If we had to pick a fuel champion for cyclists, beans would be the clear winner.
Not only are they versatile, tasty, and easy on the wallet, says sports nutritionist Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, "they provide protein, fiber, minerals, antioxidants, and slow-burning carbs." In fact, few foods cram so many ride-fueling nutrients into so few calories.
Here are five ways beans will improve your riding:
More: Beans Glorious Beans
They'll Help You Get Lean
Eat black and pinto beans. Both contain about 19 grams of fiber per one-cup serving, which keeps you feeling fuller, longer—and helps stave off late-night refrigerator raids. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that frequent bean eaters have smaller waistlines and are 22 percent less likely to be obese.
They'll Make You Stronger
Eat soybeans (edamame). All beans are rich in magnesium, potassium, and calcium, which help prevent muscle cramps during workouts. Soybeans are also high in iron: One cup provides 49 percent of your daily value (DV) and delivers ride-fueling oxygen to working muscles.
They'll Speed Your Recovery
Eat kidney and red beans. These contain more muscle-mending and immune-boosting antioxidants than almost any other food. Plus, kidney beans contain 40 grams of carbs and 15 grams of protein for a nutrient ratio that makes them the perfect recovery food.
They'll Help You Ride Longer
Eat lentils. Rich in iron (with 37 percent of your DV), this legume improves muscular endurance: University of Sydney researchers found that cyclists pedaled 20 minutes longer after eating lentils (compared with potatoes, glucose syrup, or water). That's because this slow-burning fuel prevents blood-sugar spikes and curbs production of lactate, which triggers soreness and fatigue.
They'll Lift Your Spirits
Eat chickpeas. A diet rich in beans contributes to feelings of contentedness: Chickpeas are high in the amino acid tryptophan, a main building block of serotonin, which boosts happiness and wards off depression. When you're feeling happy, you're more likely to ride.
Pass on the Gas
People who eat beans regularly often have less flatulence. That's because over time, the digestive system adapts to the compounds in beans that produce gas. In the meantime, Sass suggests sipping peppermint tea after meals, which can help reduce gas by accelerating digestion. Or try these preparation techniques: Soak dry beans in cold water several times prior to cooking, then boil them until they're soft—fully cooked starches are easier for your stomach to digest.Search for a cycling event.