to see if it has carbs and if not, add some maple syrup, chocolate milk, or eat a banana. Here’s a list of other examples:
- ½ cup Greek yogurt, ¼ cup granola, 1 tbsp maple syrup, 1 tbsp hemp hearts, 1 cup blueberries (19 g protein, 54 g carbs)
- 2 slices bread (preferably one like Dave's killer bread), 2 tbsp jelly, 2 tbsp peanut butter (18 g protein and 68 g carbs)
- 1 orange, 1 cup carrots, ¼ cup hummus, an ounce of cheese, about 6-7 whole wheat crackers of choice (15g pro, 55g carbs)
- ½ cup yogurt, 1 banana, 2 tbsp peanut butter, 1 tbsp maple syrup (16g pro, 52g carb)
3. Follow "Fad Diets"
Don’t fall into the diet world trap and follow the latest fitness and nutrition trend. Low fat, low carb, Paleo, Keto, raw food diet, the list goes on and on. Fad diets are called fad diets for a reason. They don’t last. If you are following any diet that is not sustainable for the rest of your life, don’t do it! Fad diets generally promote rapid, unsustainable weight loss and eliminate certain nutrients. Unfortunately, research shows that most people who follow these diets lose weight only to regain more weight than they lost. Remember, you need carbohydrates, fat, and protein.
Food is fuel, not the enemy.
4. Poor Hydration
Athletes often hydrate incorrectly. First, they don’t hydrate enough during the day. Try to have water around to sip on, especially when it is hot out. Don’t overdo it and force it; you don’t want to overhydrate. Second, many athletes only drink water during rides. When riding over 1.5 hours or hot out, use a sports drink containing carbohydrates (sugar) and electrolytes (salt). See my hydration article for more details.
5. Making up for poor diet with supplements
People often try to make up for a poor diet with expensive supplements. But, unfortunately, supplements will not make up for poor food choices. Therefore, try to include a variety of colorful whole foods every day.
Emily is a Sports Dietitian who is passionate about helping others improve their health and athletic performance through proper nutrition. She races cyclocross professionally. She lives in Roanoke, VA with her husband Kerry and their beagle Sherman.
Get the email for busy mountain bikers.
Discover the best products + gear, and learn about deals from brands you love.