Keto Diet Plan for Cyclists

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Written by Brenda Peralta, Registered Dietitian and medically reviewed by Abby Courtenay

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Optimal nutrition is essential for cyclists. This sport requires long-lasting energy to sustain hours and hours of training. Although the preferred energy source is carbs, endurance athletes can have several benefits from following a low-carb approach.

Can cyclists do a ketogenic diet? Yes, you absolutely can, and there may even be extra benefits of doing it.
In this article, you will learn everything related to cyclists and a ketogenic diet, including the benefits and the drawbacks of this type of eating pattern. Find out how to start a ketogenic diet plan for a cyclist, foods to eat and to avoid, and see a one-day sample meal plan and shopping list.

What is the ketogenic diet for cyclists?

The keto diet plan for a cyclist is a low-carb, moderate-protein, and high-fat eating pattern. It is intended for people who train for several hours on a bicycle. The macronutrient percentages can be based on a traditional ketogenic approach:

  • Carbs: 5-10%
  • Protein: 20%
  • Fats: 70-80%

However, there might be some variations. According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, athletes might need a higher protein intake. It could range from 1.4 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. This means that it could be higher than 20%.

Keto is not intended for people with diabetes type 1 or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. 

Benefits of keto for cyclists

There are several benefits that you can get from following a ketogenic diet. Here is a list of the most common improvements you may experience by following a low-carb approach.

  • Weight loss. The main benefit you can find is weight loss. On average, people might lose 10-15 lbs. in the first month of keto.
  • Improved performance. During the first week of keto, you might experience a decrease in your performance while your body adapts. However, after a couple of weeks, your body becomes more efficient at using fat as an energy source.
  • Reduced cravings. In the beginning, you might experience some cravings. After a couple of weeks, carb cravings are severely reduced.
  • Higher energy levels. Many people who follow a ketogenic approach seem to have improved energy levels throughout the day.


Drawbacks of a keto diet plan for cyclists

While there are several benefits of following a ketogenic diet, there are a couple of drawbacks that you might want to consider, especially if you are a competitive cyclist.

  • Keto flu. During the first days of following a ketogenic diet, you might experience fatigue, nausea, headaches, and a foggy brain.
  • Decreased performance. While you might experience improved performance, you may have less energy during the first days and not feel the same power for your training sessions.
  • Nutrient deficiency. If you are not careful with having different foods during the day, you might be at risk of nutritional deficiency. Cyclists tend to need more nutrients due to their increased activity levels. Without adequate nutrients, the body will not function properly.

If you are thinking of switching up your diet, make sure that you don’t do it before an important competition. Do it when you can have a couple of rest days while your body adapts to keto.


How a cyclist can start going low-carb

Before you make a drastic change in your diet, make sure to talk to your healthcare provider, your coach, and your sports nutritionist. They can guide you and make sure that this type of eating plan will benefit you.

Once you have their approval, you are ready to start this meal plan. Here are the next steps for you to start.

  1. Calculate your total calories. There are several ways for you to calculate your daily calories.
  2. Set your goal. You need to determine your goal: weight loss, weight gain, or maintenance. Once you choose how many calories you need. If you are going to lose weight, make sure that it is during your off-season.
  3. Choose the type of keto diet. You can follow a traditional ketogenic approach to maintain the same macros each day. You can also follow a cyclical keto diet, where there are some days that you consume more carbohydrates depending on your training schedule.
  4. Calculate your macros. Determine how many carbs, proteins, and fats you are going to have each day.
  5. Make a menu. Planning can help you determine which meals you are going to have and how much. This saves you time and money.



Foods to eat and avoid

Now let’s talk about those foods you need to avoid and which ones to include more often.

Fats are going to be your primary energy source. That is why you need to include several fat-based foods during the day, such as:

  • Nuts and seeds
  • Avocado
  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Nut butter
  • Coconut milk
  • Olives
  • Ghee and butter

Vegetables are needed in large quantities to provide all the essential vitamins and minerals your body needs. Make sure to eat the rainbow! Each color of veggie has a different benefit. Thus, it is necessary to have as much color on your plate as possible. Choose at least three colors. When it comes to vegetables, none are off-limits (as long as they are non-starchy).

Protein is one of the most important macronutrients for a cyclist. It is vital for recovery because it helps to repair damage and promote muscle growth. Here is a list of protein sources you can include:

  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Plain Greek yogurt
  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Fish and seafood
  • Venison
  • Pork
  • Soy or tofu

When it comes to carbohydrates, you need to be careful which ones to include to prevent going over your daily carb allowance. If you are going to add them, add whole foods such as quinoa, brown rice, beans, lentils, chickpeas, corn, sweet potato, and fruits in moderation.

Try to avoid high-carb and energy-dense foods such as cookies, pastries, cakes, and white bread since they lack nutrients.

A cyclist might need some help with supplements. You can consider adding a protein supplement if you need a more convenient source of protein during the day. Also, you might consider adding caffeine for an energy boost or electrolyte supplements to replace electrolyte losses from sweat.
When it comes to sports nutrition, make sure to have a snack every hour you exercise. So, for example, if you are going on a bike ride for 6 hours, make sure to take with you at least 6 snacks.


Shopping list

It is time to restock the pantry and the fridge! Here is a shopping list to help guide you the next time you go grocery shopping.

