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What should a bicyclist make sure to eat before and after riding a bike?

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As @Chris mentioned, much depends on what kind of riding you do - mostly, the length of the ride. If you have a specific kind of ride in mind, you can add it to your question. –  Neil Fein Nov 25 '10 at 15:56
    
Related: What is the best breakfast right before cycling? –  Neil Fein Nov 25 '10 at 16:01
    
There are 3 topics here, before, during and after. The title says one, the question the other two. Can we edit one or the other to make sense? –  Duncan McGregor Nov 30 '10 at 9:36
    
Also see bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/2894/… –  Mike Two Apr 25 '11 at 14:46

7 Answers 7

I love the honey stinger waffles. It is like a 3-inch waffle with honey in the middle. It is all natural, very tasty and fits very nicely into the seat bag or back pocket. Only drawbacks are that they can be challenging at the moment to get into. There is supposed to be new packaging this year (2011). There also is no protein but on the ride itself that should not be a problem.

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The only thing to 'make sure' to eat is carbohydrates, protein, fat, salt, and water, in any form.

Here are some of my favorite snacks to eat while cycling- as opposed to before/after; some make the list because they are ubiquitous at convenience stores (in order of quantity that I have consumed)

  1. misc 'bar'
  2. peanut butter sandwich (banana and honey optional)
  3. sandwich
  4. bananas
  5. equal parts soda:water (optimum osmotic pressure for sugar uptake as recommended by Greg Lemond, first line of defense when a bonk is coming on)
  6. peanuts
  7. pop-tarts

Before/after long rides:

  1. pancakes with peanut butter
  2. oatmeal with fruits and nuts
  3. big bowl of cereal
  4. eggs
  5. "a rare steak is a good breakfast for what lies ahead" "A Sunday in Hell" Roger de Vlaeminck eating a pre-race meal at 15:09 (make sure to cut small pieces and chew well!)
  6. protein shake
  7. burrito
  8. shwarma
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I just consider the nature of the ride I plan to do. And think of the time I'll be on the bike and the intensity of the ride.

  • A short commute, errand or casual ride. Probably nothing more is needed other than normal balanced meals with a snack (energy bar, banana, fig bar, or whatever you prefer) in your pocket.
  • A long commute/errand or moderate fitness ride. Preferably a meal 1 - 2 hours before the ride (60% Carbs, 20% Protein, 20% Fat); then a high carb snack 30 minutes before the workout (granola bar, banana, etc); after the ride a light meal/snack with a 4:1 carb/protein ratio within 2 hours.
  • High intensity fitness training/fitness rides such as interval training. A meal and snack, as above, 1 - 2 hours and 30 minutes before; an energy/electrolyte drink during the workout; and a recovery meal/snack as above.
  • Very long rides where you'll be on the bike for several hours, such as centuries. Same as the previous. However during the ride, it pays to eat and hydrate throughout. I find that I'm eating the equivalent of a high carb energy bar about every hour.

This is a rough answer as there are entire books on the subject of exercise nutrition. A couple that I've found useful are by Chris Carmichael. One is Food for Fitness and another is The Time Crunched Cyclist.

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Chris's answer is good if you are planning for some serious training/ride.

IMHO, if you ride just a few Kms there's not even need for a particular diet, as long as it's mixed and well balanced. I stick to such a regular diet for rides of 50 Km or less, otherwise some tuning (as described by Chris) is needed.

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If you're going less than 3-4 hours you don't really need anything. Ditto that on the 15 minute window for replacement. Unless you're training really hard, you can skip that as well. We all have enough stored to last a whole ride. However, the marketing around sports nutrition would make you think otherwise. Eat solid when you're off the bike, bring water when you're on the bike. You'll be fine.

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2  
I disagree, and I think this is up to individual metabolism. I have trouble making it through a 3-hour ride without having ingested some protein beforehand, and my normal breakfast of milk and cereal doesn't cut it before riding. If you're young and skinny, this may be less of a concern. :) –  Neil Fein Nov 29 '10 at 3:36
    
Personally I can now ride for up to 2.5 hours without extras, but it took a lot of long rides to get there, and, and this is the key, if I don't eat during and replenish after, the next day suffers. –  Duncan McGregor Nov 30 '10 at 9:39
    
Good points, thanks! Thinking about it, I used to eat every hour when I rode. Only after cycling/endurance sports for a few years have I been able to do without. I do believe, though, that if you eat a solid meal (ie with protein) before a ride, you'll be fine. AND that the marketing for sports nutrition products has people convinced they need to eat constantly, but that's a separate issue. In short, eat when you're hungry. –  Jarrett Streebin Dec 6 '10 at 22:59

That depends on the type of ride, but generally something not too heavy with plenty of complex carbs is good before a long ride. You want something that is going to release plenty of energy over the course of the ride. Porridge, maybe with yogurt and stewed fruit, works really well for me.

After a ride, there's a 15 minute recovery window where you want to replace those carbs and also get some protein, so your body can replenish its energy reserves and rebuild muscle mass. There are specialist recovery drinks that do this, but to be honest a milkshake made with semi or skimmed milk and not too much sugar is ideal.

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I use Chocolate milk after a workout. Usually works well. –  geoffc Feb 3 '11 at 21:01

Bananas

and as I need at least 15 characters, don't forget to eat bananas during your ride as well.

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What, voted up then down? Too flippant? –  Duncan McGregor Nov 29 '10 at 23:08
    
I don't know why you got the downvote, but my guess is that the downvote is because your answer was so short. Nothing wrong with being a little silly, and bananas are awesome, not to mention very, very yellow. (Until they turn black and make for yummy banana bread.) –  Neil Fein Nov 30 '10 at 1:34
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And the packaging is not only biodegradable and recyclable but also makes for hilarious silent movies –  mgb Feb 3 '11 at 23:16

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