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After a strenuous bike ride or training session, refuelling your body with the right nutrition can significantly impact your body’s ability to repair muscle tissue, replenish glycogen stores, and promote overall recovery.
Proper nutrition can also help prevent post-workout fatigue, muscle soreness, and promote the growth of lean muscle mass. Picking the right combination of carbohydrates and protein is key to replenishing energy stores, repairing damaged tissues, and supporting muscle growth.
In this article, we’ll tell you what to eat after cycling so you can maximize your biking benefits.
Read more: What to eat BEFORE a long bike ride
What Are The Best Foods To Eat After A Cycling Workout?
Following a bike ride, the main nutrients you need are carbohydrates to replenish your energy stores and lean protein to repair and build muscle tissue.
After an intense or long ride, eat 30-60g of carbohydrates and 15-30g of protein within an hour if possible. A rough guideline is to eat a 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein.
A well-known post ride recovery food for cyclists is chocolate milk. Research has shown that chocolate-flavoured milk speeds up recovery as well as expensive sports drinks. With its high water content, it also helps with rehydration.
This is a personal favorite, and I often drink a whole liter of it after a ride, which gives me slightly more than the recommended amount of protein. Chocolate soy milk is similarly effective.
Eggs On Toast
Two large scrambled or poached eggs on two slices of whole wheat toast gives you approximately the amount and proportion of protein and carbohydrates you need.
You can add a tablespoon of butter to this option without overdosing on anything.
Peanut Butter Sandwiches
If you look at the nutrition in a peanut butter sandwich you’ll see there’s an approximate 3:1 ratio of carbs to proteins, making it an ideal post-ride snack.
Most of the fat in peanut butter is unsaturated, though it wouldn’t be a healthy food to binge on. It’s fine as an occasional easy-to-make recovery food.
One cup of short-grain white rice (186g) gives you over 50g of carbohydrates. You’d have to add protein to it, perhaps in the form of two scrambled eggs, to make the ideal post-ride snack.
Another natural accompaniment to your white rice snack is about 4 oz (113g) of grilled chicken breast, which adds zero carbohydrates but about 24g of high-quality protein. (Grams are the standard unit of measurement on nutrition labels and in nutrition apps.)
Baked Beans On Toast
Beans on toast is a British peculiarity that provides ample carbs and protein. In fact, if you consume a whole tin of baked beans with your two slices of toast, you are overdosing on carbs. The bread is already high in carbs, so it’s a good idea to stick to a standard 208g portion (half a tin) of beans.
Baked beans provide unrefined carbs, and that’s a good thing, but British baked beans have a tomato sauce that is sugary compared to similar products overseas.
Of course, there are countless other food items you can prepare for post ride recovery. You should choose high-quality proteins, which contain all 9 essential amino acids, plus 30-60g of carbs, followed by a post ride meal 2-3 hours later.
High-quality proteins include poultry, eggs, dairy, quinoa, soy, fish, complementary plant proteins, and whey protein. Fruit is a good source of carbs, whether juiced or whole.
It’s useful to also keep tabs on your hydration status, before, during, and after rides. Supplementing water with sodium and other electrolytes is useful. Salty snacks after a ride are often helpful.
Checking your body weight before and after a ride gives a clue as to how much fluid you need to drink.
Types Of Carbs
When you dive into the subject of carbohydrates, you encounter various terms to describe them:
- Complex carbs – made of longer, more complex chains of sugar molecules that take longer to digest, so their effect is less immediate than simple carbs. They are generally healthier but not what you need for fast delivery of energy to muscles depleted of glycogen.
- Simple carbs – these occur naturally in fruit, milk, and vegetables, but they also account for processed and refined sugars. An intake of simple carbs during exercise or after it provides an instant hit of energy without the subsequent tiredness you’d experience minus the exercise.
- Refined carbs – Refined carbohydrates undergo processing to eliminate natural fibers, bran, germ, and the valuable nutrients contained in these grain components. This is a subset of simple carbs but does not include the nutritious sugars found naturally in fruit, vegetables, and milk.
