Eating after exercise is just as important as preparing for the ride itself. This is especially true if you’re riding several days in a row or are expecting more exertion the next day.
Post-ride nutrition is another of those vital preparations that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Considering the positive impact it can have on a multi-day ride or sportive, that is frankly amazing. That’s what prompted this page.
Eating after a ride replaces your glycogen stores, provides protein to begin repairing muscles and the nutrients needed to rebuild your energy stores and body after it’s exertions. It can also prepare you for more of the same the next day.
Why eat afterwards?
After a bout of exercise, your body’s glycogen stores will be depleted and you will probably have low blood sugar too. One of the first things you need to do is hydrate and restore those levels to normal.
Ever heard of the “golden hour?” This is the hour after exercise when your body is most receptive to carbohydrate and nutrition. It’s like a period of accelerated metabolism that can quickly restore what you burned in the fastest time possible.
For the first 30 minutes off the bike, anything you eat will be quickly digested within that hour. Anything eaten in the last 30 minutes of the hour may not be. So the “golden hour” should actually be regarded as the “golden half hour.”
It’s critical that you take advantage of this period to quickly replace your stores. That’s especially true if you’re doing a multi-day ride or event.
What to eat in the golden hour
To take full advantage of this period of accelerated metabolism, you need to take on simple carbohydrate. Complex carbs take too long to digest, so are best saved for later. You want whatever you eat to get into your system as quickly as possible to prepare fully for the next day.
Many pros tend to drink recovery drinks immediately after a ride. I tend to agree. Often, the last thing I want to do is eat, so I have a drink mix ready to go for the minute I get home. I tend to use recovery drinks you mix with water so your body has everything it needs to digest them immediately.
You don’t have to buy recovery drinks, you can eat normal food if you can stomach it. Foods containing simple carbs include fruits such as strawberries, lychee, kiwi, grapefruit, apples, bananas, blueberries and blackberries. If you don’t fancy eating a fruit salad after a ride, mix them with some Greek yoghurt into a smoothie. My recovery drink of choice!
Cereals are another useful source of simple carbs, such as Rice Krispies, corn flakes muesli and other cereals eaten with skimmed milk. The downside to many pre-packaged cereals is the sugar and salt content. Factor that into your recovery carefully.
Other good sources of quick carbs include sweet potatoes, normal potatoes, pasta and rice. You could always prepare something in advance and heat it up as soon as you return if you can face eating.
Key points about what to eat after your ride
- You need to quickly replace glycogen stores after exercise
- Post-ride recovery is essential for multi-day rides or events
- You have 60 minutes to take on carbohydrate quickly
- Eat within 30 minutes to guarantee digestion
- Keep carbs simple and unrefined if possible
- Consider fruit smoothies or a recovery drink if you can’t face eating
- Sweet potato, potato, pasta and rice all work if you can face eating