Learn what meals will power your wheels! I go over the top 4 foods I eat before any big ride. These foods will help you ride harder & recover faster.
You’ve done all the physical training, you’re mentally prepared and your bike is in prime condition for a long tour. However, you might be forgetting one very important contributor to your success and comfort on the bike.
What you eat before you ride will impact your performance more than you might think. It’s crucial that you fuel up properly.
The food you consume the night before and even an hour before you get on your bike could be the difference between a personal best and a walk home.
The Meals that Will Power your Wheels
Whether you’re just biking to work in the morning or about to go on a long-distance tour, you should prepare your body for the pedaling.
Biking is strenuous exercise. As with any type of workout, your body needs a certain amount of nutrients to do what you want it to do.
If you’ve ever been on a high school sports team, there’s a good chance you’ve been to a pasta party the night before a big game.
It’s no secret that carbohydrates are an absolutely essential source of energy for anyone pushing their body to its physical limits. Unlike fats and sugars, carbs are easy for your body to break down into energy.
Obviously, pasta isn’t the only food with carbs. Bread, rice, crackers and even fruits are excellent sources of the energy-source. Let carbs rule your diet the week leading up to a tour, and make sure you consume them about an hour before you start your ride.
While you might not want a big slab of salmon right before you start biking, it’s important that you make fish part of your diet as a biker.
Fish such as salmon and tuna are high in omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are great for the hard-working body in many ways. For cyclists specifically, they’re important because they increase blood flow, which will help keep the muscles from swelling after a ride.
3. Fruits and Vegetables
Your mom was right—you need to eat your veggies. This is a no-brainer for anyone looking to lead a healthy and active lifestyle, but certain fruits and veggies are particularly good for bikers.
- Carrots and yams – Yellow and orange vegetables can enhance your immune system. On a long distance tour with a lot of strangers, you’ll need that boost. You will no doubt come into contact with a cold or virus that could ruin your whole trip.
- Tomatoes – These and other red or pink fruits and veggies contain lycopene, which protect your skin from the sun. I’ve gotten some of the worst sunburn of my life on long bike rides, because moving so fast through the air makes you feel like you aren’t getting any sun at all.
- Blackberries and blueberries – Dark purple and blue fruits are high in antioxidants, which act as an anti-inflammatory. By eating a lot of them in the days leading up to a tour you might prevent muscle soreness during periods of rest.
- Kale and Broccoli – Leafy green veggies contain folate, which promotes the production of red blood cells. This will improve the overall health and wellness of your body, which will make biking feel less tiring.
There are tons of websites that show you which fruits and vegetables are high in which nutrients, so look up your favorites and make a custom salad or fruit cocktail for your pre-ride meal.
4. Lean Meat (or Soy)
As a vegetarian, I get into the protein debate with friends and family often. Meat eaters tend to believe that if they were to give up meat, they wouldn’t get enough protein.
The truth of the matter is that vegetarians can get just as much protein as carnivores by eating a diet rich in soy. A small serving of steak and a serving of soybeans have almost the same amount of protein. So, choose your protein option based on your own diet restrictions.
Protein is vital to cyclists. It creates enzymes that are essential for long-distance endurance and it also sends amino acids to the muscles that were broken down while pedaling.
If you’re a vegetarian like me, eat foods such as almonds and edamame thirty minutes before you get on the bike to maximize your energy supply. If you’re a heartless, blood-thirsty animal killer (kidding!), eat any lean meat such as turkey or chicken before you bike.
Protein is also a great post-ride food, but I’ll address that in the next article on that very topic.
Along with these bicycle tour super foods, make sure you drink plenty of water before you start any type of bike ride. Whether the ride is long or short, it’s extremely important that you stay hydrated.
For longer rides, you’ll need to pack snacks so that you can refuel while you go. Carbs in particular will get used up rather quickly in your body, so make sure you pack a few carb-heavy foods.
I like to pack a baggie of almonds even for my shorter rides because the protein always gives me an energy boost. They’re also easy to eat on the go.
Of course, it won’t matter what you eat before you ride if you’ve been eating Big Macs all month. Your pre-bike food should be part of an overall healthy diet that allows your body to build lean muscle without sacrificing any nutrients.
If you want your body to work hard like an engine, you’ve got to fuel it like one. Give your body what it needs with these four important foods and you’ll be touring like a pro!