Ten Foods to Eat After a Long Ride
Besides water, there are two main things your body needs after an intense ride: carbohydrates and protein. Carbohydrates are necessary to replenish glycogen stores, which can become depleted during a long ride. Protein is needed by your body to build and repair muscle tissue.
A 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein is a general guideline for efficient post-ride recovery. When putting together a meal or snack to help you refuel, aim for this 4:1 ratio by combining different food options.
What to Eat After A Ride
Below are ten great foods to eat after an intense ride, and how they benefit your body.
1. Sweet potato
Sweet potatoes are rich in carbohydrates, which are essential in the first 30 to 60 minutes after a ride. This is when your body is racing to renew your glycogen stores, so you want to eat something that is high in carbs. Sweet potatoes are also high in vitamin C, which helps to accelerate wound healing, facilitating your body’s recovery. Potassium, which the body loses through sweat, is also plentiful in sweet potatoes.
Eggs have a bad reputation for being high in cholesterol. Recent studies have shown, however, that eating eggs has no effect on your overall blood cholesterol level. Eggs are an excellent source of protein, making them a great post-ride snack food. What’s more, the amino acids in eggs are the most digestible to humans, making eggs something of a gold standard when it comes to sources of dietary protein. Eggs are also high in choline, which reduces inflammation.
3. Chocolate milk
You might think of it as a kid’s afterschool snack, but scientific studies have repeatedly shown that chocolate milk is one of the best recovery foods an athlete can consume. A glass of low-fat chocolate milk comes very close to the 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio recommended by experts, but the benefits don’t stop there. The sugars in milk are simple carbohydrates, which are easily broken down by the body. Milk is high in calcium and vitamin D, and has a high water content. If you make your own chocolate milk using raw cocoa powder, you also get the added anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits associated with raw cocoa.
Many fruits, such as melons, have a high water content, which helps you rehydrate after a long ride. Cantaloupes, in particular, are high in potassium, so snacking on some will assist in replacing lost electrolytes. Cantaloupes are also a great source of vitamin A and beta-carotene, both of which are essential for maintaining the immune system, and are rich in vitamin C.
Nuts are a great post-ride snack because they are high in protein. Nuts have the added benefit of being portable, which is important if you’re not going home immediately after a ride. Nuts are high in unsaturated fats and plant sterols, both of which help to lower bad cholesterol. To maximize their benefits, mix nuts with some dried fruit to get you closer to the 4:1 carb to protein ratio.
6. Nut butter
Like nuts, nut butters are high in protein. Almond butter is rich in calcium, which strengthens bones. It’s also high in magnesium and potassium, which help maintain muscle and nerve functions. Cashew butter is high in iron and has a lower fat content than most other nut butters. Adding nut butter to a fruit, such as banana, increases the benefits derived by your body. For a good 4:1 snack, spread some nut butter on a slice of bread and top with banana.
7. White rice
The simple carbohydrates in white rice are broken down more easily by the body than the complex ones in whole grain alternatives. White rice also contains important amino acids necessary for building muscle. For an added nutrient boost, cook white rice in chicken broth or coconut milk instead of water.
8. Grilled or baked chicken
Chicken is a great source of lean protein. It’s also rich in phosphorus, which helps support the nervous system. Selenium, an essential trace element, is found in abundant quantities in chicken, as is vitamin B6.
The high carbohydrate content of berries makes them a great choice for a post-ride snack. Berries can contain up to 92% water, making them great for rehydrating. Berries are also rich in anthocyanins, which reduce inflammation and joint pain.
Smoothies are a great post-ride recovery snack because you can make them ahead of time and can tailor them to fit your needs. To ensure you’re getting the most out of your smoothie, add a source of protein, such as whey protein powder or nuts. Carbohydrate sources can include fruit, juice, and honey. Coconut water has a high electrolyte content, so you might want to consider using it as a base for your smoothie. Alternatively, you can use coconut or low-fat milk.