  • Fats
    • Nuts: peanuts, almonds, cashews, and walnuts.
    • Seeds: flaxseeds, hemp seeds, and chia seeds.
    • Ghee or butter
    • Cream cheese
    • Sour cream
    • Coconut milk
    • Olives
    • Olive oil or coconut oil
    • Shredded coconut
    • Nut butter
  • Vegetables
    • Broccoli
    • Cauliflower
    • Mushrooms
    • Celery
    • Carrots
    • Tomatoes
    • Eggplant
    • Leafy greens
    • Spaghetti squash
    • Zucchini
  • Fruits
    • Berries
    • Apples
    • Pears
    • Bananas
  • Proteins
    • Eggs
    • Cheese
    • Red meat
    • Chicken
    • Fish and seafood
    • Plain Greek yogurt
    • Venison
    • Pork
    • Soy and tofu


1-day sample meal plan for cyclists on keto

Now comes the fun part: the meal plan! Here you can find a one-day keto meal plan for cyclists so that you get an idea of how to distribute your meals and foods.

  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with bacon and a side of strawberries
  • Morning snack: Olives with cherry tomatoes and mozzarella
  • Lunch: Salmon and avocado salad
  • Evening snack: Mango protein shake
  • Dinner: Spaghetti squash with a pork chop

Calories: 2,198 | Macros: 62.5 g net carbs, 154.2 g protein, and 142.3 g fats

BREAKFAST Ingredients Serving Size Calories Net Carbs(g) Protein(g) Fat(g)
Scrambled eggs with bacon and strawberries Eggs 3 units 215 1.1 18.9 14.2
  Cherry tomatoes 1/2 cup 14 1.6 0.4 0
  Cheddar cheese 1 slice (1 oz) 115 0.6 6.8 9.5
  Bacon 2 slices 63 0.2 5.2 4.6
  Strawberries 1 cup halves 49 8.7 1 0.5
Calories Net Carbs Protein Fat            
456 12.2 g 32.3 g 28.8 g            
MORNING SNACK Ingredients Serving Size Calories Net Carbs(g) Protein(g) Fat(g)
Olives with cherry tomatoes and mozzarella Olives 10 units 45 0.3 0.3 4.1
  Cherry tomatoes 1/2 cup 14 1.6 0.4 0
  Mozzarella cheese 3 oz 235 2.4 23.1 14.4
Calories Net Carbs Protein Fat            
294 4.3 g 23.8 g 18.5 g            
LUNCH Ingredients Serving Size Calories Net Carbs(g) Protein(g) Fat(g)
Salmon and avocado salad Salmon 3 oz 108 0 17.4 3.7
  Garlic 1 clove 4 1 0.2 0
  Butter 1 tablespoon 102 0 0.1 11.5
  Lemon juice 1 tablespoon 3 1 0 0
  Avocado 1/2 unit 182 3.4 3.4 15.4
   Spinach 1 cup 7 0.3 0.8 0.1
   Walnuts 1 oz 185 2.1 4.3 18.5
   Olive oil 1 tablespoon 120 0 0 13.6
Calories Net Carbs Protein Fat            
711 7.8 g 26.2 g 62.8 g            
EVENING SNACK Ingredients Serving Size Calories Net Carbs(g) Protein(g) Fat(g)
Mango protein shake Mango 1/2 cup 50 22.2 0.7 0.3
  Almond milk 1 cup 39 2.9 1 2.5
  Vanilla protein mix 1 scoop 109 2 24.2 0.5
  Chia seeds 1 oz 138 2.2 4.7 8.7
Calories Net Carbs Protein Fat            
336 29.3 g 30.6 g 12 g            
DINNER Ingredients Serving Size Calories Net Carbs(g) Protein(g) Fat(g)
Spaghetti squash with a pork chop Pork chop 1 chop (185 g) 287 0 40 12.8
  Garlic powder 1/2 teaspoon 5 1 0.2 0
  Onion powder 1/2 teaspoon 4 0.8 0.1 0
  Olive oil 1/2 tablespoon 60 0 0 6.8
  Cherry tomatoes 1/2 cup 14 1.6 0.4 0
  Spaghetti squash 1 cup 31 5.5 0.6 0.6
  Fresh basil 1 tablespoon 0 0 0 0
Calories Net Carbs Protein Fat            
401 8.9 g 41.3 g 20.2 g            
DAILY TOTALS   2,198 cal 62.5 g net carbs 154.2 g protein 142.3 g fat



Keto diet plan for cyclists FAQ

Do you still have questions regarding a keto meal plan for cyclists? Here are the most frequently asked questions.


During the first days, you might experience decreased energy levels and performance because your body will have to adapt from using glycogen to fat. These days it is essential for you to train lightly.

After a couple of weeks, when your body has adapted, your performance may increase.

If you are fat-adapted, you shouldn’t need anything on a ride shorter than 2 hours. If you are worried that you may get hungry during a longer ride, you can take a small bag full of nuts with you, or a low-carb bar.

If you want to carb-load, you may want to follow a cyclical keto plan instead of the standard ketogenic diet. 

Cyclical keto is better suited for stop-start or power sports. For endurance sports like cycling and long-distance running, being in ketosis can cause your body to fat adapt, which means that it uses fat stores for energy. Your fat stores are much bigger than your glycogen stores and so you can go for longer before needing to refuel.

Yes, a ketogenic diet is better for endurance athletes than for explosive types of sports.

Explosive sports often require a higher carb intake than you can find in a ketogenic diet.

No, it is better to stay in ketosis so that you can become properly fat-adapted. If you go on and off your training will suffer because you won't be able to get fully fat-adapted.


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