What you drink before, during and after you cycle can have a tremendous impact on performance. While commercial energy drinks may give you a boost, there are other drinks that work too. Consult your doctor or dietitian to help you determine the best energy drink to fit your specific cycling needs.
Start With Water
As an athlete, you already know how important it is to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, but if your morning urine is the color of apple juice, you may not be drinking enough. Even being slightly dehydrated can impair your performance, advises the American Council on Exercise. To stay adequately hydrated, you should drink water even when you're not thirsty. In general, you should be getting 56 to 70 ounces of water a day. Be sure to drink while you're cycling, too. The council suggests 8 ounces of water every 10 to 20 minutes during a workout or competition.
Sports drinks will also boost a cyclist's energy level. These types of drinks provide both hydration and carbs. The sodium in sports drinks helps you rehydrate faster, according to the American Council on Exercise, while the carbs refuel your muscles and help balance blood sugar levels. Like water, sports drinks can be consumed before, during or after your workout to give your body what it needs. You should choose a sports drink over water for energy if your workout lasts longer than 45 minutes or you sweat profusely while cycling.
When it comes to actual energy drinks and cycling, the results are mixed. A 2009 study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism reported an improvement in endurance in a small group of cyclists after drinking a commercial energy drink. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that an energy drink did not improve performance, however.
Energy drinks are a source of caffeine, and it has been well-established that consuming caffeine before an event improves endurance, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. Whether these types of drinks work for you may come down to trial and error.
Post-Workout Chocolate Milk
Replenishing energy stores after your workout is as important as getting the energy you need before and during exercise. This after-workout meal, which should contain a mix of carbs and protein and consumed within 30 minutes of finishing, not only restores energy but also aids in muscle repair and growth. Chocolate milk is as effective at boosting your energy after your workout as any carbohydrate replacement drink, according to a 2009 study published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.
- Ironman Sports Medicine Institute: Nutrition for Cyclists
- International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism: Improved Cycling Time-Trial Performance After Ingestion of a Caffeine Energy Drink
- American Council on Exercise: Healthy Hydration
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Nutrition and Athletic Performance
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Preexercise Energy Drink Consumption Does Not Improve Endurance Cycling Performance but Increases Lactate, Monocyte and Interleukin-6 Response
- American College of Sports Medicine: Caffeine and Exercise Performance
- Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism: Acute Effects of Chocolate Milk and a Commercial Recovery Beverage on Postexercise Recovery Indices and Endurance Cycling Performance
- Colorado State University Extension: Nutrition and the Athlete