Your post-ride meal is one of the most important of the day but it’s not just what you eat and drink after a hard ride that matters but when you consume it too. Get it right and you’ll feel fired up and ready to ride again soon. Get it wrong, and your performance will drop.
After training, or a long ride, your body needs time to return to its normal physiological state. This process is dependent on rest but also on what you consume when you get off your bike.
It’s easy to think that a downing a recovery drink means you’ve got recovery in hand but to truly replenish your carbohydrate stores, as well as replacing the fluid and salts lost during training, you need more than just one drink. “You can kick start your recovery immediately after training but the process needs to continue for several hours after a ride,” says Annie Simpson, performance nutritionist at OTE Sports.
Research suggests there is a 30-minute window of opportunity in which to begin your recovery. A quick and convenient way to do this is with a recovery drink that contains both carbohydrate and protein but a combination of real food and sports nutrition works too - try 220g of beans on two slices of toast and an electrolyte drink, or a large bowl of cereal with milk and half a protein bar.
Hydration is also vital. If the ride was easy and under 90 minutes sipping a 500ml bottle of water or electrolyte drink should be sufficient to rehydrate. But if it was a long or intense session, aim to replace 100-150% of the fluid lost through sweat within one to four hours of hopping off your bike. (Work this out by weighing yourself before and after a ride - every 1/2 kg lost equals roughly 500ml of fluid.)
To continue your recovery you should eat a more substantial meal within two hours of a ride. This should include lean protein such as eggs, chicken, tuna or tofu along with complex carbs such as whole grain pasta, rice, or sweet potato and some fat - try avocado. This meal is vital for the body to replenish the carbohydrates stores used during exercise and provides amino acids and fats to help build and repair muscles.
However, says Simpson, to really speed up recovery there is some evidence that it’s better to eat little and often. Some elite athletes prefer to eat a smaller portion of protein and carbohydrates every two to three hours after a training session, particularly if they are training again later that day. They may continue this pattern for up to six hours.
Post ride meal
- Carbohydrate to replenish glycogen stores - 0.8-1g/kg (e.g. a 70 kg cyclist would need 56-70g of carbs - around 4 slices of wholemeal bread)
- Protein to repair damaged muscle tissue - 20-25g (a small chicken breast)
- Fat - a small amount of fat is thought to help promote muscle repair (half an avocado)
Alongside a disciplined nutrition strategy, sleep, rest and stretching are also vital to recovery. But it’s worth considering other techniques too.
Supplements such as Omega 3 and tart cherry juice are new recovery techniques thought to help reduce muscle inflammation and the dreaded DOMS (delayed onset of muscles fatigue).
Other research points to a more individual approach. After all, no two cyclists are the same. Biomarkers (short for biological markers) are biological indicators that can be measured to build a picture of a person’s biological state. They can shine a light on an individual’s nutrition, hydration status, muscle status and potential risk of injury, which can allow athletes to fine-tune their recovery to suit their individual needs.
Annie Simpson is a performance nutritionist at OTE Sports. For more information on OTE Sports and their range of sports nutrition and healthy snacks visit OTE Sports.
“Nutrition and Athletic Performance” (2016) American College of Sports Medicine
Research Source: Rawson, Miles & Larson-Meyer (2017) Dietary Supplements for Health, Adaption & Recovery in Athletes, International Journal of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism.
Research Source: Lee et al (2017) Biomarkers in Sports and Exercise: Tracking Health, Performance and Recovery in Athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.