"No Sugar, No Grains" (NSNG) and Cycling

Hi all. I am having to shift my diet around this year for a few reasons external to cycling, and am finding that my current diet aligns more closely with the NSNG approach. Pretty similar to a Paleo approach but I am allowed to consume dairy products.

Cutting out the processed sugar and honey, maple syrup etc. side of things was tough initially, however, I am now finding it easy enough to dodge because most of those foods come pre-packaged. Also, my body doesn’t really agree with high sugar and processed foods so the thought of being hunched over in the fetal position is a good enough deterrent. I am however struggling with what to consume on the bike in the longer century rides. At around the 140km mark when everyone else is busting open gels (which would cause my stomach agony!) I am still trying to figure out what to consume onboard in order to still maintain that Z3 effort for the last 20km of the ride. I have started to consume low GI fruit like berries and also some apple slices which seems to work. Anyone else have any tips here?

The thing that I am finding difficult is the lack of ability to consume grains, cereals and high GI fruits. I have a few hard boiled eggs for brekkie, with avocado and cottage cheese which has won me over on the breakfast front. Took a while, but we got there.

Has anyone else had to move away from gluten and processed foods but still maintain quite a heavy training load on the bike? Any tips on what to consume before, during or after training ride?

Can you tolerate rice? If so, get the feed zone cookbook for its rice cake on the bike food.


No specific suggestions, but part of the key to this is make sure you are eating in the first 20km of the ride, to make sure that you have enough already in the system by the time you get to 140km. Particularly if your intolerances mean you have to eat slower-to-digest foods, eating early to make sure it available later is essential. Set Eat reminders on your head unit if you need to.

Yeah, I have started to do this with reminders. I’m generally pretty good with consuming each hour on the bike. At the moment, though, it is a question of what to consume …

Before having to change my diet around, I would always just pull banana’s, gels and Cliff bars out and that seemed to work well with sustaining me for the 160-200km rides at a fairly high intensity and speed. Unfortunately, that is all out the window now so I have to come up with foods that I can consume on the bike to sustain me.

Finding it rather difficult … even at the café stops now there is very few options for me to consume without actually knowing every single ingredient. Very frustrating! As silly as this sounds, I’ve even toyed with the idea of bringing hard boiled eggs in my jersey pocket to have at the café so that I can at least consume something substantial whilst sitting down.

What about potatoes or sweet potatoes as a pre-ride carbohydrate? There are sports drinks based on starch - UCAN I think. It’s supposed to have a lower glycemic index.

Unfortunately the enzyme needed to digest starch has decided to go on a holiday. :man_facepalming:t3:

I get that carbs will be the preferred fuel source, but have you considered the single serve peanut butter / almond butter packets?

The homemade rice cakes suggested above are a great suggestion, if tolerable.

I think going down the homemade route might be your best option so that you can control the ingredients and macronutrient composition of food.

I haven’t but one of the recommendations was nut butter packets on rides. I hadn’t ever heard of such things but am going to see if I can find them somewhere. I also got told to take some beef jerkey along for rides which was an interesting section of the report! Haven’t really ever eaten beef jerkey because I always thought it was bad for you and really high in salt … learning as I go I guess!

Yeah, same here. I am a little nervous to eat out or take “natural” packaged things along for rides so would rather make my own so I know exactly what is going in.

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I think you’re working with enough restrictions here that anything you feel has a positive impact is probably worth doing. I personally enjoy a mid-ride cheese stick which usually gets me some odd looks. :stuck_out_tongue:

Hopefully I’m missing some potential options here, but it sounds to me like it would be really difficult to consume any measurable amount of carbohydrate on the bike within that framework- and in that case seeing some of level decline relative to your earlier performance might be unavoidable, especially if you’re spending a lot of time at higher intensities. Perhaps the lower-carb folk are more imaginative than me though!

