At the end of a long ride, particularly if you are planning on riding the next day, you really need to replenish your glycogen stores - glycogen being the fuel for your cycling. By consuming carbohydrates in that optimum window of around 30-60 minutes after a ride, this generates the glucose needed for the body to start the glycogen replenishment process.
In addition, protein is vital for the growth and repair of muscle tissue which has been broken down by hard riding, so both carbs and protein alongside good re-hydration should be a major part of your recovery strategy.
So what foods are best to enable you to get what the body requires after a ride? Here are some recovery food ideas for cyclists to enable you to recover well.
Re-hydrating after a ride is important and while water is a simple and convenient option, it is better to have a drink that also helps start replenish your glycogen stores. There are a large number of recovery drinks (and many in powdered form you can mix yourself) that provide huge carbohydrate loads, for immediate post-exercise glycogen replacement, and double up with hydrating you too. Other good options include fruit juices and vegetable juices.
Deserving of being singled out from general drinks above, chocolate milkshake contains an optimal 4:1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio. It is a particularly useful drink to have after a ride, particularly when you are exhausted and perhaps don’t feel up to immediately eating carbs. Other milkshakes are also useful and contain a mixture of both proteins and carbohydrates and can be boosted by adding additional fruit.
For a quick and convenient option recovery bars are a great. Use high protein bars that also provides some carbs for post-ride recovery. Recovery bars are a great option for riders, who after consuming high amounts of fluid during a ride, prefer to eat something solid. Straight after the end of a ride consume a bar to prevent the urge to pig out on sugary snacks.
Grilled or baked chicken breast provides lean protein to assist in the recovery process and prepare you for that next ride. Eating 100g of chicken will provide around 18g of protein, plus it contains anti-inflammatory omega-3s and vital amino acids, which help you convert protein into muscle. By combining chicken with a carb-rich food provides a good balanced recovery meal.
Carbohydrates from white rice makes it a great post-ride meal. White rice is preferred to brown because it provides glycogen at a faster rate than complex carbs such as brown rice, which is exactly what your body needs after a taxing ride. White rice falls under the simple carbohydrates category and as such has a high Glycemic Index (GI) to restore glycogen level at a faster rate.
Salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids which help reduce post-exercise muscle inflammation. The science behind this is that omega-3s lower the amount of prostaglandin, a naturally produced compound which is known to accentuate inflammation. Lean protein contained in salmon aids rapid recovery, while salmon also contains vitamin D, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 which help boost energy.
Eggs on toast
For a quick easy post-ride food option, eggs on toast are the ideal solution. Eggs provide significant protein, while toast provides a good source of carbs. Scrambled or poached is a far healthier option. As an alternative you could just boil some eggs pre-ride and have them available as a quick immediate protein option for when you come in after your ride.
For the carbohydrate portion of post-ride meal, sweet potatoes are a great option. After a ride, the body’s glycogen level drops, and sweet potato being a complex carb helps restore glycogen levels. Sweet potatoes are also rich in complex carbohydrates, fibre, beta-carotene, vitamin C, manganese and potassium.
Nuts and dry Fruits
Nuts and dry fruits are ideal as the first things to grab post-ride before going on to consume a full meal. Being simple carbs, they digest easily and provide an almost instant boost to the body’s energy level as well as starting to help replenish glycogen levels which you will top up with a more major carb-protein-rich meal.
Peanut butter is a convenient post-ride snack. Eat it with whole wheat toast or bagel to provide a combination of both carbs and protein to aid recovery. Choose all-natural or ‘peanuts only’ peanut butter to avoid cholesterol-raising fats and make this option a little healthier.