Bittersweet: do cyclists consume too much sugar?

Nutritionist Anita Bean assesses whether cyclists should cut down their sugar intake and look elsewhere for energy

Image shows a glass of sugar cubes next to a cycling water bottle
(Image credit: Future)

As cyclists our relationship with sugar is complicated. Essentially, it’s a balancing act. We need sugar to fuel our muscles while riding, but we also know that excessive sweet stuff can harm our health and performance. Like many things in life, there’s a fine line between too much and just the right amount. 

The NHS recommends that we eat no more than 30g of ‘free’, or added, sugars a day (roughly equivalent to seven teaspoons). These sugars are called ‘free’ because they are not bound to the structure of the food, and include all sugars added by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, as well as those contained in fruit juice and honey. The average person gobbles up 50g (12 teaspoons) a day – that’s almost double the NHS’s recommended dose. This overconsumption of sugar has been linked with a whole array of ailments including obesity, insulin resistance, type-2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. 

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Anita Bean
Nutritionist & Author

Anita Bean is an award-winning registered nutritionist, internationally published author, health writer and former British bodybuilding champion. She specialises in sport and exercise nutrition and is passionate about helping athletes improve their performance in training and competition. She is the author of The Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition and The Vegan Athlete’s Cookbook and has written for Good Housekeeping, Waitrose Food and Women’s Running. Anita is also the nutritionist for RideLondon and the London Marathon. A strong advocate of an active lifestyle, Anita enjoys cycling, yoga, hiking and strength training.