You are an engine. Without fuel in that engine, your bike is as good as wall art. Whether you’re training, racing, or on a long weekend adventure, the key to riding faster and farther is proper hydration and nutrition.
While you can scrounge food at the grocery store, sport-specific nutrition is formulated to give you fast energy without upsetting your stomach. Plus it’s easy to grab and go, eat on the bike, and fit in jersey pockets. Here are our favorite hydration and nutrition options to fuel your next ride.
Hydration and energy mix
Electrolyte mixes replace the minerals lost in sweat. My go-to options are Skratch and Nuun. Scratch is popular with pro racers and offers tantalizing flavors like Matcha Green Tea Lemon. Nuun comes in convenient effervescent tablets, it’s sugar-free, and some flavors provide an added caffeine boost.
For big rides, carbohydrate mixes are an easy way to get extra calories and stay fueled. Infinit :Go Far and SIS Beta Fuel are formulated to maximize absorption while minimizing stomach distress. :Go Far uses a bit of whey protein to curb hunger while Beta Fuel is a great vegan alternative.
Chews are the easiest solid food to eat on the bike. The cheap gas station version is a bag of gummy bears, but sport-specific chews have the right glucose/fructose ratio for better absorption plus electrolytes and sometimes caffeine. Clif’s salted watermelon is my all-time favorite followed by the gumdrop goodness of Skratch Raspberry and then any of Jelly Belly’s amped-up beans.
Nothing gives you a quick boost like a gel. They’re compact so you can carry a ride’s worth in one pocket and they’re easy to get down while pedaling hard. Honey Stinger and UnTapped maple syrup use delicious, natural sources of liquid sugar. For a more traditional gel, GU offers my favorite texture and great flavors like Cola.
Bars and waffles
Solid foods keep my stomach happy and satiated on long rides. I find savory nut bars like Skratch’s Cherry Pistachio or Clif’s Nut Butter bars are the perfect counterpoint to sugary gels and chews. If you want a sweet treat, stroopwafel-style snacks like the Stinger Waffle are the classic choice.
Carbs and protein help you refuel after a hard ride to repair muscle and recover for the next one. I like recovery shakes because they’re formulated with beneficial extras like BCAAs, L-Glutamine, or probiotics. They’re easy to mix up after an exhausting workout, and they fill me up so I don’t binge on junk food.
While prepackaged, sport-specific cycling food is convenient and effective, it doesn’t need to be the only thing you eat on the bike. I’ve been known to stuff a PB&J and a sleeve of Oreos into my handlebar bag for long gravel adventures. When I’m five hours into an all-day epic, nothing satisfies my taste buds like a salty Slim Jim. And sometimes, you have no choice but to stop at a convenience store. If you do, check out some of favorite mid-ride gas station foods.
I also highly recommend making some of your own riding food. I've had good luck with Skratch’s free homemade rice cake recipe, which can be made sweet or savory. Scratch’s cookbook also has a ton of portable food recipes that have been tested in the pro peloton.
What did I miss? What is your favorite riding food? Let us know in the comments!
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