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Nutrition for the bicycle tour: What you should know (beginner's guide)

Why it's worth taking a look at Food & Drink


Before we look at the optimal nutrition around a bike ride, briefly a few important basics: food and liquid we must consume daily to provide our body with the necessary nutrients, although in extreme situations we can even go without food for a few days. 

When cycling, however, it is helpful to keep an eye on our eating and drinking behavior so that we don’t ride towards the so-called “hunger pangs”.

What is it? A “starvation attack” occurs when all carbohydrate reserves from muscle cells and the liver are depleted.

Knowing the different nutrients helps to reach for the appropriate food in each situation. After all, a few little things that you can integrate well into your everyday life are enough to get through a bike tour as well as possible and not sag at the end. 

After all, the joy of cycling should remain for a long time.

Nutrition on the bike tour: basics

Carbohydrates are the most important source of energy for your nutrition on a bike tour and in cycling in general. Performance, regeneration and training adaptation are influenced by them.

Proteins (proteins) are the building blocks of many body structures such as muscles, tendons and ligaments. They help build and maintain muscle mass and can contribute to a beneficial body composition. Adequate protein intake is thus essential to repair structures destroyed by training and to promote the desired adaptation processes.

The proportion of fats in the diet should be smaller than the proportion of carbohydrates and proteins. However, fats are very important for hormone production, serve as thermal protection and improve the absorption of vitamins. Recommended sources of fat are: Flaxseed, fatty sea fish (salmon, mackerel, herring), olive oil, linseed oil, walnuts and avocado.

Micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals and secondary plant compounds are also part of a balanced diet. They reduce inflammatory processes and promote the production of red blood cells. These transport the vital oxygen taken into the lungs through the blood vessels to the organs and muscles of the body.

All of these nutrients are important for athletes to optimize training through proper nutrition. Depending on fitness, goal, and training volume, the amounts of each nutrient should be individualized to the training plan.

In addition, it is useful to consider when you eat which foods.

Nutrition in everyday life

In cycling, as in everyday life, the basic rule is to aim for a balanced diet. The menu could include the following foods to be well supplied:

  • 5 servings (hand size) of fruits and vegetables (approx. 500g) per day
  • Regularly eat whole grains (especially on non-exercise days)
  • Regularly sea fish
  • Red meat <300g per week

The following foods should be avoided if possible:

  • Sausages
  • Sweet drinks
  • Highly processed food
  • Alcohol

Basic foods should be purchased according to this rule: The fewer ingredients on a food’s label the better.

In order to have a balanced cycling diet, you should have the following foods on hand in your household so that you can prepare a meal quickly and without much effort.

  • Seasonal and regional fruits and vegetables
  • Oatmeal
  • Spelt flour
  • Couscous
  • Natural rice
  • Quinoa
  • Pasta
  • Lenses
  • Millet
  • Spelt bread/sourdough bread
  • (Sweet) potatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Maple syrup and/or honey
  • Dried dates
  • Dried fruit of your choice
  • Nut mixture
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Frozen fruits
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Chickpeas
  • Kidney beans

From the refrigerated section:

  • Yogurt
  • Low-fat curd cheese
  • Feta cheese
  • Mozzarella
  • Cottage cheese
  • Eggs
  • Fish/meat

Eat the right thing before cycling

If one eats carbohydrate-rich the days before a longer bike ride (>1,5h), the carbohydrate stores will be filled: sufficient power is guaranteed. 

With a balanced breakfast, the glycogen stores are replenished once again. 2-3 hours before the start, a breakfast of oatmeal and banana or 5-6 slices of toast with jam can be helpful. 

If it should be something hearty, the typical plate of pasta with tomato sauce or rice with a little salt and olive oil is recommended. To avoid having to get off your bike after a short time due to gastrointestinal problems, it is helpful to avoid the following things at your pre-ride meal:

  • Concentrated food
  • High fat content
  • Individual intolerances
  • Increased high fiber food intake

Nutrition during the bike tour

During breaks, it is important to choose meals that are low in fiber and fat (e.g. rice, pasta or potatoes). If isotonic (carbohydrate) drinks or bars are carried, experimentation during the tour should be avoided. 

It is best to test the respective foods before the tour to see if the gastrointestinal tract tolerates them well and if they taste good. Here offers the PORRIDGE BAR offers. This is a carbohydrate bar that contains easily digestible carbohydrates. 

These bars are also perfect for amateur athletes, as they provide the necessary carbohydrates in packaged form and you don’t have to worry much about meals during the tour. Depending on how long and intense the ride will be, you should consider what drink to take with you. 

If it’s a casual ride where you can talk all the time and which doesn’t last more than two hours, you can use the SLOW CARB use. However, if it’s a more intense ride, where breathing and talking at the same time are not working as well, you’d better reach for the FAST CARB.

If someone wants to go deeper into the topic to know how many grams of carbohydrates are suitable for which exit, you will find here the appropriate article.

Diet after the bike ride

People like to reward themselves after a ride, but they should also take a critical look at their rewards. If you like to exercise a little longer, it often happens that you eat significantly more calories than you have consumed and a calorie surplus is created. (… the white beer belly is getting bigger and bigger … ;))

If the next cycling tour takes place the following day, you should make sure that your carbohydrate stores are replenished accordingly.

In addition, a protein-rich diet is advisable promptly after training to support recovery. The RECOVERY SHAKE with rice or almond milk is then exactly the right remedy. 

After all, not only professionals have the so-called “open window” for about an hour after the sporting unit, in which the glycogen stores can be filled more quickly, but everyone benefits from the right combination of carbohydrates and proteins. In this way, the stressed muscle groups are supported during regeneration and muscle injuries are prevented.

The stop in the beer garden on the bike tour

On the recreational bike ride, the beer garden stop is often a fitting opportunity to review the day. However, it is often not considered that alcohol is a cell toxin that negatively affects regeneration.

The German Nutrition Society (DGE) lists 10 grams of alcohol per day for women and 20 grams for men as the maximum amount that can be tolerated. 20 grams of alcohol can be found in about half a liter of beer or a quarter of a liter of wine. 

Nevertheless, before drinking alcohol, it is recommended to eat something first to provide the body with carbohydrates and proteins. If alcohol with more than 4% is consumed immediately, this has a diuretic effect, i.e. negative effects on the water balance. 

In addition, our bodies are weakened and more susceptible to infections after high levels of stress, so drinking alcohol weakens the immune system and increases susceptibility to infections.

Take Home Message

The following advice should be followed in your everyday life to lay a good foundation for a health-conscious cycling routine:

  • In everyday life, prefer high-quality staple foods and try to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day; 1 serving equals the size of your hand
  • Start cycling tours with full carbohydrate stores
  • Avoid high-fat and high-fiber foods before and during the bike ride
  • After the tour, take care of yourself with carbohydrates and proteins
  • Drink alcohol if then in moderation

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