During race season, pro cyclists don't have to think much about food. Most have a team chef who handles meal planning, food shopping, and prep. But when they're not racing, they're on their own. (Watch out for the Worst Food Label Lies if you're shopping alone.)
We asked five top riders what they like to eat before, during, and after rides. Then we enlisted Nancy Clark, MS, RD, nutrition expert and author of The Cyclist's Food Guide: Fueling for the Distance, to explain how their choices stack up.
Before a Ride
Tejay Van Garderen, BMC
Oatmeal with a handful of almonds or walnuts, a few teaspoons of molasses for the iron and taste, and raisins or dried fruit
Expert says: It's a good meal with plenty of carbs, but depending on how many nuts he uses, it could be low in protein. The fix? Instead of water, cook the oatmeal in milk. Also, instant oatmeal provides more iron than molasses.
On the Bike
Chris Horner, RadioShack-Nissan
Sandwich made with an English muffin, bacon, an over-easy egg, and a thick slice of Tillamook cheddar
Expert says The protein and fat in the eggs and cheese will keep his appetite in check throughout the ride. But carbs are the main fuel for exercise and he could use more. A bagel instead of the English muffin would provide a little extra energy. (Try to incorporate some of 14 Best Foods for Cyclists for a heartier meal.)
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Christian Vande Velde, Garmin-Barracuda
Serrano (Spanish cured ham) on a baguette with olive oil and tomato
Expert says This portable meal is a good example of easy-to-digest carbs with protein and healthy fat for sustained energy. The salty ham will also help replace sodium lost through sweat.
After a Ride
Evelyn Stevens, Specialized-lululemon
Sweet potato, kale, broccoli, and roasted beets stir-fried with eggs or chicken in olive oil and coconut milk
Expert says This meal is full of nutrient-dense foods that are good for your health. Women athletes need extra iron, so I'd go with lean beef instead of chicken or eggs.
After a Race
Taylor Phinney, BMC
Pasta or risotto with Parmesan cheese and olive oil
Expert says Pasta and rice are good carb sources (learn how to carbo-load the right way), but he needs protein for muscle recovery. Adding lean beef or ground turkey would help. To amp up flavor with less fat, try tomato sauce sprinkled with Parmesan.Search for a cycling event.