There is no way around it, when you are working hard and extending the distance of your bike ride you are going to need to refuel. Proper nutrition and healthy snacks are the key to maintaining energy during and after your long bicycle rides.
Not all snacks are made the same though. A proper snack for a cyclist should be simple and easy to carry with you and eat by bike, should serve to refuel you with the proper carbohydrates and nutrients your body needs, and should be able to make it longer than 5 minutes in the heat or in a cramped location like your jersey pocket or draw string bag.
Some people recommend eating and having a sip or two of water every 15, 20, or 30 minutes, but that just means you should do what feels right for you!
The following are ten of our favorite items to pack for those longer rides.
1. Bananas – A banana is the super food for every person who works out! As most people know bananas are chalk full of potassium, but they are also full of easily digestible carbohydrates. This combination is a one to punch for nerve function, muscle function, reducing muscle cramps and quick releasing fuel.
The best time to eat a banana would be right before your or early on in the ride in order to maximize on the fruits power supply.
2. Nut Butter – Peanut butter, almond butter, sunflower butter, you name it! The muscle building protein of a nut butter combined with the carbs from the banana or next two items on our list will help keep you at a nice balance between energizing carbs and the healthy fats and proteins of the nut butter. Nut butters can help to slow the release of the carbohydrate you pair it with, but try to keep it as natural and unprocessed as possible to optimize its effect. One our favorite natural butters is the Cranberry Coconut Peanut Butter from YumButter located in our home town Madison WI. Check them out! http://yumbutter.com/
Almond butters also offer an added bonus of iron and calcium, so if you haven’t tried it yet, give it a go!
Nut butters work best when paired with carbohydrates, but make sure you don’t overdo it. Nut butters are calorie dense so a little goes a long way!
3. Apple (with peanut butter) – For those who don’t like bananas, or are looking for something to put their peanut butter on an apple is the perfect fit. The apple may contain a sugar, but it also has filling fibers that slow the release of those sugars into the bloodstream for sustained energy. Plus it has antioxidants to fight off some of those free radicals!
The best time to crunch into this tasty snack is before or after a long ride when you have a little more time to enjoy this sweet treat.
4. Whole Grain Bagel – These portable morning carb loaded wonders are an excellent way to get your energy back up after a ride. Once again they are best when paired with a nut butter or even some lean meat for the added protein to carb balance.
5. Trail Mix – Trail mix offers an easy and portable snack with a mix of dried fruits full and nuts packed with protein, carbohydrates, and good fats.
While trail mix can be a good option for those looking to gain a bit of muscle it also must be stressed that not all trail mixes are created equally so keep an eye out for mixes laden with candy and once again a little goes a long way. Nuts and dried fruit are extremely calorie dense so if you are looking to lose a little weight you may want to measure out a serving before diving in.
Always look at the package label to see how much sugar, protein and carbohydrates are actually in your energy or protein bar. Does it have at least 15 grams of protein? Keep in mind that an average adult is only recommended to have 25 grams of sugar a day some energy bars meet or exceed that number in one serving.
7. Sports Drink – One of the timeless questions for people who live an active lifestyle is whether water or a sports drink is the best option for those longer workout days. The fact of the matter is when we sweat and water is release from our body things such as sodium potassium and other electrolytes leave with it. Therefore it makes perfect sense to replace what was lost with a sports drink which offers the additional benefits that water cannot.
Remember whether you drink water or a sports drink it is important to keep hydrated before, during, and after a workout!
8. Energy Gels – Energy gels really fit into the same category as energy bars in my book and are something I would personally leave for the most intense or lengthy rides you have. Energy gels are meant to replace the glycogen that you use and can deplete in extra intense or long workouts while giving you a little extra boost of energy.
While you may receive that boost in energy mentally you may still run into basic muscle fatigue and soreness. Therefore these energy gels are really something that needs to be tried out on an individual basis to see if they work for you, when they will benefit you most during your workout, or if they are the best method to reenergize during your ride.
9. Granola – Granola bars or cereal mixed with some low-fat protein dense yogurt are especially great choices for after the ride. Granola offers protein, carbs and healthy fats to reenergize you and when paired with a yogurt the balance that we have seen before of carbohydrates to protein ratio will keep you moving for the rest of the day.
Check out the recipe at the end of this article for my go to post work out low calorie, nutrient dense snack.
10. Coffee – As a college once said to me, “nothing beats a cup of Joe after a long workout”. Which is why coffee made our list at number ten. While coffee may not seem like the most natural of choices coffee can serve a dual purpose of easing back into the day and catching up with a cycling buddy after a long and relaxing morning ride.
Do you have any go to snacks that we missed? Comment below and lets us know how you stay fueled on those longer bicycle rides!
Sam’s Post Workout Snack
This is one of my favorite post workout snacks because it is chalk full of protein, has potassium from the banana, some healthy fats, and a good dose of carbohydrates to keep me going.
1 Dannon’s Vanilla Greek Yogurt (12 grams of protein!)
1/8 cup of oats
1/2 Banana sliced
1 Tsp of Peanut Butter
A sprinkling of granola
Put the yogurt into a cereal bowl and mix in approximately 1/8 cup of whole oats and 1 tsp of peanut butter into the yogurt. Top with one half of a sliced banana and a sprinkling of granola for an added crunch.
Total Protein: Aprox 25 grams
Calories: Aprox 250
Get out and Ride!