Although carbohydrates often get a bad rap, they're very important and some of the best foods to eat while endurance cycling. Make sure that you're ingesting enough calories, and that most of them come from carbohydrates. It's equally important to stay hydrated and consume carb-rich snacks for long bike rides.
Preparing for Bike Rides
The day before a bike ride, you'll need to make sure you're getting enough calories and carbohydrates. Although the average adult needs about 2,000 calories, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020 state that active adults may need as much as 3,200 calories per day. You'll need even more calories if you're preparing for a long bike ride.
If you usually eat well-balanced meals, your carbohydrate intake is likely to be perfectly adequate. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, a balanced meal should be made up of 50 percent fruit and vegetables, 25 percent grains and 25 percent protein. According to the American Heart Association, healthy, low-fat sources of protein include chicken, fish and legumes.
Try to avoid fatty meats like pork belly, spicy foods and strong spices such as garlic the day before a bike ride. It's particularly important not to try anything new that might upset your stomach.
It's perfectly acceptable to snack the day before a bike ride. Healthy snacks include foods such as cereal bars, fruit, yogurt and hummus with breadsticks or carrot sticks. Most people prepare snacks for long bike rides, too.
Snacks for Long Bike Rides
It's just as important to stay nourished and hydrated while on your bike ride. However, this can be challenging, since the amount of food and drink you can carry with you is very limited. If you're specifically preparing for a long bike ride, this is even harder since you're likely to be riding for hours at a time.
The best foods to eat while endurance cycling are small, bite-sized carbohydrates. It's possible to make your own energy bites or energy bars. Fruits, bread and other carbohydrates with a high glycemic index are also good snacks for long bike rides.
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Keep in mind that certain fruits, like bananas, will need to be peeled in advance. All of these foods need to be cut into bite-sized portions to make them easy to consume. Foods that are already bite-sized, like carrot sticks or grapes, are the easiest to take with you.
If you don't want to spend a lot of time preparing snacks, you may want to consider energy drinks instead. Energy drinks won't just keep you hydrated; you can prepare your own at home and add nutrient powders to them, turning them into energy shakes. Consuming energy shakes can help keep you nourished and hydrated at the same time.
You might also want to consider incorporating certain juices, such as beetroot juice, into your energy drink or shake. According to a study in the February 2016 issue of the Journal of Food Science and Biotechnology, beetroot has many beneficial bioactive compounds, including antioxidants and nitric oxide. These compounds have health benefits and may even be able to boost your athletic performance.
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- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Healthy Eating Plate"
- American Heart Association: "Meat, Poultry, and Fish: Picking Healthy Proteins"
- Journal of Food Science and Biotechnology: "Comparison of Total Antioxidant Potential, and Total Phenolic, Nitrate, Sugar, and Organic Acid Contents in Beetroot Juice, Chips, Powder, and Cooked Beetroot"
- Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020: "Appendix 2. Estimated Calorie Needs per Day, by Age, Sex, and Physical Activity Level"