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Discover the best foods to eat to fuel your bike rides

Find out the best foods to eat and when to eat them to feel full of energy for your next cycle ride. We share our favourite pre-ride snacks, what we keep in our back pockets on the bike and the foods we look forward to at the end of a long ride.

There is no worse feeling than running out of energy on a bike ride. Your legs go weak, your motivation saps and turning the pedals feels like cycling through thick custard. Whether you call it blowing up or hitting the wall it is always an unpleasant, dispiriting experience.

The good news is, fueling up properly can help you avoid this. There are three key times for fueling around your bike ride – fairly obvious, they are before, during and after…

What to eat to fuel up before your ride

Maintaining your energy levels during cycling starts before you even get on your bike. If you are planning a long or very hard bike ride, the meal you eat 2-3 hours before you start is important. It needs to be a mix of carbohydrates, proteins and a little bit of fat to provide energy and help you feel good.

We love a good breakfast and firmly believe you can eat breakfast any time of the day. These meals can just as easily be a mid-afternoon snack before your evening ride as they are great breakfasts. Porridge with some fresh fruit and nuts added; home-made granola; poached eggs on wholemeal toast or a simple smoothie made to consume on the go are all versatile and well-balanced.

If your morning ride is a work commute and you don’t have time to eat properly before you set off, try gulping down an orange juice to hydrate you from your overnight sleep – this will kick-start your energy levels. You can then munch a banana or cereal bar while you ride and eat breakfast once you get to work. Time efficient fuelling on the go!

What to eat to stay fuelled during your ride

If you’re going to be riding hard for more than 90 minutes you will need to top up your body’s reserves by taking on carbohydrates throughout your ride. It’s best to start eating in the first 30 minutes of the ride and then keep nibbling every 20-30 minutes for the remainder. Don’t wait until you’re hungry to start eating as by then your body will already be running out of fuel.

The ideal foods to eat on a bike ride are high in carbohydrates, tasty and easy to carry in your pockets or rucksack. Dates are the natural fruit equivalent of scoffing Haribo or jelly babies. They’re incredibly sweet as they are 80% sugar but these naturally occurring fruit sugars mean you get a quick burst of energy and also a slow release over an extended period of time.

A perennial cyclist’s favourite is the banana – nature’s own energy bars. High in carbohydrate, easy to eat and digest, plus they come in their own handy packaging that doesn’t create waste or damage the environment. Don’t leave home without one!

What to eat to recover after your ride

The first 30-minutes after finishing exercise is known as the replenishment window, or glycogen window. During this time your body is primed to be ready to replenish your glycogen stores and start rebuilding your damaged muscles – all you need to do is give it the building blocks. The ideal post-ride meal is three parts carbohydrate to one part protein. The carbohydrate is needed to refill energy stores and the protein to build and repair muscle fibres.

To work out how much you need to eat you can use this very simple rule of thumb; multiply the distance cycled by 40-50 calories. A 20-mile ride would need an additional 800-1000 calories. But – and this is a big one if you are hoping cycling will help you to lose weight – remember to subtract the calories consumed on the ride. If you’re eating carrot cake at the café stop, you may not need as many extra calories as you hoped.

After a long ride, particularly in hot weather, you might find it hard to stomach food immediately after you finish – so go for snacks that slip down easily. Bananas make a great recovery food for after a ride, you can add them to a smoothie or eat one with a glass of milk. Another simple and delicious option is Greek yoghurt blended with coconut water, berries and a banana – a perfect one-stop recovery drink with a blend of carbohydrates and protein.

What’s your favourite cycling food?

Got any great tips, tasty snacks or homemade recipes for refuelling? Or any horror stories about the time you got your fuelling wrong?! Share your tips and stories on our Facebook or Twitter feeds.


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