5 Cycling Food Tips for Maximum Fuel and Flavor

Training for a big cycling event is no small feat; but fueling correctly with the right foods and portion control can be just as important as the gear you wear or the bike you ride. To prepare, I don't completely change my diet, but I am more careful about avoiding unnecessary sugars and fats. It's not a time to focus on losing weight (though all that riding does make one fitter). Rather, focus on eating well, as that and getting fit cuts down on your time and exhaustion. While it might sound intimidating, you don't have to give up an ounce of flavor to eat right and power through your ride.

More: How to Crush Your First Endurance Cycling Event

Don't sacrifice flavor

I start to think about fuel three months before my endurance ride of choice, the Pan-Mass Challenge, a 192-mile, 6,000-person bike-a-thon across Massachusetts that has raised $455 million for cancer research. When it comes to fuel, flavor isn't something worth compromising. A cyclist should drink lots of water and eat delicious, natural foods, focusing on whole grains, legumes, greens and fish. Be sure to include great flavor-packed condiments, like nut-rich pesto, romesco sauces, garlic yogurt, preserved lemons, olives and lots of herbs.

Fuel smart and to scale

The day before the PMC, I drink an energy drink and round out my dinner with a celebratory beer and a yummy dessert. A good night's sleep and staying away from red wine is key for a great first day. While you might not be particularly hungry at 5 a.m. before the event, you should still eat a savory breakfast sandwich. These two meals are all about fuel, but they shouldn't be huge – it's better to eat lots of small meals than a few large ones that slow you down.

More: What Does 8,000 Calories Look Like?

Keep it consistent

During training rides and the PMC itself, I consume the equivalent of an energy bar and a bottle of water or an energy drink every hour. It's important that mid-ride food tastes good and isn't processed. You can munch on PB&Js, energy shots and bars the volunteers offer because they're quick, but you might consider supplementing these with cheese and salami sandwiches, ginger and soy-seasoned spring rolls and breakfast rice cakes with eggs and bacon. I do indulge in one fluffernutter sandwich (marshmallow fluff and peanut butter) and a popsicle every year, too.

End your feat with food

I love chocolate milk with a banana or an ice cream cone immediately after a training ride; it's the perfect ending and provides carbohydrates and protein, all while making me feel like a kid, which is what cycling is all about. It's important, too, to follow your treat with a more substantial healthy meal within an hour or so.

After 192 miles in two days, I usually splurge with an all-American burger, fries and a beer.

More: Are Energy Bars and Gels Essential for Athletes?

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About the Author

Jody Adams

Jody Adams is a James Beard Award-winning chef and visionary behind two of Massachusetts' most well-known restaurants: Rialto, in Harvard Square, and TRADE, in Boston's Seaport District. Known as much for her humility, warmth and unshakeable work ethic as for her culinary skills, Adams has chartered an illustrious and adventurous career that has seen her competing on BRAVO's Top Chef Masters (Season Two), leading culinary-focused bike tours in Italy and raising millions of dollars for causes dear to her heart.

Jody Adams is a James Beard Award-winning chef and visionary behind two of Massachusetts' most well-known restaurants: Rialto, in Harvard Square, and TRADE, in Boston's Seaport District. Known as much for her humility, warmth and unshakeable work ethic as for her culinary skills, Adams has chartered an illustrious and adventurous career that has seen her competing on BRAVO's Top Chef Masters (Season Two), leading culinary-focused bike tours in Italy and raising millions of dollars for causes dear to her heart.

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