13 vital recovery tips that every cyclist should know about

Posted on: December 2nd, 2018

Video: Best recovery rituals for immediately after a bike ride

Cyclist recovery tips: Matteo Cigala is a former Italian international. Now living in Ireland, he was the top ranked domestic racing cyclist here last year.


13 Recovery tips every cyclist needs to know


By Matteo Cigala


Recovery is a critical component in sports performance. It should be included in any successful training program.

When we are resting the body adapts to the stress of exercise and the real training effect takes place.

Recovery also allows the body to rejuvenate energy stores and repair damaged tissues.

Giving yourself enough time to recover is sometimes more important than the actual training. It should not be underestimated.

Many highly motivated riders struggle with the idea of giving up their training time for rest days.

But getting recovery wrong can compromise the hard effort on the bike and can lead to injury, fatigue, lack of enthusiasm and overtraining.

The key is to find a balance between training and recovery. Some of the best cyclist recovery tips are the following:

1 Sleep

Recovery happens when we are resting. Getting enough sleep is very important and a key factor in effective training and recovery.

Make sure you sleep at least 7 to 8 hours per night for proper recovery. If the training session or race was very hard and long; it can be a good idea to take a nap right after.

2 Post training/racing nutrition

Fluid, electrolytes, carbohydrates and protein are the foundation of proper recovery nutrition.

Immediately on finishing a training ride or race – within the first 30 minutes of ‘glycogen window’ – it is important to take in the correct nutrients to accelerate the recovery process. This is even more important in stage races.

As a rule, follow the 3:1 carbs to protein ratio during this period.

Protein intake of at least 20gr immediately after training and races is proven to boost the rate of muscle protein synthesis. It stimulates muscle protein growth, and enhances the skeletal muscle adaptive response to endurance training.

Remember that carbs and protein work together to replenish your glycogen stores more efficiently.

Therefore, if you had 20 grams of protein, have 60 grams of carbs. If you had 25 grams of protein, have 75 grams of carbs.

3 Diet after hard efforts

What you eat just after training or racing it is really important to accelerate recovery.

Healthy snacks are also important throughout the day. But your recovery meal, the first after a hard effort, is really important. This meal should include:

  • Carbs: Replenish glycogen and help muscle repair.
  • Protein: Helps to re-build muscles.
  • Essential fats: Useful to help muscle repair and for inflammation.
  • Vegetables: Helps repair cell damage.

4 Stay hydrated

Water is a crucial factor for training and racing and for recovery. It’s one of most important nutrients for cyclists.

Without the right amount of fluids on board, you are at unnecessary risk for dehydration leading to lower training intensity, and heat illness.

Water is a lubricant for your muscular fibres and maintains a proper body temperature. It is also a very good “hunger-killer”. It helps reduce lipid deposits with its lubricating action.

In fact, it is the water that divides the nutrients inside our body, passing them through the cell membranes and delivering nutrients to every part of our system.

During a cycling activity, losing about 2 per cent of your body weight in water is equivalent to up to 6 per cent decrease in your performance. Going higher than that can be extremely dangerous.

It is therefore essential for athletes to plan a good rehydration strategy.

5 Tapering weeks

Make sure that you have microcycles and mesocycles periods during your season. Those periods should contain recovery weeks.

There are many reasons and considerations behind a tapering week. They allow us to recover and reduce physical and mental stress from accumulated weeks of training.

This ultimate enables very effective recovery and gets is ready to be in top shape for upcoming goals.

6 Active Recovery

When you have an active recovery ride scheduled on your training plan that includes some riding at a low zone (Zone 1) make sure you stick with it.

It is important to train hard on designated days for that training. But it is also essential to take it very easy and recover when you need to.

As a coach, a common mistake I see is riding too hard during active recovery rides. A recovery ride should consist of simply turning the pedals over with minimal pressure.

Low-intensity active recovery boosts blood circulation, which removes lactic acid from your muscles. That helps to facilitate recovery faster than the sedentary approach.

7 Cool down

After races or training sessions, make sure you spin out your legs for 10 minutes. This allows the vessels to contract slowly and expires the waste products as carbon dioxide.

Remember that this riding easy is the beginning of your recovery and has a big influence on how you feel the next day.

8 Compression socks

They are useful for improving leg circulation. In fact, compression socks increase venous blood flow velocity and valve effectiveness.

They also help reduce swelling, fatigue and muscle soreness after intense exercise.

9 Contrast water therapy and ice baths

Contrast water therapy, basically alternating a hot and cold shower or ice baths, can help reduce inflammation and simultaneously increase circulation.

10 Foam roller and massage

Foam rollers are a great way to self-massage muscles after a hard training session and make them feel fresh for tomorrow’s ride.

Massage helps loosen tight spots, flushes out toxic chemicals and keeps your fibres smooth. This encourages fresh blood to flow in and helps the body’s rebuilding process.

Massages are also critical for injury prevention because tight muscles can be worked out, thus preventing imbalances that could result in injury.

11 Stretching

Another way to recover muscles after training or racing is by stretching. In fact, stretching can help increase blood flow to the muscles, improves elasticity and flexibility, as well as helping to prevent injury.

12 Elevating your legs

Elevating your legs above the level of your heart helps to improve circulation and speeds up recovery.

13 Don’t train too hard

Consistency and variety is the key to successful training. Consistent training with an appropriate training load and recovery time is essential.

Make sure you have some days off and some active recovery days in your plans. If your coach is giving you a day off there is a reason for that. So enjoy the extra rest; essential advice in any piece on cyclist recovery tips.

Remember that the training you do in a given day will impact the training that you have planned for the following days. So where possible, try to not to mix training sessions around.