- Unrefined carbs – a subcategory of complex carbohydrates that have undergone minimal processing and retain their natural state. Fruit is a food that contains simple carbs but is nonetheless classed as unrefined. The presence of fiber in fruit slows digestion and energy release.
Complex and unrefined carbs are deemed healthier in everyday life, but they do not always meet the immediate needs of sport.
Why Is It Important To Refuel After Cycling?
Refueling after cycling is important for several reasons. First, it helps replenish the glycogen stores in your muscles and liver that were depleted during exercise. This replenishment is crucial for restoring energy levels and preparing your body for future workouts.
Second, a protein intake helps to repair and rebuild damaged muscle tissues. Refueling helps regulate blood sugar levels, prevents muscle breakdown, and supports recovery.
Proper post-cycling nutrition promotes optimal performance, reduces fatigue, and boosts overall endurance and strength. It is a vital part of maximizing training gains and maintaining health.
Video: Importance Of Refueling After Exercise
How Soon Should I Eat After Cycling?
If you’ve only ridden for an hour or less at a relaxed pace, you don’t need extra food to aid recovery.
Ideally, you should eat within 30 minutes to 2 hours after cycling to optimize post-exercise recovery. This time frame is known as the “glycogen window” or “metabolic window”. During this period, your body is more efficient at replenishing glycogen stores and absorbing nutrients.
Consuming a balanced meal or snack containing carbohydrates and protein within this time-frame kickstarts the recovery process.
However, if you’re not hungry immediately after cycling, you can still consume a proper meal within the 2-hour window to support recovery.
Video: Glycogen Resynthesis
A Post Bike Ride Recovery Meal
Here is a possible post workout meal:
Rejuvenating Rice Bowl:
- Grilled chicken breast: Lean protein for muscle repair and recovery.
- White rice: Fast-digesting carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores.
- Steamed broccoli: Rich in fiber and antioxidants for digestion and muscle repair.
- Sliced bell peppers: Provides vitamin C and hydration support.
- Spinach: Iron-rich leafy greens for oxygen transport and nutrient replenishment.
- Cherry tomatoes: Packed with vitamin C and antioxidants for immune support.
- Avocado slices: Healthy fats for joint health and anti-inflammatory benefits.
- Lemon-garlic dressing: Zesty flavor with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Toasted sesame seeds: Crunchy texture and a source of essential minerals.
- Coconut water: Hydrating electrolytes for replenishing fluids and aiding in recovery.
Video: Benefits Of Avocados
Commonly Asked Questions On Eating After Cycling
Does The Type Of Cycling Affect What I Should Eat Post-Ride?
Yes, intense rides deplete glycogen stores more rapidly and do more muscle damage than slow endurance rides.
Hence, you’d be inclined to consume fast-acting carbs and plenty of protein at the higher end of recommended quantities.
How Can I Ensure I’m Getting The Right Nutrients After Cycling?
You can choose a commercially available recovery drink to take the guesswork out of it, although there is little evidence to suggest this is better than well-chosen “normal” foods, as per this article.
How Does Hydration Factor Into Post-Cycling Nutrition?
Hydration is crucial in post-cycling nutrition as it helps replenish fluids lost during exercise, supports muscle recovery, and aids in nutrient absorption.
Is It Beneficial To Take Supplements After Cycling?
Prioritize a balanced, natural meal after cycling that offers various nutrients before turning to supplements.
Supplements can be helpful if you lack specific nutrients or have higher nutritional requirements from intense training.
The Wrap-Up on Post-Cycling Nutrition
It’s the period between bike rides when you become stronger, fitter, and healthier. Important adaptations take place. You can boost this process by eating the right post-ride foods and resting properly.
And don’t forget to constantly hydrate! This may help prevent unpleasant ailments like exercise headaches or heat exhaustion.
I hope this article has been useful to you and, maybe, helped you to eat better after rides. Please feel free to leave a comment or share it with your cycling family or friends.