If you go cycling for any considerable length of time, you’ll want to ensure you bring along some cycling snacks. Without regularly consuming small snacks during your ride, you run the risk of depleting your energy levels. The result is being faced with that feeling that every serious cyclist has once experienced at one time or another, the dreaded bonk.
Cycling is a demanding sport, and the ideal cyclist’s diet is one which is hotly debated. Get it wrong and you’ll most likely have a miserable training ride, or a short race! But get it right and you ensure you give yourself every chance of performing to your potential. Some prefer savoury cycling snacks, while others prefer sweet cycling snacks, but whatever your preference, the important thing is to eat regularly if you undertake a ride longer than 90 minutes.
Carbohydrate, fat and protein comprise the 3 macronutrients in the nutrition world. And ideally, the cycling snacks that you pack for a ride should contain a balance of all 3. Most cyclists burn glucose for fuel, so the majority of calories should comprise of carbohydrate. The addition of fat and protein help curtail blood sugar spikes and the breaking down of muscle fibres during exercise. Let's take a quick look at all 3 in an attempt to uncover what are the best foods to eat while endurance cycling.
Carbohydrate is required for high-intensity exercise and is stored as glycogen in both your liver and muscles. When you’re pushing hard on the bike, you’re tapping into the glycogen reserves, and you quickly burn through them. If you’re not well adapted to burning fat for energy and don’t take on any additional carbohydrate in the form of some cycling snacks, then you’ll quickly bonk once you deplete your stored carbohydrate supplies.
Fat provides an almost limitless supply of energy. But you have to train your body to learn how to tap into it. It won’t help you with high-intensity efforts like carbohydrates do, but burning fat will help you go further for longer at lower intensities, and is therefore the ideal source of energy for the endurance cyclists.
Protein can also be used for energy although it’s not an ideal source. The body utilises it by either breaking down muscle fibre or via dietary protein. In a process known as gluconeogenesis, the liver converts protein to glucose, where it’s then used in the same way as carbohydrate. Protein is commonly taken onboard after a ride to help the muscles during recovery, although few realise that 5-10g of essential amino acids for every hour on the bike can enhance performance considerably while also preventing the body from breaking down muscle fibre during exercise.
Some cyclists prefer the convenience of readymade snacks. You can buy your own gels, energy bars or cereal bars to take with you on a ride, and at Decathlon, we stock a wide range of nutrition options for cyclists. But for those who would rather make their own, perhaps to tailor their nutrition to their own specific needs or to the event, here are 3 delicious cycling snack recipes that you can easily make at home.
Oat energy bars
As a slow release source carbohydrate with some protein, oats are a great fuel for cyclists and make for a delicious cycling snack. They often provide a more stable source of energy without the spike in energy from the more refined sugary snacks. It’s one tasty snack sure to keep you going faster for longer! Here’s what you need.
- Add some oil into a saucepan at low heat.
- Add 200g of brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of maple syrup.
- Add one tablespoon of peanut butter to help with the consistency. This will form the base.
- Add 0.5 teaspoons of vanilla extract.
- Add some dried fruit: 50 grams each of sultanas, flaked almonds and chopped dates.
- Add 250 grams of oats little by little, and allow the mixture to cook for 5-10 minutes.
- Once you have a thick consistency, add the mixture to a baking tray and press it firmly with a fork to pack it down.
- Place it in the oven at 180°C (350°F) for 10-15 mins. Cook until golden brown on top.
Once complete, allow them to cool before cutting them into slices or squares that’ll fit in your jersey pocket!
Raw energy balls
For those who aren’t so handy in the kitchen, here is a quick and easy recipe that doesn’t require any baking that you can rustle together quickly and easily. With the perfect combination of carbohydrate, protein and fat, they provide a convenient energy-boosting treat, ideal for your back pocket on those longer rides. Here’s how they’re made.
- Blend 100g each of almonds and cashews and set it aside.
- Blend 200g each of dates and dried apricots.
- Add 2.5 tablespoons of almond butter to form the base, and 2-4 tablespoons of cacao powder to dial in the consistency.
- Add back in the blended nuts and work the mixture either by hand or in a blender.
- Once the desired consistency is achieved, roll them in your hands into balls.
- They should be moist, so roll them in cacao powder to complete the seal.
- You can then place them in the freezer where they should keep for up to 6 months.
Bananas have long since been a favourite of cyclists all over the world, and no list of recipes would be complete without a good old-fashioned banana bar!
- Blend 3-4 bananas
- Mix the following ingredients together into a bowl:
-50g of pumpkin seeds
-100g of dried fruit
-250g of oats
-50g of flax seeds
-50g of sunflower seeds
-50g of chopped almonds
-50g of chopped pecans
- Add some cinnamon and salt to taste
- Place the mixture on a baking tray and compress it until it’s 2-3 cm thick.
- Place in the oven for 25 mins at 170°C (340°F) until golden and firm.
- Allow to cool down before cutting them into slices.
With a steady supply of high energy snacks for your back pocket on each ride, there’s no excuse for bonking. Just be sure to eat at regular intervals!