Running low on energy, or ‘bonking’ as cyclists call it, will prevent your cycling enjoyment. Cycling will increase your energy requirements, so aim to eat small, frequent meals and snacks on the go in order to maintain energy levels. On the bike, carbohydrate drinks will keep you well fuelled — or you could try taking a couple of energy bars which are easy to eat in the saddle.
Here are five super snacks for you to tuck into your jersey pockets:
- Powered by the Peel: Bananas are snacks ready to roll; they are famous for their potassium and contain carbohydrates that may provide advantages to your muscles’ ability to use the fuel efficiently. More fuel reaching your muscles means more pedal power for you. A recent study compared bananas to commercial sports drinks in a trial of bicycling performance and found them to be equal.
- Peanut Butter Jelly Time: PB&J’s are perfect pocket fuel. The bread and jam (or honey) provide carbohydrates and the peanut butter offers protein and fats. Allergic to peanuts? Try almond butter if you can tolerate tree nuts or sunflower butter if not. Swap a tortilla for bread to prevent having a squashed sandwich. Cut your sandwich into quarters and have one piece at 15- to 20-minute increments.
- Trail Mix: Dried fruits and nuts are a concentrated source of carbohydrates. Dried apricots, prunes and raisins have the added benefit of potassium. Mix your favorite fruits with nuts and seeds to keep your body supplied with energy, vitamin E and magnesium. If you have a heavy sweat rate, you may want to choose salted nuts and seeds.
- Water Works: In general, if you’re planning to bike for an hour or less, water is the best way to stay hydrated and to prevent drinking the calories you just burned. If you’re going to be rolling for more than an hour, have a heavy sweat rate or the weather is exceptionally hot, consider having two bottles with you — one for water and one for a sports drink. You may purchase a sports drink for the sake of convenience, but making your own with black or green iced tea, a splash of juice, some sugar and a pinch of salt is easy and provides an added antioxidant boost. Take sips of fluid often to maintain hydration and alternate between the two drinks if packing both.
- Energy Bars: While energy bars are convenient, they also can be expensive. If you would prefer energy bars, look for one that has ingredients such as whole grains, dried fruits and nuts.
After completing a long trek, your recovery and readiness for the next ride depend on your post-ride food choices. Research indicates that having recovery fuel within 30 to 60 minutes after exercise is ideal. What is best? A small meal that contains a mix of carbohydrates, protein and fats, as well as a glass of water. One good option is a parfait of plain low-fat yogurt layered with cubes of cantaloupe and sprinkled with nuts.
Hydrate properly when cycling
Whatever the weather conditions, your fluid requirements will increase significantly when cycling. Losses from exhaled breath and from sweating will serve to reduce your blood volume, resulting in your heart having to work much harder. By the time you feel thirsty you will already be dehydrated, so try to drink small, frequent quantities of water or a sports energy drink throughout the ride. You can check the colour of your urine in order to monitor your monitor your hydration in between stages of your training: a pale straw colour indicates that you are well hydrated, whereas anything darker means that you need to drink more.