6 Top Foods to Boost Your Performance While Cycling

Author: Kier

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Are you just starting out on the bike and wondering what to eat to while cycling? Or perhaps you are a seasoned cyclist but want to get more out of your training and boost your performance and energy levels.

Whichever the case, we have the answers you’re looking for!

Cycling nutrition can be complicated; there is no one-size-fits-all diet that applies to all cyclists.

However, there are some basic nutritious foods and snacks that can help cyclists perform their best on both shorter and longer rides.

This article will discuss the very best food to eat on the bike to give you that energy boost you crave.

Key Takeaways: What To Eat While Cycling

  • Bananas are the ultimate cycling snack!
  • Trail mix and energy bars will give you the perfect combo of carbs, protein and fat.
  • What you drink during your ride is as important as what you eat.
  • A breakfast containing Greek yogurt is the perfect pre-workout meal.
  • Consult with a sports nutritionist if you need more tailored advice.
A man riding a bike down a street.

1. Bananas

Bananas, also known as “nature’s pre-packed energy bars,” are the perfect snack before, during and after cycling.

We would consider bananas to be the number one cycling food – and that’s no exaggeration.

They are packed with potassium and carbs that will provide you with long-lasting energy. They also contain electrolytes, which will maintain an optimal level of hydration you while you’re sweating it out on a long bike ride.

Bananas contain simple sugars, which are quickly absorbed into the blood, providing you with an immediate dose of that much-needed energy. The fruit also contains fiber, which slowly releases energy as you pedal.

If you are planning an endurance ride and want to take some solid food with you, you really can’t go wrong with the iconic “Yellow Boomerang.”

But – bananas aren’t just good snacks while you’re on the bike. They are also amazing both before and after long rides. Snack on a banana a few hours before you head out, and you’ll reap the benefits as soon as you start pedaling. The carbohydrates in bananas will also help to replenish your glycogen stores after endurance cycling training.

The best ways to eat bananas

The best way to eat a banana is to just peel it and eat it (obviously), but some people don’t particularly like the taste or texture of bananas. Here are some other ways to enjoy this beneficial fruit:

  • Blitz it into a smoothie with low-fat dairy and protein powder
  • Blend with cocoa powder, vegan milk and honey, and freeze for a healthy ice cream alternative
  • Mash ripe bananas and combine with peanut or nut butter, flour and eggs for a healthy pancake batter
  • Chop finely and add to oatmeal
A wooden tray with bananas, oranges and coconuts.

2. Energy Bars

Energy bars (and energy gels) are easy go-tos while cycling. They come pre-packaged and in the perfect portion sizes to provide you with the sustenance you need.

There are hundreds of brands out there, so read the ingredients and nutritional information on the label to see if that bar is right for you.

Try to get bars containing between 250 and 300 calories, as they will give you enough energy for your ride.

You ideally also want a bar with 30 g carbs and 10 g protein. Proteins are the building blocks of muscles, and bars containing a decent amount of protein will help you recover after a long ride.

But why exactly are these pre-packaged snacks so beneficial?

These bars often contain rice, nuts and oats, as well as some sweeteners. These ingredients are slow-release carbs – perfect fuel for endurance cycling.

Energy or protein bars can also give you a quick boost for a short ride, but ideally, you want to keep some in your back pocket when you are going on a long ride.

An easy choice for me is the Clif bar mini – easy to carry, easy to eat, taste good!

What to eat while cycling : A man with a bike leaning against a brick wall.

3. Trail Mix

Eating trail mix while focusing on the road is no easy feat, so, before we get into how good this snack is, remember that you may have to pull over to the side of the road to grab a handful.

Trail mix is a brilliant snack while cycling, whether you are on a short or long bike ride. A healthy mix will contain dried fruit, seeds and nuts. These should preferably be unsalted and unroasted – the fresher the better!

If the mix contains these ingredients, it also means it contains a combination of healthy fats (found in nuts and seeds), lean protein (found in nuts), and carbs from the fruit.

Make your own trail mix at home or buy a prepacked mix from the shops – these are perfect for long bike rides!

4. Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

Ah – the good ol’ classic PB&J… (maybe one for our American friends!).

These iconic sandwiches are more than just a trip down memory lane. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are the perfect combination of protein, fat, sugar and carbs to keep you fueled on a long ride.

A PB&J is the perfect snack if you’re planning an endurance cycling session where you anticipate you will stop along the way to refuel.

The bread (especially if you opt for wholegrain bread) is a perfect source of carbs. Peanut butter (or any nut butter) provides protein and fat, while the jelly gives you that sugar boost. It really is a dynamite snack while cycling, providing you with all the energy you need.

Simply slip a sandwich into a baggy and tuck it into your pocket or a small bag on your bike.

5. Greek Yogurt

Okay – so, technically you will not be eating Greek yogurt while cycling, but it’s still a great snack if you’re planning any aerobic exercise in the near future.

Greek yogurt is a low-fat source of calcium, potassium and vitamin B12. It also contains plenty of protein and carbs (in lesser amounts) to keep you going. The protein releases slowly, while the carbs give you an almost instant energy boost.

Combine your yogurt with nuts, muesli and fresh fruits for the ultimate pre-cycling breakfast. It is also a great post-exercise snack to help your body recover.

6. Water and Sports Drinks

Hydration is a key component of any cycling meal plan.

It goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyway) that when you cycle, you sweat. You lose water and electrolytes when you sweat, which you need to replenish to prevent dehydration.

Water, sports drinks and recovery drinks are very important to keep you hydrated before, during, and after cycling.

Energy drinks or electrolyte mixes contain sodium and potassium to replace what is lost through sweating on long bike rides. The electrolytes help to maintain your body’s balance of fluids. Something like Nuun electrolyte tabs are a good option and easy to find.

If you take energy gels or chews along, you might be able to get away with a bottle of plain water (but only for rides of up to one hour).

Next Step: Consult with a Nutritionist

What you eat and drink is so important when it comes to cycling performance and energy levels.

If you are struggling with energy levels despite eating healthily, it may be time to consult a nutritionist. They will assess your goals, activity levels and unique needs to develop a customized nutrition plan so you can perform your very best.

FAQs

Do I always need to eat something while cycling?

If you are cycling for less than an hour, you don’t have to eat anything during the ride. Just take some water along and make sure you have a good meal or post-workout shake once you get home.

Can I cycle on an empty stomach?

Some studies have shown that fasting before exercise can improve how your body uses muscle glycogen. So, if you are planning a short cycle, doing so on an empty stomach is okay. We would recommend eating something if you plan on going for a long ride.

Should I drink water before I ride?

Yes! Always make sure you are well-hydrated before a ride. Drink about 350-475ml (12 to 16 ounces) in the hours leading up to a training session, and make sure to drink water on the bike as well – at least 500ml per hour.

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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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