In a prior post, we covered how to tackle everyday nutrition.
This post covers more specific scenarios on how to optimize pre and post ride fueling to ensure you perform at your highest level.
Carb loading is the predominant pre-ride strategy for many cyclists to maintain glucose levels. Problem is we only have so much glucose to burn for fuel.
A more recent trend is to move to a lower carb strategy and get “fat-adapted” to sustain longer efforts by using fat as a primary fuel source.
I’m experimenting with this approach and I recommend looking into this as a pre-ride fueling strategy.
Your metabolic type will dictate what the best approach is but there’s a lot of merit to this so experiment until you find your “secret sauce”.
Here’s more information on the topic.
Post-ride recovery strategies
Active recovery and movement are key!
Most cyclists are well aware of the importance of pre-ride nutrition but often fail to take care of their bodies after a ride. I get lazy with this because I’m fatigued and tired.
But your body requires post-ride maintenance to adequately replenish glycogen stores and repair micro-tears in your muscle tissues.
A disciplined approach to recovery is almost a workout in itself. Take care of your body and your muscles will get stronger, your immune system will improve, and you’ll have more sustained energy on your next ride.
Consider an active recovery approach that includes a brief walk after the ride. Bring some food and water with you and keep the blood flowing. The emphasis should be on high-protein snacks, light carbs, and BCAA type foods for muscle recovery and growth.
After a recent Gran Fondo rides, they offered recovery boots for riders. I was amazed by the results. If you’re looking for a “high-tech” option to aid your recovery, check out Normatec recovery boots.
For a “low-tech” and inexpensive alternative, check out Voodoo floss bands.
Below are some “alternative” recovery methods you may want to experiment with. I haven’t tried these myself, but you may find them helpful.
- Dry needling
- Body tempering
- Oxygen therapy
- Vitamin infusion
Recovery food for cyclists
The objectives of post-cycling nutrition are threefold:
- Replenish glycogen stores for future energy – glycogen is the fuel that powers your cycling. During your ride, you use up the glycogen stored in your muscles, so it needs to be replenished.
- Increase the synthesis of protein your body can carry out vital repairs after strenuous activity. Damage occurs at the microcellular level during periods of intense cycling and, if not repaired, can lead to serious injuries.
- Decrease the breakdown of proteins to encourage optimal muscle growth.
A diet containing high levels of protein and healthy fats is the best choice for building up newer muscles and for repairing damaged muscles and tissues.
After performing intense exercises for more than 45 minutes, replenish your body with good protein and carb sources. Pick foods that are easy on your stomach or carb-rich drinks.
A high-protein diet, especially after performing intense or prolonged exercises, is an excellent choice for tissue maintenance, better recovery, and revitalization of your immune system.
What to eat after a workout is not the only consideration for cyclists. Knowing when to eat is also crucial for optimal recovery.
Initial post-workout replenishment should take place as soon as the workout has ended.
Fitness and nutrition experts recommend that cyclists consume simple carbohydrates and protein after a ride to replenish glycogen stores.
A balanced meal containing complex carbohydrates should be consumed two to three hours after your ride.
Whole grain rice, lean chicken breast, steamed vegetables, salmon, sweet potatoes, and broccoli are all excellent choices.
With regard to recovery drinks, I’ve used Ultragen’s recovery drink for awhile and have found it excellent at providing the right nutrients to refuel and repair exhausted muscles.
To reduce inflammation, detoxify your body, and speed recovery, I’d recommend adding a turmeric supplement to your diet.
Another option to consider adding to your diet is Glutathione.
It contains vital amino acids. Cycling and related endurance sports deplete glutathione and generate free radicals. Research has shown it helps improve performance.
Protein after your ride
Protein plays a pivotal role in post-workout recovery. In addition to helping with energy restoration, protein is essential for the repair and buildup of muscles. The ideal ratio of protein to carbohydrates for initial refueling is 1:4.
The emphasis at this point is on carbohydrates! A fruit smoothie made with whey protein powder is ideal after a ride. It’s easily and quickly digested and provides a good balance of carbohydrates and protein.
Many energy drinks now contain protein and sodium in addition to carbohydrates.
According to research, the added sodium replaces minerals that are lost via sweating and stimulates thirst to encourage adequate rehydration.
These drinks are readily available and easily transportable. Therefore, refueling can occur without undue delay.
Given that optimum hydration goes hand in hand with maximum nutrition, it’s important that you also replenish fluids lost during physical exertion.
As I mentioned above, make sure your diet contains adequate amounts of healthy fats. Avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, and butter (grass-fed) should all be incorporated into your diet.
Finally, eat plenty of foods that are rich in vitamin D to support your immune system so that you remain healthy and strong.
Other tips and advice
I’ve used the energy drinks below after a long day on the bike and they’ve sustained me throughout the ride:
Eat 90 minutes before a big ride and focus on whole foods, protein, and healthy fats. Minimize carb intake.
A pre-ride meal should contain energy foods rich in essential nutrients to help you maintain your energy level while riding for hours.
For recreational riders, pre-ride meals should contain 200 to 300 grams of carbohydrates. For elite riders or cyclists, 480 to 660 grams of carbs are sufficient.
This meal could comprise oatmeal or scrambled eggs. The goal is to select foods that have a low-to-medium glycemic index (GI).
About 30 minutes before cycling, you can consume a high-GI snack such as a banana or a few dried dates.
The right kind of caffeine from a natural source improves athletic performance via mobilization of stored body fat used for fuel.