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Juliet Elliott on Foods That Will Fuel You on the Bike

By Juliet Elliott

Cycling nutrition is a big deal. Most keen cyclists realise that to perform at their best and avoid the dreaded ‘bonk,’ fuelling regularly whilst riding is a necessity rather than a luxury. And like anything in life, brands have seized upon the opportunity to drive up demand for cycling-specific energy products such as handy pre-packed gel packets.

Arguably, there is nothing wrong per-se with the majority of these offerings as these can be efficient, space-saving and with nutritional values clearly stated on the packaging. But what if you can’t get your hands on such things, don’t want to pay the inflated prices or prefer to keep things as natural as possible?

Whilst riding in Morocco, we had the opportunity to take energy bars and drinks on our rides if we chose to. But with a fantastic array of local products available alongside those, I opted to fuel our six-day ride with natural, readily available foods. And maybe it’s physiological but I felt better for it.

As a rule of thumb, around 60 g of carbs per hour is considered about right, though it depends on your size and the intensity at which you’re riding so make sure you delve deeper into the specific needs your body and riding routine need. Here are my go-to staples and the approximate number of carbs they pack. And, of course, alongside the carbs (and fat, in the case of the almonds) you’re also taking in vitamins, antioxidants and electrolytes from these foods. It also goes without saying that sufficient hydration should be the base of your fuelling strategy.

Here is an approximate “conversion table” to which I tend to stick when fuelling with whole foods:

  • One medium banana: 20 g
  • Four dates: 20 g
  • Handful of almonds 9 g
  • A slice of white bread: 13 g
  • Small handful of raisins: 35 g

Knowing what to buy on-the-fly when bikepacking abroad, racing an ultra or touring out in the sticks can be very useful, both for saving time and money. So, consider trying a different fuelling strategy next time you’re on the bike and see how you like it. It is worth looking into the carb content of your favourite nuts, fruits or other snackable foods to take with you on a ride and create your own list of staples. By tailoring similar aspects of your rides, you are making them even more enjoyable and efficient!