The Best Superfoods for Cycling

These 7 power foods can boost your energy or help you recover after your ride.

1
Oatmeal

Fuel up with this superfood for lasting energy and fullness.

On a basic level, food serves as fuel for your workouts—but not all forms of fuel are equal in terms of quality. Just like with a car, you could fill your tank with high-octane fuel or cheap gas. Sure, your engine will run either way but you’re not likely to get the same level of performance out of both types—and the same is true with food and your body. The following seven foods are powerhouse choices to fuel up for an indoor cycling session, give you sustainable energy, or help you recover afterward. Bon appetit!  

A great source of whole grains and soluble fiber, unprocessed oats are loaded with energy-generating nutrients like folate, potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, and healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Oatmeal can be made sweet or savory, depending on what you add to them—and it can be “prepared in advance so you have one less thing to do before an early-morning ride,” says Leslie Bonci, M.P.H., R.D., director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and author of Bike Your Butt Off. Plus, eating oatmeal improves satiety (feelings of fullness), according to research from Louisiana State University.  

2
Greek yogurt

For sustainable energy and a nutrient-infusion, grab a spoon.

A good source of calcium, potassium, and vitamin B-12, low-fat Greek yogurt offers an ideal blend of carbohydrates and protein in a portable portion. The high protein content offers long-lasting energy since it takes a while to digest and the carbs provide a short-term energy boost to get you pedaling strongly. What’s more, consuming a higher-protein Greek yogurt as a snack leads to increased feelings of fullness and delays the desire to eat again more than a lower-protein yogurt does, according to research from the University of Missouri

3
Almonds

A handful of these tasty nuts can really pump up your pedaling.

A 2014 study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that when trained cyclists consumed 75 grams of almonds before an indoor cycling session, they covered more distance and performed more efficiently than when they consumed the same number of calories from a sugary food. (Almond butter is also a good energy-boosting choice.) What’s more, almonds contain an impressive mix of protein, complex carbs, fiber, and healthy fats, as well as magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, zinc, folate, and vitamin E. These nutrients help combat oxidative stress, increase oxygen in your blood, and help your body unleash energy from other foods you’re eating.

4
Tuna or salmon

To reduce fatigue, fuel up with one of these superfoods from the sea.

Besides being a stellar source of lean protein, which provides a slower, more sustained rise in blood sugar, tuna and salmon are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which decrease inflammation in the body; this in turn boosts your circulation and the efficiency of your heart and other organs, thus helping you feel less fatigued. Proof positive: Research from Australia found that when well-trained cyclists rode a stationary bicycle at an intensity of 55 percent of their peak workload under two different conditions (after consuming olive oil or fish oil capsules), their heart rates and oxygen consumption were lower as they cycled to the point of exhaustion after swallowing the fish oil.

5
Bananas

This superfood can give you an energy boost before or during your ride.

In a 2012 study, researchers at Appalachian State University found that when trained cyclists consumed bananas during a 75-km time trial, their cycling performance and their bodies’ ability to use fuel were enhanced considerably more than when they swallowed a 6 percent carbohydrate drink. What’s more, bananas are rich in potassium, vitamins A and C, folate, and resistant starch, a type of fiber your body can’t absorb, so they keep you feeling full for longer. Bananas are an especially good pre-cycling source of fuel.

6
Honey

A spoonful of this superfood can power up your ride.

When researchers at The Cooper Institute for Human Performance and Nutrition Research gave cyclists 15 grams of honey every 16 kilometers during a simulated 64-kilometer time trial, the participants generated more watts and improved their time during the final 16 kilometers of the ride. Because it's an easily digestible source of carbohydrates, “honey provides a quick energy boost and it’s sweeter than sugar so you don’t have to use as much,” says Bonci. 

7
Tart cherry juice

It's a tasty way to recover after your ride.

Tart cherry juice is an ideal beverage to have after a cycling workout—and not just because it helps you stay hydrated. In a 2015 study involving trained cyclists, researchers from the U.K. found that consuming tart cherry juice accelerated recovery and reduced exercised-induced inflammation after a strenuous cycling session. This effect can be a serious perk when it comes to dealing with delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Chalk these effects up to the juice's anthocyanins, which fight inflammation and speed healing, Bonci says. Cheers!

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