What to eat after cycling

Eating the right foods after a ride is essential to boost energy-giving carbohydrate stores and help build and repair hard working muscles. Elite sports nutritionist James Collins explains what, when and how to refuel once you've climbed off the bike...

What to eat after cycling

Question 1

cycleWhat and when should I be eating after a ride to maximise recovery?

The sooner, the better - ideally within 1 hour after exercise - as after hard training your body needs essential nutrients to kick start the growth and repair process. 

 

Question 2

Is protein or carbohydrate more important for recovery?Smoothie

Both are critical for recovery after training. Carbohydrates are the body’s main fuel and are stored as glycogen (in the muscle and liver). With limited stores, these need to be replaced before the next training session.

Protein is vital for the growth and repair of muscle tissue. Hard training causes the breakdown of the muscle tissue (made from protein), taking it on board after provides the building blocks (amino acids) for growth and repair, and can reduce muscle soreness the next day! It is usual for some runners not to be hungry at this time, so use fluids in your recovery strategy. 

20 grams of protein is the magic number that you need to hit to optimise the recovery process after training. The following are good examples of recovery snacks. Consider combining snacks or increasing the portion sizes after heavy training:
Forest fruit & banana smoothie
Salmon & egg wraps with mustard mayo
Honey crunch granola with almonds & apricots
Spring onion & halloumi bruschetta
 

Question 3

WeightIf you're watching your weight, how do you balance eating for recovery with continued weight loss? How much should you eat?

It is possible to balance correct recovery with weight loss, it’s just about getting the balance right. Although many of the questions mention carbohydrate, it is important adjust your daily intake depending your training. Intake should be higher on ‘key’ training days and reduced on days with less training.

When managing your weight, try to get the most of your carbohydrates from Low GI foods at mealtimes, rather than lots of higher GI snacks. These will also keep your feeling fuller for longer.

Use your meals for recovery following your ride, instead of adding in extra recovery snacks, which increase your total energy (calorie) intake for the day. This may take more planning to coincide training sessions with mealtimes.

Now you know what to eat after your cycle, get the rest of your training nutrition right:

What to eat before your cycle
What to eat during your cycle
What to eat before your swim
What to eat during your swim
What to eat after your swim
What to eat before your run
What to eat during your run
What to eat after your run

Are you training for an event this year or getting to grips with a new sport? Share your tips and experiences below.

 

As a sport and exercise nutritionist, James Collins regularly provides comment and consultation within the media and maintains a role of governance within health & nutrition in the UK, where he sits on The Royal Society of Medicine's (RSM) 'Food and Health' Council. He was heavily involved in advising Team GB in the run up to the London 2012 Olympic games, and now towards Rio 2016.

 

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