A common topic which wasn’t discussed nearly enough is the proper foods to eat before and after a long bike ride. You’ve spent a lot of money on the right clothes, shoes , best road bike and gear, but you are the engine fueling the machine. What kind of fuel do you need?
What to eat before a bike ride?
You never want to travel on an empty stomach, just like you would never drive miles on an empty gas tank. Protein, electrolytes, and carbohydrates are the essentials to fuel your muscles for the long haul.
What are the MOST beneficial foods to eat before a bike ride?
Although not a portion of food, water is your definite number one priority. Hydration is key to keeping everything moving and functioning in your body.
After water, plan your snacks before and during riding so that you never go more than 3 to 4 hours without consuming some energy!
Before your bike ride, some real power packing protein and carbohydrates can be found in milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese. Omega fatty acid filled foods such as salmon, walnuts and hemp seed help with inflammation!
One of our favorite pre-rides breakfasts is scrambled eggs with chopped veggies, and a side of mixed berries and almond butter.
On the other hand, a definite don’t is refined carbohydrates which can cause a blood sugar spike and drop. Examples are sugary cereals or donut with a sugary creamed coffee.
On-the-fly, these are our favorite snacks:
- Nuts – which contain a good yield of fats for energy and powerful protein
- Fruits – which contain a high water content for hydration and some vitamins and electrolytes
- Good quality energy bars which are low in fiber and high in protein
- Coconut water which has natural sugars and electrolytes without all of the trash chemicals contained in some sports drinks
- A banana for potassium and carbohydrates
What should you NOT eat before a long bike ride?
Despite my toddler’s glee-filled attempts to convince me that farting will propel me to go faster, it won’t.
In fact, eating foods such as broccoli, cauliflower or cucumber may seem like a good ideas idea because they are vegetables – it’s not. They may develop gas deposits which will cause you to cramp painfully as you stay bent over biking long distances.
Eating spicy foods before a ride can lead to a variety of problems. If you are sensitive to the spice, you may develop cramping, ulcers, or, diarrhea while biking.
Something important to keep in mind is that on long distance bike trips your blood floods your legs and working muscles, leaving less blood flow for your digestive system to work.
Again, your digestive system is operating at less than optimal during strenuous bike trips. Imagine getting stuck in a highway traffic jam after eating a coffee and two heavy bran muffins.
Now imagine bouncing up and down on the road bike seat with that same dilemma. You don’t want to have to stop mid track to run to the bathroom.
What types of food to eat after biking?
If you are irritated or angry after long trips, you may not be fueling enough during your ride. The shorter the ride, the less hungry you should be, but no matter the distance your body will need to be refueled, it just depends on how much.
The most important thing to do is hydrate, hydrate, and hydrate. People often mistake thirst for hunger and eat when a large glass of water will do the body better.
Water will also help the body flush built-up lactic acid from the exercise, and assist the liver and kidneys to clean all of that trash build-up from excessive exercise.
One smart tip is to drink an anti-inflammatory water-based citrus drink post-ride. We recommend:
- A lemon or lime to taste
- A pinch of ginger which is a natural anti-inflammatory
- A teaspoon of salt which has iodine and is a fantastic electrolyte (sodium)
- Need it sweet? We suggest something like agave nectar which has a higher glucose index than sugar for a longer release into your system
What are the best recovery foods after a long bike ride?
The two things to keep in mind that are the most important after a long bike ride:
- Your glycogen stores need to be charged back up with carbohydrates
- Your muscles and body will need to be repaired with protein and electrolytes
There is some difference in the correct ratio depending on the length of your ride and the purpose. If you are trying to lose weight or are not that depleted because it was a shorter trip, nutritionists suggest something closer to a 1:1 protein to carbohydrate ratio. If your glycogen stores are completely depleted, nutritionist suggests a 1:4protein to carbohydrate ratio to give your body the energy stores that it needs.
The perfect time?Fuel your body’s carbohydrate stores within the first 30 minutes after the ride has stopped.
Suggested Post-Ride Fuel Foods:
A secret powerhouse is a red beet. It’s packed with carbohydrates, potassium, nitrates, glycine, folate, and tons of carbohydrates! They can be hidden a smoothie, eaten by themselves or added to a lean protein such as fish or chicken for the ultimate post biking meal.
In addition to fueling your body’s need for replacement carbohydrates to boost your glycogen stores, sweet potatoes contain high levels of vitamin C to help your body recover and is high in potassium.
Not only portable, tasty, and high in protein, eggs contain easily digestible amino acids and choline which reduces inflammation.
It may sound counter-intuitive, especially for the weight loss crowd, but low-fat chocolate milk is very nearly the 1:4 protein to carbohydrate ratio you want. Milk contains vitamin D and calcium and has a relatively high water content. If you use chocolate milk with raw cacao rather than milk chocolate, there are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits as well.
Why did the honeydew get married in town? Because he cantaloupe! Seriously, most fruits are known for their high water content, but the cantaloupe shines in our list because it contains high level of vitamin A, beta-carotene, vitamin C and most importantly for our biking athletes, potassium.
Since you want to replenish your carbohydrates quickly within that 30 minute window, white rice is a good choice compared to the complex carbohydrates in whole-grain foods. In addition to being broken down by your bottle body easily, white rice has easily digested amino acids and can be combined with many other foods for a high-powered snack.
Aside from being tasty lean protein, chicken is rich in phosphorus vitamin B6 and selenium.
Berries are full of anthocyanins which decrease inflammation and joint pain, have a high carbohydrate content, and hold a magically high 92% water content.
Sometimes the last thing you want to do is eat after a long ride, but it’s important to pack in that protein and some carbohydrates to restock your body. Having a post bike smoothie maybe the best if you fall into this category.
You can flavor a smoothie to taste with fruits, honey, coconut water which has a high electrolyte content, or low-fat milk. You can add protein powders and mineral supplements as needed.
Keep in mind if you make a milk-based smoothie make sure to chase it with a glass of clean water for extra hydration.
Once you become comfortable with the nutritional needs of your body pre and post cycling, eating before and after a long bike ride becomes second nature.
Don’t eat things beforehand that you know will cause you to have digestive issues, stay hydrated and fueled with a low-fiber, high-protein snack during your ride, and replenish your protein and carbohydrates stores afterwards!