While sports nutrition is a science, figuring out what works best for you is not. You'll need to experiment to determine your specific cycling caloric needs. This can be a trial and error process: How many calories per hour do you need to stave off bonking? What flavors do you like? What agrees with your stomach? What nutrition and hydration options are easiest to take in while riding? Experiment and be patient while you figure things out.
We offer some of our favorite sports nutrition and hydration options to help you make the smartest choices for your on-the-bike nutrition needs.
Picky Oats$9.99 per multi-serve pouch 1 of 11
It doesn't matter if you're planning an hour or a full day on the bike—you'll need to fuel up before you ride. Picky Oats delivers a filling 10 grams of protein and 48 grams of carbohydrates for each half-cup of dried, instant oatmeal. Picky Oats flavors are rich and satisfying: Cocoa really comes through in the Can't Beet Chocolate, while the apple and nut taste of the How 'Bout Dem Apples? is smooth with just enough crunch from the almonds. For those who are used to the sweet taste of traditional instant oatmeal and want a few more calories, add just a bit of brown sugar.
Picky Bars$2.75 per bar 2 of 11
With 200 calories per 2-inch square, Picky Bars pack a lot of nutrition in a small, easy-to-chew format. A variety of creative and fun flavors—both sweet and savory—deliver a satisfying, stomach-filling, solid food feel. Our testers were quite partial to the Blueberry Boomdizzle and the Chai and Catch Me.
GU Birthday Cake Gels$12 per 8 gels 3 of 11
If you're a fan of birthday-cake-flavored ice cream or if you like your sports nutrition on the sweet side, you'll LOVE this special 25th-anniversary offering from GU. This new flavor really reminded our tasters of sheet cake icing, and like all flavors of GU gels, you'll get 100 calories and 22 grams of carbs per packet.
GU Electrolyte Tabs$24.95 per 48 tabs 4 of 11
What could be simpler than dropping 2 GU electrolyte tabs into a 750ml bottle, and then rolling out for a day in the saddle? There's no measuring scoops or spilling powder. The slightly effervescent taste of GU tabs, with a hint of sweetness, offer a low-carb option for replenishing salt and electrolytes. Our testers indicated that a GU electrolyte drink was really easy to down, even for those with a sensitive stomach.
Skratch Nutrition$2.65 per bar; $2.45 per chews pouch 5 of 11
The anytime sports nutrition bars from Skratch are available in slightly sweet and savory flavors—the Ginger & Miso bar was so much tastier than we expected. Our testers were wary going into trying the Anytime bars, thinking they would be difficult to chew and digest, but they weren't at all—always a plus when you're trying to lay down some miles on the bike and eat at the same time.
The Matcha Green Tea & Lemon chews tasted so good, we found ourselves reaching for them as anytime snacks—not just fuel for long rides.
Skratch Hydration$1.95 per serving 6 of 11
With plenty of cramp-preventing electrolytes, Skratch Hydration offers a mild, not-overly-sweet drink option. Our testers noted a slight "zingy" hint of spiciness in the orange flavor while the strawberry reminded us of Jolly Rancher hard candies. The single-serving packages were easy to stash in a jersey pocket and use during rides when water refills were available.
Science in Sport Nutrition$10 per 5 bars; $12 per 6 gels 7 of 11
An excellent high-density snack option for long rides, each 40-gram Science in Sport energy bar offers 27 grams of anti-bonking carbs. Available in five tasty flavors—one tester was particularly partial to the banana fudge—SiS bars were the perfect size for mid-ride refueling.
SiS gels, despite their name, are more like a liquid. Available with or without caffeine, the 22 grams of carbs went down easily. Even testers who typically have difficulty downing gels due to consistency immediately appreciated this easy-to-consume carb option.
Science in Sport Hydration and REGO Rapid Recovery$11 per 20 hydro tablets; $17 per 17.6 ounces electrolytes; $14 per 17.6 ounces rapid recovery 8 of 11
Lemonade during a hot ride? Yes, please! Testers found the lemon flavored Science in Sport GO electrolyte mix to be nearly indistinguishable from lemonade—or even lemon ice pops—with no sweet aftertaste.
Post-ride, the chocolate REGO Rapid Recovery mixed easily with water without clumping. Providing nearly equal amounts of protein and carbohydrates for efficient recovery, the Rapid Recovery was smooth to get down and reminded us of skim chocolate milk. Also, did we mention chocolate?!
Honey Stinger Cracker 'n' Nut Butter Bars$24.60 per 12 bars 9 of 11
The new Honey Stinger Nut Bars are a great option when you just don't feel like having a gel. The sea salt definitely comes through and offers a nice balance to the sweet taste provided by the chocolate, peanut butter, almond butter and cashew butter choices. Plus, we liked how the bars didn't get too soft when temps rose or crumble when stashed in a jersey pocket.
Gatorade Endurance$28.99 per 32oz canister of endurance formula; $1.49 per energy gel 10 of 11
Gatorade is one of the most well-known brands when it comes to fueling before, during or after a hard workout. Its revamped endurance formula is lighter than previous iterations, making it easier to digest during a long ride or after an all-out effort. Plus, the new watermelon flavor is perfect for long, hot summer durations in the saddle.
If something a little more solid is your thing, Gatorade's energy gels are the way to go. Plus, with more of a liquid consistency than some straight-up gels, it's easy to take in this nutrition to refuel without needing to have water nearby to wash it all down. It doesn't hurt that the new mango flavor tastes great, too.