What to Eat After a Bike Ride

Author: Kier

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Regardless of whether you’re a seasoned cyclist or a casual rider, what you eat after a session is very important. When done correctly, post-ride nutrition has a big role in enhancing recovery and performance. In this guide, we’ll look at what to eat after cycling and why it matters. So, strap your helmet on and get ready to take your cycling to the next level.

Key Takeaways: What to Eat After Cycling

  • Proteins help rebuild tired and damaged muscles
  • Complex carbs slowly release energy and replenish glycogen stores
  • Fruits, veg, nuts and seeds contain healthy carbs and oils
  • Make sure to hydrate properly with water and electrolytes
  • Eat within the “glycogen window” to quickly feel revitalized

Protein-rich Foods

Lean protein like tuna, eggs, and chicken breasts are good recovery foods. Salmon, for example, contains vitamin D, vitamin B12, and vitamin B6, all of which can help boost energy and aid recovery. Chicken contains vital amino acids and anti-inflammatory omega-3s. Consider pairing one of these protein sources with carbohydrates like sweet potatoes.

Protein powders aren’t necessary but can be useful if you don’t have time to cook or if you’re very tired from a long ride.

I would probably go with a chicken salad with quinoa, if i wanted to ‘be good’ (and try just skipping the meal and going straight to cake course!).

A plate with a steak and salad on it.

Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbs have long sugar molecules that the body takes longer to digest due to their length. As you might’ve guessed, simple carbohydrates are carbs that are broken down more easily. Sweet potatoes, brown rice, and whole-grain pasta are good examples of complex carbs. Aim to have around 1g of carbohydrates per 1kg (2.2 pounds) of body weight.

For me, the quinoa with my chicken salad will do the trick!

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants like vitamin C that can promote faster recovery. They’re also an excellent source of dietary fibre and can help hydrate the body post-ride.

I’ll usually go with a carrot (and hummus dip), or a carrot. Maybe an apple – unless it’s from the fridge (I don’t like fridge-cold apples!).

A variety of foods on a wooden table.

Nuts and Seeds

Trail mix can make a good snack after a hard workout. This is because nuts and seeds are nutrient-dense. They can provide essential fats, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals which can definitely be beneficial after your next ride.

Low-fat Dairy Products

A glass of low-fat chocolate milk has an ideal carb-to-protein ratio for recovery. You could also consider options like low-fat milk, greek yogurt, and cottage cheese. The calcium in these foods is good for maintaining bone health.

I will see this as another opportunity to get protein on-board, and usually Skyr yoghurt is my go-to.


Beyond just looking at the best recovery foods, you also have to look at recovery drinks. It’s always important to replace fluid lost after a hard ride. Besides water, there are specialised sports drinks that can help in this area. But do be mindful of how much fluid you intake after a ride, as too much can also hinder recovery.

You could always drop a hydration tab, like nuun tabs, into a bottle of water and hydrate.

What to eat after cycling

Foods to Avoid

Now that you have an idea of the best recovery foods, here are some foods you should try to avoid:

Fast food

Fast food often has unhealthy fats and artificial additives. In large quantities, these can lead to inflammation and slow down recovery.


Alcohol causes dehydration and this can easily hinder muscle recovery. Do your best to limit or avoid alcohol intake.

Spicy and acidic foods

These foods present the chance of causing discomfort in your digestive tract. They can also cause acid reflux. Both of these factors can negatively impact post-ride recovery.

Sugary snacks

Refined sugars can cause your blood sugar levels to shoot up. This is inevitably followed by a crash which can ruin your energy levels and decrease performance on your next ride.

High-fiber foods

Fiber is highly beneficial but consuming too much can cause gastrointestinal distress. This could lead to problems sleeping and, in turn, delay the body’s recovery.

Heavy meals

Eating a heavy meal after cycling could delay digestion and, ultimately, slow down post-ride recovery. It can also make weight management much harder. Opt for smaller more balanced meals.

Timing of Post-Cycling Meal

Timing your post-ride meal is critical when it comes to optimizing recovery. As a general rule, aim to have your post-workout meal within 30 minutes to two hours after your cycling session. Some cyclists refer to this as the “glycogen window.” Essentially: a period during which your body is most efficient at replenishing its glycogen stores.

If you can’t have a full meal within a few hours of cycling, opt for a small post-ride snack to kickstart your recovery. Lastly, remember that timing is just one aspect of post-cycle nutrition. You also have to focus on the quality and balance of your meals to ensure you get the nutrients your body needs.

Consult a Nutritionist or Dietician

Because nutrition can be quite complicated for most, consulting a nutritionist or dietician can be highly beneficial for endurance athletes. Healthcare professionals have specialized knowledge of sports nutrition and can give you tailored guidance and meal plans.

So, if you’re still unsure about what you should be eating after cycling, then get in touch with a nutritionist. If this isn’t a viable option consider looking at relevant articles from the the International Journal of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism.


What should I avoid doing after cycling?

Apart from skipping your post-workout meal, there are a few things you should avoid doing after cycling. Here are a few examples:

  • Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol
  • Prolonged inactivity
  • Intense workouts
  • Neglecting hydration

How do I speed up muscle recovery after cycling?

You can speed up post-cyle muscle repair by eating a balanced diet and drinking sufficient amounts of water. You could also engage in some stretching and foam rolling to promote blood flow and reduce muscle tightness. But, one of the most important things that you should do is make sure you get enough sleep.

Should I still eat after a ride even if I’m not hungry?

Yes, the general recommendation is to always eat after riding, even if you’re not feeling very hungry. This is because of the role that post-cycle nutrition plays in replenishing your energy and kickstarting recovery. If you aren’t very hungry after cycling, consider having a light meal or snack.

How can I incorporate post-cycle nutrition into a busy schedule?

The best way to incorporate post-cycle nutrition into a busy schedule is by preparing in advance. This means planning and preparing your post-workout meals ahead of time. You may also want to utilize quick food options like snacks and smoothies. Another option would be using meal delivery services that offer healthy meals.

Is better to eat unhealthy foods post-cycle than nothing at all?

Despite it being generally better to prioritize healthy foods post-workout, eating some food is usually better than nothing at all. Your body needs nutrient-rich food to start the recovery process. Heavily processed foods generally don’t have the best nutrient profile. This means that they aren’t the best option.

Also, consider how relying on processed foods can affect your health.

Photo of author


Kier focuses on improving all things bike, and is always looking to take his ability to a new average (hopefully a higher one!). When not on the bike Kier is normally downing coffee and cake.
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