What To Eat When Cycling Long Distances

Long Distance Bike and Eating

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When I was younger, I got serious about fitness and proper nutrition. More than anything, I wanted to be fit and healthy. But I didn’t realize that depriving my body of adequate nourishment meant losing muscle mass! How can you properly fuel yourself for a powerful bike ride? 

In my opinion, the best foods for a long bike ride include low-sugar snacks, meat, and protein-rich food. These foods contain all the vital micro and macronutrients your body needs to grow stronger and healthier. Avoid sugary and carb-heavy foods like bread and processed flour. 

If you want to know how to fuel yourself for a long-distance ride, keep reading, but before you do, I need to disclose I am not a doctor or nutritionist.  If you need nutritional or medical questions answered, you need to speak with a proper nutritionist or doctor!

How Do You Fuel Your Body For Long Distance Cycling?

Biking experts agree eating nutrient-dense foods in small quantities is the best way to fuel your body for long-distance cycling.

You want to eat foods rich in iron, protein, and healthy fats, which will keep you active for hours. You want to avoid fast-acting carbohydrates such as processed sugars and flour. 

Nutritious foods are the best option for long-distance biking. The types of long-distance biking we have in mind include bikepacking and cycle touring, but you can also use this for day trips.

Generally, if you want to travel for hours every day and cover over 40 miles, this article is right for you! 

As discussed in How To Cycle Long Distances Without Getting Tired, one of the first things you must have to sustain your bike ride is sufficient caloric intake.

However, you’ll want to eat these calories in small increments. The best way to do this is to keep small, hands-on snacks while riding so you can take a handful every so often. 

According to Bicylcing.com, eating a large breakfast or lunch is bad for extensive rides because it can weigh you down. Your digestive system will work hard to fully process the foods you just consumed, pulling this power from your legs. 

Nutrient-rich and calorically dense foods are a much better idea. Nuts, seeds, and other protein-rich foods are the ideal choice. With two or three handfuls of nuts and seeds, you’ve consumed 300-500 calories

You have to remember that not all calories are created equal. Eating candy, chocolate bars, and sugary granola bars might supply the calories but not the energy and nutrients. 

Sugar-free granola bars with nuts and seeds are typically ranked as healthier choices over gooey, grain bars. This is because the nutrition and fat content helps provide the consumer with energy for hours, while sugary, carbohydrate-dense granola bars burn out quickly. 

One of the cleanest and most respected bars in the health community is KION bars. KION also gives our readers a 10% discount with this link.

We will dive more into the specific types of foods you should bring in the section below! 

Homemade Jerky

What Kinds of Foods Are Best For a Long Distance Biker?

The best foods to bring on your bike travels are rich in protein and fats and are calorically dense.

This is because you will need sustained energy from calories for hours. Additionally, the richer in calories and nutrients the food is, the less you need to carry in on your bike. 

We will go into several varieties of pre-made meals later in this section. But first, we’ll discuss the different types of foods you should have in your supply pack.

As mentioned in, The Complete Bike Touring Cooking Guide, some of the top foods to bring with you include the following: 

These foods contain high amounts of iron, protein, and micronutrients.

These nutrients are vital to support your body’s functioning while you’re pushing it to its limits.

Iron supports blood circulation and allows your heart, lungs, and blood vessels to pump oxygen. 

Per NSWIS, without adequate iron, your body will experience cramps, headaches, and difficulty breathing. 

Dairy is vital for building muscle and recovering from intense strain. We included goat’s milk on our list because both cow’s and goat’s milk contain beta-casein. This is a powerful protein that has been known to heal and build muscle. 

But cow’s milk has A-1 beta-casein, which some people are allergic to. Goat’s milk has a similar compound, A-2 beta-casein, which is hypoallergenic and which fewer people are allergic to.

You can try goat’s milk even if you’re allergic to cow’s milk to see if it agrees with you! 

Hotdogs and Biking

Finally, the different varieties of meat provide the consumer with various fats and proteins. Red meat, such as beef and venison, contains iron, protein, and other micronutrients such as B12. Fish contains omega-fatty acids, which keep your heart and other organs working. 

Meat is considered healthy calories thanks to its nutrients. When we think about calories, we tend to have a negative opinion of them. But calories are the source of our energy and keep us moving. 

There are two major issues with calories in our modern world:

  • The first is we consume more calories than our body needs, which leads to us gaining fat cells and weight.
  • Second, the types of calories we consume could be better and contain more nutritional benefits. 

Therefore, meat is a good source of calories for active people, such as bikers.

Unlike gooey, sugary granola bars, a piece of meat will satiate and supply you with the nutrients you need to keep going. 

We’ll explore some convenient snacks made from these healthy, nutrient-dense foods. 

What Are the Best Snacks to Bring on a Long Distance Ride? 

