Ride Fuel – Enjoy your ride, Don’t Just Endure it!

by Louise Gagnon

Tips to Stay Strong on Your Next All Day Club Ride

Summer has finally arrived (well, sort of) and many of us are hitting the roads for longer rides. So here are a few reminders that will help you not only to ride with a smile on your face and not feel lethargic the next day, but also enable you to ride more safely. If your blood is too low on sugar or salts you can become disoriented, lethargic, and/or incapable of reacting quickly; all things that are very bad not just for your safety but also for that of the rest of your cycling group.

Eat foods that have a low to medium sugar index, such as porridge, Shredded Wheat cereals, baked beans, whole wheat bread, bananas, etc. Don’t forget proteins: either poached or hard boiled eggs, a few pieces of cheese, baked beans, milk, lean meat, low fat yoghurt, fruit smoothies. Proteins are key; they will give you lasting power, nourishing your muscles for longer. Baked beans are super food as they contain the carbs, proteins and salts you need.
Stay away from sugary cereals, fatty bacon/sausages, and too much butter on your toasts.
Drink lots of low sugar stuff and limit your caffeine intake to 1-2 cups. Be careful of juices as they are often loaded with sugar!

Morning Coffee Stop
Start putting in sugar and salts: your best choices are white bread tea cakes or a bagel with copious amounts of jam/jelly. Your body is still fresh so it can absorb solids and protein-enriched fuels so don’t be shy to give it the ultimate portable boost of salty nuts you will have brought with you, or alternatively order a milkshake. If baked beans are on the menu, that ís excellent. The caffeine in your coffee/tea will be your ally so make sure it is a strong one as it will fire up your metabolism. Sugar in there is fine too.

Sadly flapjacks, and cakes of all sorts are not your best allies given the high fat content (often the worst kind of cheap trans fat). But granted, they may be good to the taste; they are just poor for a cyclist’s body.

Especially on hot days, insert half a teaspoon of salt into your water bottle or drop an electrolyte/magnesium tablet (“Zero” is an excellent product. By the way, massive sports nutrition sales on now at big chains such as Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles). Keep the other water bottle for your “on the go energy”, most often in the form of a few tablespoons of a soluble carbo drink containing sucrose/fructose (I use 2 tablespoons of “High 5” Energy Source Summer Fruit Flavour, and keep a spare sachet for the afternoon).

On The Way to Lunch
Hydrate (drink!). You should have empty water bottles by lunch time.

The body is now a bit more fatigued and less able to digest solid foods. Time to turn to sports gels and electrolytes products. Don’t keep sipping on your high energy drink or it will rot your teeth. Drink it 1/3 a bottle at a time and rinse your mouth well with water from your other bottle. For variety and really cheap solid rocket fuel solutions, I ingest either a handful of Jelly Babies or mixed fruits with cranberries and apricots (£3 for 500g at Sainsburys – yummy). I am also a fan of white bread jelly/Nutella butties; folded in half, they are easily portable and will make your mates envious.

Feel you’ve pushed the machine a bit and want to stay strong? Start with a sugary drink (J2O, Coke, etc.) and drink it within 30 minutes. Add a pinch of salt (no worries it won’t change the taste).

Sandwiches which combine bread, which has salt in it – and some kind of protein (eggs, meat, smoked salmon, tuna) are excellent light foods. So are baked potatoes, omelettes and pasta dishes; don’t be afraid to load them with proteins. Hearty soups and bread are good but they often miss key proteins to rebuild muscles so make sure you ask for a piece of cheese or dip into your ziplock bag that contains nuts.

Post Ride (30 minutes to 1.5 hours max)

Nutrition does not stop when you are finished. The secret to a strong recovery after a hard ride is maximum sugars within 30 minute post-ride. This is your brief window of accelerated glycogen storage to ensure your muscles are loaded with power for tomorrow’s ride, so don’t miss it! Good news: you may now flood your system with sugars, including cakes and sweets, in short anything with a high sugar index. A top choice is milk chocolate as it is full of sugar and also contains proteins (from the milk). If you have nothing else, a large Coke or similar will be fine. Have two if you wish.

Subsequently, and within 1.5 hours it is muscle repair time so go for some proteins (see above breakfast proteins). A main meal several hours later might consist of bread, pasta, potatoes and rice as well as a bit of simple sugars like cakes and sweets.


On your bike your only engine is your body.
Feed it what it needs at the right time and it will work wonders for you!

Louise Gagnon, Ride Leader
West Surrey CTC