You do mention fruits such as berries and apples- are you able to eat them dried? That would be a good way to get the energy density up a little. I also like those little pressed fruit/nut bars- they’re pretty adaptable and easy to make at home. Maybe some almond/coconut flour based baked goods?
Possibly an obvious one, but I’d also look at some kind of hydration tab/electrolyte source for longer rides in lieu of the typical drink mix. Caffeine also goes a long way if that’s an option :slight_smile:

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I would love to hear from some lower carb folk to see what they do on rides. I am surely not the first, or the last, cycler to not be able to have gels, bars and certain fruits etc. on rides. Just a challenge to find those people who have lived through it and have not had to sacrifice their performance or recovery! It is all a learning curve I guess. I have never really had to pay much attention to diet as much as what I have to now.

Yes, I can have some dried fruits but it depends on what they are. I have this GI sheet that goes through where certain fruits are on the scale. Anything below 50 … I am still trying to figure that scale out to understand what 50 actually means in the scheme of things and what fruits (dried or real) fit where etc.

Yes, all cleared to have electrolyte tablets. Phewwwwwwwwwwwwww!

That might be a solid place to look- I’m generally not one to recommend lower-carb ride nutrition all else being equal, but it does make sense to optimize within the constraints you’re given. On the bright side, my understanding is that it’s something that you adapt to with time, and it seems like there’s a lot more resources and discussion related to this topic popping up in recent years. Along with potentially more good snacks :joy:

Fruit mousse (not sure what the most appropriate English word is) would be my go-to.

Take apples, for instance. Apple mousse is delicious. Fill one of your bottles with it (it should be fine enough to go through easily and be drinkable) and you’re ready to go.

I use a ready product which is a fruit mousse with maltodextrine - 90 grams are the equivalent of one gel - but I don’t have your kind of restrictions. I squeeze them into a bidon.

If I were you, I’d try making apple mousse myself. Peel, empty and cut apples into 6-8 pieces each, throw in a pot adding a layer of water on the bottom, cook until soft so you can squeeze them unless they fall apart themselves.

Might be worth checking out this book. It has some great tips, advice, ideas and recipes, including vegan, dairy free, gluten free, etc.

This sounds brutal. I’m as pro-high-carb fueling as a person can be. I have stated that I have seen no place, ever, for a fat-adaptation-producing diet (ie. low carb high fat), in the past.

I think I will change my tune here. If you are unable to digest sugar, and unable to digest starch, and have to rely on things like apples to get carbs in during endurance performance… I think you might actually be a strong candidate for doing a pretty low-carb high-fat diet.

I’d exhaust the world of options before doing so.

Do you mind explaining how specifically you identified that sugar was a no-go for you? Any sort of testing info would be handy to know.

Working with a registered dietitian who is expert in endurance sport fueling would be a good idea, if feasible.


I remember reading the Stave Abraham the long distance cyclist used to eat a lot of cold precooked sausages when he was on these long rides. Easy to cook and very easy to eat.

Last year I was taking a couple peanut butter sandwiches and nut butter packets on long (4-5 hour) gravel rides). It was good all day energy.

Has anyone heard of RAAM riders sipping olive oil for fuel? I’ve read/heard two anecdotes on this now.

I stopped all added sugar three years ago and it greatly.improved my conditions with my Crohn’s disease. Now, on the bike for hard rides I will still consume sugar. I do find my body tolerates it when I need it. Diet is a challenge at the best of times. Hard rides need fuel. Try and see what works for you

This. The body behaves differently on the bike, as I understand it. If you have doctors telling you that you lack a specific enzyme, that’s a bummer. That said, I ride with a guy who is keto, and he does a fantastic job. I don’t think he eats much at all on the bike, if anything.

What about using some exogenous ketones as an extra source of fuel?

Homemade bars with Dried fruits, nut butters and dark chocolate would be my go to if you could tolerate them. Chia/flax etc for some extra oomph and helps to “dry out” the bars

Does your specific pathology play nice with maltodextrin? It tastes pretty bleh by itself but its about as close to pure glucose as you can get so it has a fighting chance. Someone else just mentioned ketones which seem worth trying but they are expensive and GROSS. If your concerns are insulin/blood glucose related I have found that on the bike once you are warm you can get away with a LOT. I wear a CGM all the time and i can eat things that would spike my blood sugar to the moon while at rest and they dont even register while I am on the bike. The physical transporters required are not even the same at the cell level but you didnt say if your issues are intestinal or lower level than that.