Do you feel exhausted after a short time on your bike? There are new things you can try to build energy for physical activities. For endurance athletes and individuals who love to bike long distances like myself, the best foods for cycling can help improve overall performance.
Finding the perfect balance of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats will help fuel your cycling and feed your body as you recover from those long rides.
The Nutrition Basics
When you are looking for optimal athletic nutrition, there is a wide variety of choices. A novice cyclist can get overwhelmed with the selections available from protein bars to energy gels and everything in between.
You should know exactly what you are fueling your body with before making any nutrition decisions. If you start a cycling routine or need to supplement on longer rides, there are some aspects to consider.
Choose Nature Over Pre-Made
You can find many sports nutrition companies with numerous products professing their greatness for cyclists. This claim could be accurate, but you should still take your time and read the ingredient labels before purchasing any pre-packaged or processed menu items.
When you use premade nutrition, you could be taking in more sodium, sugars, or additives that your body does not need. You will be further ahead to stick with products that have only a few simple ingredients.
Simplicity and Portability
Simple food options are the best type to fuel your body at any time of the day. Ideally, you should choose whole food options, even when you’re on the road, completing either long rides or more challenging shorter distances.
Being able to refuel out on the bike will help your overall performance. The foods you choose should be easy to pack and consume while exercising.
Timing is Everything
When you fuel is also just as important as how you fuel your body. You should be providing your body with ample energy sources before your stores become depleted. By taking in proper food before, during, and after cycling, you won’t have to worry about any drops in energy levels.
For example, many athletes include nutrient-dense foods like eggs or oatmeal a few hours before biking. Complex carbohydrates paired with healthy protein can help fuel your body more efficiently as you cycle.
What Are the Best Foods for Cyclists?
Cycling can be a strenuous physical activity. If you are an avid mountain biker, triathlete, or recreational cyclist, you will need the best combination of foods to feed your body the energy it needs.
I have found that the best foods for cyclists will fall into three major categories. These areas include proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. By finding the right combination of these three pillars of nutrition, you could see an increase in your performance and overall feeling during and after your bike time.
Proteins are an essential part of our regular diet and especially important for endurance athletes and individuals completing physical activity. During any exercise, your body will expel more energy and will require extra nutrients. Think of it as energy in, energy out.
Your body needs protein to help strengthen and repair your muscle tissue. That doesn’t mean that you need to take a steak with you on your bike. There are many alternatives to traditional protein sources that work well for cyclists.
Some nutritionists recommend anywhere from 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, depending on how often you exercise. Some of the best protein choices for cyclists are:
- Red meat
- Milk and milk products
Carbs are not the enemy, contrary to what some people may want you to believe. Carbohydrates are necessary to delay fatigue from exertion by helping to reload your muscle glycogen stores. The body will look for extra carbs to burn energy rather than breaking down muscle tissue for energy.
When you include the proper carbohydrates in your sports nutrition plans, you fuel your body for high-intensity exercise like cycling. If you eat carbs after cycling, they can also help repair muscle fiber tissue and prevent loss. So remember that carbs are beneficial before, during, and after your ride.
Although, if you eat too many carbohydrates you could feel slow and sluggish, but you will not have enough energy for physical activity if you do not consume enough. Finding the balance of carbs for your body is vital for those big rides, especially when it comes down to choosing complex versus simple carbs. Some popular carbohydrates that cyclists choose include:
- Whole-grain pasta
- Sweet potato
- Dried fruit
Fats are not a bad f-word at all. On the contrary, they should be a vital part of your sports nutrition when cycling. They help to provide energy, much like their partner carbohydrates. There is a specific function that makes it important.
While your body will burn carbs quickly for energy, fats will remain in your system longer during exercise to use later on. Finding the best way to integrate fats into your nutrition while cycling will help give the best results possible.
Giving your body an ample fat store will provide the energy you need to perform better and longer. Some healthy fat options are:
- Nuts and nut butters
Some Things to Consider
There may be times where you will want to try different foods to see how your body responds. Remember to take caution when introducing new products to your sports nutrition. If you jump head-first into a new cycling diet, you may face disastrous results.
Keep these tips in mind:
- Introduce new food items only on short rides to ensure there won’t be any side effects later
- Try not to take in more than one new food product at a time to make it easier to eliminate any problems
- Keep a food journal to track what is working well for you and what doesn’t for future reference
Fueling your body during any exercise is essential, but if you’re a mountain biker like me, you understand the importance of keeping your body topped up with healthy food for maximum energy. The good news is that the best foods for cyclists do not have to be expensive or complicated to give you the boost you need.
Remember you should keep your choices simple, follow your schedule, and rehydrate consistently while making smart food choices. By following these straightforward guidelines, you will feel better and boost performance while out on your bike.