• Country

Recovery – How to Eat Right

By Jiri Kaloc

Recovery is a very important thing for cycling performance. The best riders all have one thing in common, they can effectively recover from hard and long training sessions quickly. Maybe you don’t have the same genes as they do, but you you’ll have a faster recovery with proper nutrition. With just a few adjustments to your regular diet, you could be riding more often and faster! Let’s learn how to eat right to start the recovery process by giving your body the fuel it needs after a ride.

Calories are your friend

If you are trying to lose body weight through exercise, it’s obvious that cutting calories may be part of the equation. But when it comes to recovery, calories are your friend and you need to eat. Post exercise, your body continues to burn calories because metabolic levels remains elevated for a certain time and your body has initiated the healing process.

When it’s time for the body to recover from sports injury, a sequence of reactions begin the mending process. Scientific data and research shows us that what you eat post exercise will get you back in the saddle and ready to give your best performance faster. Combinations of certain nutrients, vitamins and minerals along with proteins play an important role to a speedy post workout recovery.

Healthy dinner, colourful steamed vegetables and grilled fish over mashed sweet potatoes.
It’s true that processed and fast food is often cheaper than wholesome fresh produce. But that doesn’t mean a healthy diet has to be expensive.

Foods you need

Vitamins A and A1

Vitamin A and comes in two forms, A and A1, also known as retinol. It serves a crucial function in the healing process by boosting a body’s natural immune system (white blood cells) fight against sickness and infection. Women athletes that are pregnant or trying to conceive should avoid consuming large quantities of vitamin A. Speak to your personal physician or a sports dietitian for more information.

A1 comes from healthy fats in animal based foods and is found in oily fish like salmon and blue fish tuna, many types of cheeses (goat, cheddar and cottage cheese), yogurt, butter, whole eggs and liver products. Other food sources rich in beta-carotene (vitamin A), with super anti inflammatory properties are cooked sweet potatoes, winter squash, kale, carrots and fresh fruits like mango, cantaloupe, and red or pink grapefruit.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is found in many fresh fruit and vegetables. It protects blood vessels, cells and keeps them in good condition. It is also vital in reducing recovery time by caring for the skin, and assisting in the reparation of connective tissue and cartilage by reinforcing the production of collagen, an essential protein need to repair damaged tissue, form scar tissue and repair broken bones.

Oranges and other citrus fruits are excellent sources of vitamin C along with raw red bell peppers, strawberries, and blackcurrants. In the vegetable family, broccoli, brussels sprouts and mash potatoes will help you get to your recommended daily allowance.

A large platter of citrus and yellow fruits, pineapple, raspberries, limes, mangos, apricots, kiwis, strawberries, lemons, blueberries


A body builds new cells with the help of proteins that promote repair by functioning as a bridge between tissue that is damaged or injured. Athletes require approximately 112g of protein per day. It represents a large portion of daily dietary intake and some foods are more efficient than others in getting you there.

Red and lean meats

Eating lean red meat is the quickest way to replenish protein stores post exercise and they contain essential amino acids. Turkey and chicken also contain high quality protein. If you follow a plant-based only diet, tofu or tempeh are a good source along with chickpeas (found in tasty humous), or enjoy a few handfuls of peanuts, almonds or other nuts and seeds.

Two hands cradling fresh almonds.

Dairy products

Whey protein, important to ingest post sports injury, is found only in dairy products like milk and greek yogurt, but they also contain vitamin D which enhances how damaged muscle and bone absorb calcium. Vitamin D is another essential element in the healing process and will help snap you back post workout faster.


Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy. During effort, carbs stored in the body are converted into glucose (the most basic carbohydrate, with only one sugar molecule) and released into the blood stream along with insulin. When blood sugar levels are balanced, the body works flawlessly. Prolonged exercise and intense efforts throw that delicate balance out of whack, the body lets you know.

All carbs aren’t created equal and some do their magic faster than others. Need a quick boost for a workout in one hour? Grab a banana. If your training schedule is in three hours, prepare your body by eating slow-release carbs such as whole grains, pasta, porridge or even protein bars. Veggies, fruit and dairy products also provide a body with glucose and are essential muscle recovery foods.

Now, let’s look at which healing foods we need what to eat and when to help a body recover.

Eat fast carbs 15 – 30 minutes after a hard ride

The very first thing your body wants to do after a hard training session is to replenish the lost glycogen reserves. If you give it fast, easy to digest carbs in the first 30 minutes, you will replenish a lot more glycogen as a result. The best choices will be fruits or fruit juices.

Don’t go straight for a large meal with a lot of protein or fat in these 30 minutes, those would make your body focus on digestion and you will miss out on glycogen recovery and have less energy the next day as a result.

Get enough protein

The second thing your body wants to do is repair the muscle soreness and damage that the training session did. For this your body needs enough protein and more fuel. There are two ways to give them to your body. First, you can find a quality recovery shake that contains protein and carbs that are easy to digest, and you’ll get what you need fast and on the go.

Or your food intake can be a whole meal prepared in advance. It will take more time to digest but usually provide you with more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are necessary in the long term too. Regardless which way you choose, make sure your body gets a protein dose about an hour after the ride ended.

Four protein bars with no wrapper on a grey background

Handle inflammation

Now that you gave your body what it needs after a long hard ride, it’s time to think ahead. Inflammation is good in the short term, it allows your body to repair damaged tissues and get you started on a speedy recovery.

The problem is when inflammation persists chronically then it can do more damage than good. If you have a demanding and stressful yet train a lot, chances are your body is fighting inflammation all the time. To help get it under control and decrease inflammation, you can try all of these many things.

  • Sleep longer, daily hard training might require you sleep up to 9 hours per night
  • Limit sugar and refined grains in your daily diet they promote inflammation.
  • Add fish and fresh vegetables to your diet, they are anti-inflammatory.
  • Take a cold bath, shower, or try cryotherapy. Cold temperatures help reduce inflammation.
  • Get a massage and do light exercises on rest days, both help blood flow

In the following articles I will recommend many foods and several recipes that make it easy to get enough protein and fight inflammation, but don’t forget that staying hydrated is also essential. I will also show you how to spice things up with home-made protein shakes. But how much you sleep or the choice of taking cold baths are on you!

Next up in Eat to Ride series

All articles from Eat to Ride series