How should I fuel before and after my rides?
Things you need to know if you want powerful rides to boost your recovery!
There’s nothing like a powerful ride at the beginning or end of your day to get you feeling on top of the world. Sometimes, you walk into the studio ready to CRUSH a ride.
Other times, you’re clipped in but recount your day with, “Hmm, what did I eat for lunch? Wait, did I have lunch? Ugh, maybe that burrito was a mistake before the ride. Wow, I haven’t had any water today, oops!” and so on. We’ve all been there before.
We constantly hear conflicting information from media sources: How much is too much to eat before a workout? How soon is too soon to eat before working out?
Much like an engine, your body requires suitable fuel to energize your body, nourish your muscles, and set you up for powerful rides (and days in general). Reaching for proper fuel (food) before and after your ride can enhance your rides and even boost your results and recovery. Just going for suitable power will increase your rides; timing your energy is also essential.
Before we dive in, let’s review a couple of nutritional terms. I promise
to keep this simple for you here. And as always, these are just guiding principles, always consult your doctor and/or nutritionist for specific health advice. :)
First, the carbohydrate is the building block of what your body needs for energy, glucose (sugar);
basically, your body breaks carbohydrates (carbs) down into glucose and uses that glucose for energy. There are many types of carbs, like simple, complex (starches), and fibers. Examples of carbs that you’d find in your diet include the following: sugar, bread, fruit, pasta, grains, and vegetables.
Protein is the building block of our human structures (think, muscles, bones, hormones,
collagen, and even neuro-signals in the body). While protein is not a primary energy source, it makes us human. When I mention protein, I want you to think of these types of foods in your diet: meat, fish, eggs, cheese and other dairy products, nuts, legumes, and yogurt.
What should I eat before a workout (if at all)?
First and foremost, we recommend you eat before a ride at FireCycle - as instructors, we eat before rides and suggest you come to class with at least something in your system. Don’t just take it from us; experts also suggest that if you are moving for longer than 30 minutes and at a moderate or high-intensity level, it is best practice to get at least a small amount of energy in the tank before pressing play on the workout. Having some fuel in the tank can also help you not feel ravenous after a workout. However, we will let you live your life if you choose not to fuel before a ride!
The widely suggested and accepted powerhouse combination is combining a carbohydrate with a protein. The carbohydrates will provide the energy your body needs, and the protein will sustain muscle structures and help keep you satiated. A few examples of this powerhouse carb+protein combo include:
Oatmeal with low-fat milk and fruit
A boiled egg and a banana (or insert your favorite fruit here)
Granola and an apple
A fruit smoothie made with yogurt
Almonds and a clementine orange
Instructor Pro-Tip: Look for snacks that travel easily and aren’t weather-sensitive. Some of my top snacks are whole almond packs, an apple, and Chomp Sticks. These are great for on-the-go and can easily be stored in your gym bag for when you spontaneously book that afternoon ride ;)
Okay, I will reach for a carb+protein…but when should I eat?
Aiming to have a snack at least 45 minutes to an hour before your ride will allow you to get some fuel in the tank and give your body plenty of time to let the snack or meal settle before clipping in and jamming out. You also want to avoid fueling too far before a ride; if it’s been longer than 3 hours since you’ve had any type of meal or snack, you may want to consider reaching for a small snack to have on hand for pre-ride.
What about after my ride? How can I boost my recovery?
The same winning carb+protein combination ideal for pre-ride is also a great combination to reach for after rides to recharge and kickstart muscle recovery. If you’re going for a full meal, you’ll want protein to nourish your muscles (think 25-30+ grams). The extra protein here is excellent for your muscle structures to build and repair themselves properly. Ideally, eating or drinking within an hour of finishing your workout would benefit your body the most.
A few examples of some top-tier post-ride snacks or meals include:
An omelet (or scrambled eggs) with toast
Greek yogurt with fruit
A wrap with turkey or chicken, vegetables, and cheese
Chicken, brown rice, with a side of vegetables or fruit
One last idea worth mentioning here is the importance of hydration. Adequate hydration before your ride will keep you hydrated for your ride. After your ride, you’ll also want to rehydrate with water and your favorite electrolyte pack. If you need some electrolyte replenishment suggestions, chat with an instructor, and we’ll let you know what works for us - plus, we typically have some samples ;)
If you’ve ever been stumped on what or when to eat before your ride, look no further than the carbohydrate+protein combo. To help your engine rev up for rides and repair for the next one, the fuel you reach for will make a difference. Your body will utilize the carbs for energy and the protein for muscular longevity and repair.
As always, there is no right or wrong way here. Try a few combinations to see what you’ll eat, how your body will react, and how your rides and recovery feel.
Nina is a Wellness Coach. You can find her at FireCycle Abilene or apply to work with her at https://ninarosepena.com.