Some of the best snacks to bring on a long bike ride include nuts, seeds, and meat jerky.

These snacks are high in micronutrients and healthy fat. They’re also calorically dense and satiating with just a small serving. 

You might’ve heard people say they feel full after eating a few nuts or seeds. This might seem surprising because these foods are so small and unassuming. But they’re some of the most nutritionally dense foods, making them perfect for intense workouts. 

These foods don’t weigh down the body the way carbohydrate-heavy foods do. Several studies have shown that these foods actually help people lose weight rather than what was previously believed. 

Many health campaigns back in the 1980s railed against red meat, nuts, and seeds.

They claimed these foods were fatty and thus made consumers fat. However, this has been largely overturned by recent studies. 

I recommend getting raw seed blends like Gerb’s raw nut and seed blends. These exclude the excess sugar and processed ingredients which make people gain weight without getting energy. 

One of the best varieties of jerky is Carnivore Crisps (10% discount link). They’re all natural without preservatives, sugar-free, and made from grass-fed cows. They’re an excellent way to fuel your ride without causing you to stop for a long break!

Carnivore Crisps
My Carnivore Crisps on a plate at home!

Are Electrolytes Important For Sustained Energy? 

Proper hydration is vital to sustain energy and avoid burnout.

Electrolytes are a fundamental part of proper hydration since it helps transport minerals and nutrients in the bloodstream.

This keeps your body balanced and the salt and mineral contents of your body in healthy stability. 

The term “electrolyte” refers to several varieties of nutrients that are vital to proper bodily functions. When we hear the word “hydration,” we often think of water.

This is accurate, but true hydration requires more than just water. 

Most water, especially purified water, has little to no mineral content. There are no salt, potassium, or other micronutrients in the water to actually effectively break through your cells and refresh your body’s hydration. 

This isn’t to say that we don’t need water. Rather this means we need a balanced intake of other minerals along with our water intake. We consume salt and sugar in our diet naturally, which aids in our body’s consumption of water. 

Redmond Re-Lyte Flavored
My collection of Re-Lyte.

Afraid of salt?

You’re more likely to suffer from insufficient salt supplies if you’re an athletic person. Therefore, you might need to bring electrolyte drinks with you on your ride. 

The amazing company Redmond offers some of the best electrolyte drinks on the market called Re-Lyte. They’re not full of additives, BS sugar, and chemicals like many leading brands.  Plus, they give our readers a 15% discount with this link.

Water is so dang important, and it’s why I wrote a whole article on how to store it while bikepacking. Check out our Bikepacking Water Storage Guide.

Closing Thoughts

Staying nourished and hydrated are two of the most important parts of a healthy and safe bike ride. As athletes, our goals are to fuel our bodies and build strong bones and muscles. 

However, if we don’t eat enough and eat the right foods, we risk ruining our bodies. Exercise is only one part of our healthy lifestyle. Properly fueling your body prevents your body from burning muscle to feed itself

Never deprive your body of proper nourishment! 

Free Biking Resources:

  1. Bike Touring Packing List (Printable PDF)
  2. Guide to Bike Tours for Seniors (How to find)
  3. How To Use Voile Straps for Bikepacking
  4. The Top 2 Drones for Bike Touring Video Footage
Happy Biker Rider

Sources: 

Science in Sports: OUR GUIDE TO A LONG DISTANCE CYCLING NUTRITION PLAN

Cycling Weekly: What is bikepacking: everything you need to know to get started

REI: Introduction to Bike Touring

Fit Bod Blog: Burning 1000 Calories: 7 Ways to Do It + How Long It Takes

Healthy Food: How to choose nut or muesli bars

Bikepacking: Paleo Meals to Go Review

Seafood Nutrition Partnership

My Fitness Pal: Unusual Food Habits of Elite Athletes

Web MD: Beef: Health Benefits, Nutrition, and How to Prepare It

Web MD: Pork: Is It Good for You?

Web MD: Health Benefits of Chicken

Illinois Times: Why I love venison

Mayo Clinic: Nuts and your heart: Eating nuts for heart health Print

Healthline: 6 Super Healthy Seeds You Should Eat

My Plate: Why is it important to eat or drink dairy?

Summerhill Goat Dairy: Build Strong Muscles, Not Allergies

Web MD: The Health Benefits of Eggs

NSWIS: WHY IRON IS SO IMPORTANT FOR ATHLETES

BUB AUSTRALIA: Benefits of A2 Beta-Casein Protein Cow’s Milk for Children

NHS: Meat in your diet

Web MD: It’s Full of Fat and Helps You Lose Weight

Medline Plus: Fluid and Electrolyte Balance

Tail Wind Nutrition: DOES YOUR BODY NEED GLUCOSE TO ABSORB ELECTROLYTES?

Eating Disorder Hope: Eating Disorders and the Musculoskeletal System

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