Did you know that you can burn anywhere between 450 and 750 calories per hour when you’re cycling? That’s practically the same amount of calories found in a large order of French fries. However, that’s not an excuse to eat some, as your diet plays a crucial role in your performance.
It’s vital to eat the right food so that you’ll be supplied with the best nutrition before, during, and after your ride and make sure that you’re at your peak form. With that said, here’s the best food to eat to ensure optimal performance.
What Food to Eat Pre-Cycling
When it comes to the food you eat before cycling, you should think of it as your main energy source — just like how a car needs gas to run. This is because no matter how many miles you cycle or how fast your time is, if you aren’t properly nourished, your performance will suffer.
To ensure a top-level ride, you can prepare yourself by eating a meal packed with low-glycemic carbohydrates, such as oatmeal, wholegrain bread, and rice. You should also have a source of lean protein like white meat and fish to help you build muscle. Add in a fruit or two for more nourishment, as well. Plus, you need to also consider the timing of your pre-ride meal, as University of Massachusetts’ Dr. Nancy Cohen suggests waiting 3-4 hours before any physical exercise for your food to digest properly.
What Food to Eat When Cycling
After having a pre-cycle meal, you also need to make sure that you’re fueled up for the ride as well. It’s important that you’re energized with high levels of carbohydrates. And to strike the right balance between nutrition and convenience — after all, you’ll be busy on your bicycle — you should bring along easy-to-eat snacks, such as bananas, dried fruit or cereal bars, and energy gel packets.
And as we’ve previously shared on our post on ‘Nutrition: Diet Plan on Race Day for Cyclists’, the amount you consume while cycling should be based on the intensity and duration of your ride. For instance, if you’re riding for around two hours, you’ll need 30 grams of carbohydrates. But for a longer ride exceeding more than 2 hours, it calls for 90 grams of carbohydrates, which should include 60 grams of glucose and 30 grams of fructose.
What Food to Eat Post-Cycling
At the end of your ride, it’s necessary to make up for the energy you’ve exerted and make sure your body recovers. This is why your first priority after cycling should be to consume 60-80 grams of carbohydrates with healthy vegetables. Parsley Health’s article on potatoes highlights how they provide a wide range of nutrients that can help reinvigorate you after your ride. Not only do they contain complex carbohydrates that will keep you full without raising your blood sugar, but they also have more potassium and Vitamin C than a banana and orange, respectively. Just be sure to prepare them in a healthy way!
Meanwhile, it is also important to consume an adequate amount of protein for muscle repair. Your post-cycling meal should have a good amount of 20-40 grams of protein, which you can get from chicken or tuna. To help you wash it all down, Men’s Health suggests having a glass of tart cherry juice to stabilize your blood pressure and to get a peaceful night’s sleep.