Because cycling is an endurance sport that can take a lot out of you physically, it is important to stay energized during your ride. If you are cycling for long periods of time, you will need to periodically eat and drink during your time on the bike. This blog post will focus specifically on how and what to eat while cycling. To learn more about maintaining hydration levels while cycling, visit our article here"Energy bars"

Energy in the body

The right foods will help you stay energized and maintain a constant cycling speed; the wrong foods will provide small bursts of energy followed by “crashes,” leaving the cyclist feeling fatigued and unable to continue. The body stores glucose, a sugar that serves as an energy source, in the form of glycogen. Within the body, glycogen can be broken into glucose and used to supply energy. The body is limited in how much glycogen it can supply: enough for about 90 minutes of moderately-intense exercise.  This is why it is so important for long-distance cyclists to eat while they ride—food consumed before they began cycling will not be enough to sustain them for the duration of their journey.

Choosing the right foods

When it comes to serving as energy sources, not all foods are created equal. Carbohydrates are the ideal food to eat while cycling, as their chemical structure allows them to be broken down quickly and converted to energy. Foods that are high in fats and proteins help keep people full for longer, but they also take much longer to break down. These foods are therefore not ideal for cyclists to eat on the bike, because cyclists would need to use more energy to break down the chemical structure of the fatty and protein-rich foods.

When you are choosing foods to eat while cycling, look for snacks that are high in carbohydrates and low in fat. Make sure the things you bring are bite-size or broken up into small pieces, making them easier to eat and carry. Consider removing foods from their original wrappers and transferring them to bags or pockets—you do not want to make your ride more dangerous by trying to open packages of cookies or remove granola bars from their casings.

Examples of good cycling snacks include:

  • Bagels
  • Bite-sized cookies
  • Dried fruit
  • Bananas
  • PB&J sandwich or tortilla
  • Power bars
  • Endurance gels
  • Trail mix
  • Candy bar
  • Toast
  • Grapes

The possibilities for on-the-go cycling snacks are almost endless, so you may need to experiment with what works best for you.

Timing is everything

When cyclists eat is almost as important as what cyclists eat. While some cyclists may choose to take frequent breaks in order to refuel, stopping may not be possible if you are in a race or traveling difficult terrain. After the first 90–120 minutes of your ride, it is time to start eating every 20 or 30 minutes. Take care not to overeat by eating one small, snack-size serving at a time. Allow your body to digest these foods before eating again—otherwise, you could be faced with bloating, nausea, and the inability to complete your ride.

Sources: Tuned In To Cycling, Cycling Performance Tips, Eat Right, and

Photo Courtesy of Faruk Ates and Creative Commons.