The saying goes that getting fitter and stronger is 20% on the bike, 80% in the kitchen. No matter how hard you train and how much time you spend on the bike, you won’t get faster unless you fuel your engine well.
There are many different diet trends and nutritional practices that come and go over time, but we like to believe in a diet that includes all food groups and a flexible approach.
Here are the top ten essential foods that you always want to have on your grocery list to help you ride fast, feel great, and live healthily.
Eggs are an awesome source of protein. They’re a ‘complete’ protein which means that they contain all the main amino acids required to help our muscles grow and recover.
The yolk is the nutritional powerhouse of the mighty egg, packed with vitamins and minerals – so don’t go throwing it out!
Eggs make a perfect addition to a pre-ride breakfast thanks to their top-quality protein. Those amino acids will fuel and strengthen the muscles as you ride. This protein content means they’re awesome after a bike ride too, which is when your body needs building blocks for repair.
And because eggs can be prepared so many ways, they can make a great meal at any time of the day, whether poached, fried, scrambled, in an omelette… the world’s your oyster.
If you’re going to eat your greens, make sure you include this absolute essential! Like all green vegetables, broccoli is packed with vitamins and minerals, the ‘micronutrients’ that keep illnesses at bay and keep your body performing optimally on the bike.
Broccoli has one of the best nutritional profiles of all the green vegetables as it is not only packed with vitamin K and vitamin C, but has more protein than many of its green cousins.
To lock in as much of the goodness as you can, try not to overcook it. The best method is to lightly steam it in a pan with a half inch of boiling water, or, of course, in a proper steamer.
When you’re shopping for veggies, you need to ‘eat the rainbow’, which means that you should try to get fruits and vegetables of all different colours. When you’re adding some ‘reds’ to the grocery list, beets should be at the top!
As well as boasting all the usual health benefits of vegetables, being low in calories and high in essential vitamins, minerals and fibre, the beet has one extra perk for us bike riders. Beets are packed with nitrates, a mineral which improves your body’s ability to take up oxygen. And the more oxygen your legs can get when you’re out on the bike, the faster you’re going to ride!
If you find beets hard to stomach, try it in a juice with a load of other sweet fruits, such as blueberries or apples – this will take the edge off the taste.
Low in fat and high in carbs, these guys are your perfect ride fuel! What’s more, the oat is full of fibre, which is key to your gut health and helps make you feel fuller for longer.
Most stores stock a number of types of oats, from ‘quick’ oats, which are slightly processed to reduce their cooking time, to jumbo oats. Always try to purchase the least processed option available, as a ‘whole’ oat will digest slower and fuel your ride for longer.
Porridge and ‘overnight’ oats are our breakfast staples here at PRO BIKE TOOL HQ, and we always opt for these over breakfast cereals, which are typically sugar-laden and heavily-processed – which isn’t great if you’re riding to try to shed a few pounds.
And the beauty of an oaty breakfast is that you can add so many great things to it – from berries, to nut butters, to maple syrup. Get creative with it!
Sweet potatoes are a great source of carbohydrates, but unlike other starchy carbs, such as rice or pasta, they’re also packed with vitamins and minerals.
Like oats, sweet potatoes are full of fibre, and are a complex carbohydrate, which means they keep you feeling full for a long time. Like so many fruit and vegetables, a lot of the nutritional benefits (including the fibre) of a sweet potato is found in the skin. That outer layer is totally edible and tastes great, so leave it on!
Try swapping your traditional potato fries with sweet potato fries, or better yet, baked wedges. They’re tastier, lower in fat, and contain more of those great things that keep us healthy and able to ride strong.
The term ‘superfood’ gets thrown around very regularly, but if any one food really deserves that title, it’s quinoa.
Like eggs, quinoa is a complete protein, and so contains all nine amino acids, making it awesome for rebuilding your muscles after a hard bike ride. And if that’s not enough for you, quinoa is high in fibre, low in fat, and full of antioxidants.
Want to be better on the bike? Make quinoa an essential for your store cupboard and use it as a staple for your salads and mainstay addition to your meat and fish.
Salmon is one of the best sources of protein and healthy fat you can get. This wonderful fish is absolutely packed with omega 3 fatty acid, which is a key nutrient for keeping your heart healthy and managing your blood pressure. More importantly for us cyclists, omega 3s can help reduce the DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) that you may feel after those particularly tough rides.
Salmon has a super-high protein content, which is key for growth and recovery and is full of antioxidants, which are great for helping reduce the inflammation that occurs in our muscles after a rough ride.
This perfect combination of protein, omega 3s, and antioxidants mean salmon is an absolute winner for a post-ride recovery meal. Try it with some baked sweet potato wedges and broccoli are you are ticking all the boxes!
Nuts / nut butter
Nuts are a great source of healthy fats, and they give you a good dose of protein and fibre too.
As nuts are very nutrient dense, you only need a handful to give you a great super-healthy snack. That density and fattiness keeps you feeling fuller for longer compared to other foods with a similar calorie content – making them great for anyone who rides to try to help them trim up.
Another reason why we love nuts so much at PRO BIKE TOOL HQ is that they’re so versatile. Keep a pack near at hand for an on-the-go snack, use nut butters in your morning oats, or try chopped nuts sprinkled over your salad.
They’re packed with carbs, they’re low in fat, and they come in their own wrappers – what more could you want for a perfect on-bike snack?
With an average banana containing around 25grams of carbohydrate but only 100 calories, they’re full of fast fuel for your ride.
And there’s more to the brilliant banana than just carbohydrates – they’re full of vitamins and minerals, one of the most relevant to us cyclists being potassium. Potassium is vital for regulating our fluid levels and muscle contractions, with low levels of potassium being believed to be a cause of cramp.
So, eat them on their own, with some nut butter on top, or chopped onto your oats; bananas will make you fast.
Pulses are an often overlooked and forgotten food for us athletes, who tend to focus on fruit, vegetables, dairy, fish, and meat. However, they’re a great addition to all diets, and black beans are arguably the best.
Black beans have a huge amount of fiber, which is great for keeping you satiated, and keeps your stomach healthy. Gut health is key for cyclists, as a healthy digestive tract has an increased ability to produce antioxidants – and they’re the good guys that help you recover after a tough ride.
Of all the beans, black beans have one of the highest protein content; another reason to always make sure you have some ready to go!