Like most athletes, cyclists know that the food they eat can have a dramatic impact on their ability to train and perform on the bike. For relative newcomers or those looking to hone their training diet, it can be hard to know what to eat and when. To help you out, here are a few ideas to help you refuel before and after hitting the road.
3 Hours Prior
Start carbing up well before you plan to begin your ride. Aim for foods that are generally low-to-mid GI – things like porridge, muesli, toast made from rye bread, and even scrambled eggs will all do the trick. A strict regimen of morning supplements will also help you achieve your distance and intensity goals (and specialists like 99 Bikes usually offer pretty good deals on them, so stock up to avoid running out when you need them).
30 Minutes Prior
As you begin to prepare for your ride, give yourself a quick energy boost. Bananas are perfect for this – they are mid-GI, close to nutritionally complete, and extremely filling. Taking this small boost of energy will help your body adjust when you climb aboard the bike and start your warm up. Run an experiment in which you do and do not have a banana before setting off – you’ll certainly notice the difference.
During the Ride
Once you’re underway, you’ll need to keep your energy levels up. There are all kinds of things to help you out here. Easy-to-ingest and high-GI foods are the order of the hour, which means sticking to things like isotonic energy drinks, energy gels and certain kinds of dried fruit like sultanas. These will keep your energy high during the ride and help you get over those steeper hills you forgot were on the route. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water too! All the energy drinks in the world aren’t going to help you if you dehydrate too quickly.
The ride is over and you’re now in the recovery stage. What you need now are meals that will help you do that as quickly as possible – simple things like corn flakes or rice bubbles are perfect for this because they’re fast acting, high-GI foods. Combine them with milk for a boost of protein to help those muscles mend. Keep your supplements close to hand if you feel the milk doesn’t give you quite the amount of protein you need.
3 Hours Post-Ride
Continue winding down some more low-to-medium-GI foods. Things like grilled salmon with some steamed broccoli and sweet potato mash is ideal – nutritious, filling, delicious and incredibly easy to make. Consider it your reward for a job extremely well done.
There are lots of ways to keep your energy up during any kind of cycling. Balancing your dietary requirements against the kind of riding you like to engage in is important and it may be worth consulting a nutritionist if you plan to be riding a lot. What are your pre-and-post cycle fuels? Share your thoughts in the comments below!