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Julia's nutrition tips #5: Nutrition after riding

Julia's nutrition tips #5: Nutrition after riding

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Words and photo: Julia Revitt

So, you’re back home from a 3-hour epic ride around your local trails. Your stomach is rumbling and the crisps in the cupboard are shouting your name. You need food but you don’t need crisps…

After a long ride you will feel tired, as your glycogen stores are low. The aim of post exercise nutrition is to replenish those stores quickly and fully to enable you to train hard again quickly.

Old faithful - glass of milk anyone? Photo © Julia Revitt
Old faithful – glass of milk anyone?
Photo © Julia Revitt

Normally glycogen can only be replaced at approximately 5% per hour – which means you can replenish your stores within 20 hours with careful timing and composition of your meals. However, after an intensive training session you are able to replenish your glycogen at 7-8% per hour for the first 15 minutes and slightly less for the next 2 hours. Make use of this time!

As soon as you finish your training (within 15 minutes) you need to eat a 50g of a high GI carbohydrate.

Try any of the suggestions below:

  • Fruit smoothie (banana + orange + peach + 2 strawberries)
  • 500ml sports drink (based on SIS PSP 22 drink)
  • 250g milk + 2 oatcakes + peanut butter + apple
  • 100g baked potato + small can baked beans
  • 60g dried fruit
  • 2 slices of tea loaf (see my recipe)

You then need to eat another 50g of a high GI carbohydrate within the next 2 hours. Again any of the above suggestions will be great.

After 2 hours you need to eat a lower GI meal with protein and other nutrients. Protein helps your body to replenish its glycogen stores but only after these 2 hours. This could be any of the following:

  • Hummus salad sandwich (2 slices wholegrain bread, thinly spread butter, hummus + green salad) + 150 ml fresh orange juice
  • 2 egg scrambled egg + 2 slices wholegrain toast + glass of pomegranate juice
  • 30g porridge + semi skimmed milk + tbsp. honey + 3 walnuts + glass of semi skimmed milk
  • 2 slices wholegrain toast + low fat spread + marmite + 150ml skimmed milk
  • Brown rice + roast veggies (sweet potato, parsnips) sprinkled with crushed hazelnuts

The temptation after training hard is to eat anything you can get your hands on – you feel you’ve earned it and it won’t matter. Eating a large amount of carbohydrates after a meal such as a portion of chips, crisps and a bar of chocolate will only result in your body putting the extra carbohydrates down as fat. This will not help your recovery and will not help your performance – you need nutrients to recover for your next ride.

So, make sure you’re prepared if you’re driving to the trail head, make up a smoothie and keep it in a cool bag or put some ice in a sports drink so you’ll have a cool, refreshing drink waiting for you. If you’re riding from your door, perhaps pop a jacket spud in the oven before you go so that the smell hits you when you return home. Suddenly a packet of salt and vinegar crisps doesn’t seem so inviting!

Click here for Julia’s previous lesson

  1. The butcher

    Great article. That’s helped me out loads. I train/ride 6 days a week since racing cyclocross and xc and Julia’s nutrition tips make the difference between being able to ride the following day or sitting on my backside…….

  2. Mark

    I always thaught that protein had to be consumed within 45mins of finishing a ride??

  3. Julia Revitt

    Glad you’re all enjoying the series!

    Mark – protein is best absorbed after 2 hours as the body is ‘super-charged’ to absorb carbs before then.

  4. sam brown

    Im not sure I agree with everything tbh. Fruit gets used as fructose and stored in the liver. In my opinion dextrose tablets or sweets such as haribo or skittles alongside a good quality protein source(id go protein shake or a tuna/peanut butter sandwich as its quick) this way you instantly replenish glycogen stores and release insulin to push nutrients around the body

  5. dominic

    Ever heard of the Paleo diet? Eating grains is unnatural! Go check out Marks daily apple for more up to date information.
    This is typical outdated information from an expert that follows the governmental guidelines that are making everyone fat.
    Seriously, how many fat cyclists do you see? You’d think 3 hours in the saddle should burn off the fat. Well apparently not…
    Change your diet, get faster!

  6. dominic

    Oh yeah, fat makes you thin, so sack off the oats and eat more walnuts!


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