healthy foodCyclists who have been riding for any significant amount of time no doubt have already developed preferences and routines in regards to what they eat. However, it can still be beneficial for all riders – veterans or rookies – to understand what kinds of food are helpful and what they are doing for their bodies. Because cycling is more often than not an endurance sport, proper fueling and hydrating of your body is critical. Let’s look at some foods that can help you before, during, and after a ride.

Fueling Up

Carbohydrates combined with fiber, as well as lean proteins like turkey, tofu or fish, will provide your body the best fuel in preparing for a ride. It is also important to remember that all carbs are not created equal. Conceivably, and apple and a chocolate chip cookie could have the same amount of carbs or sugar. This is where the GI or glycemic index comes in. The GI examines how carbs affect our blood sugar. The faster our blood sugar rises in response, the higher the GI of that food. So while the cookie, lets say GI of 60, will give you energy, it will be a quick, short lasting spike followed by a crash. The apple, GI of 15, will give you much more sustained energy.

Feed the Beast

You really only need to worry about eating on the bike if your ride is going to be fairly long, exceeding 90 minutes. Anything short of that and you should be all right as long as you prepped with a pre-ride meal. For longer rides, consider taking something with a decent amount of protein and high complex carb levels. Protein or energy bars, or even a Snickers can do the trick. Remember to hydrate too. Food without water isn’t going to do your body any good. Drink about 16 oz slowly an hour before your ride, and then sip small amounts throughout.

Refuel and Recover

Studies have shown that eating high quality lean protein sources within an hour of finishing your ride will help aid most in recovery. Your muscles are still torn and will be anxious to absorb the nutrients necessary to rebuild. Even a small amount of healthy fat can be helpful, making you feel full longer and providing vitamins and minerals. Consider adding some berries that contain antioxidants, which help muscles feel better faster.

The most important thing to remember as either a professional or casual rider is to find a good balance for you. If science suggests that fish pasta will help you, but you notice it makes you feel queasy or ride sluggish, then don’t do it! Every rider will have preferences and react differently to varying foods. It is important to experiment with the above suggestions, look for some more, and find what works best for you.