We’ve all heard the buzz of superfoods like pomegranates, which are known for their antioxidant powers or even Omega-3 packed chia seeds. But the question is, what exactly makes a certain type of food a superfood, and what superfoods should you know about if you are a cyclist?
A superfood is defined to be a nutrient-rich food that is especially beneficial to one’s health and well-being. Foods like blueberries, salmon, kale, and acai have been labeled as superfoods. However, according to the American Heart Association, there isn’t actually a set criteria for defining superfoods. Aside from the fact that there isn’t a set criteria for superfoods, there are still foods out there that hold nutritional properties far superior to other foods. For a cyclist looking to get the most out of their ride, it’s important to know what foods can help you increase performance and decrease recovery time.
Whether you are heading out on a multi-day cycling adventure, training for your next century ride, or just want to get some time on the saddle, including superfoods during your ride can help you feel your absolute best. We’ve curated a list of some of the best cycling superfoods to help improve the quality of your next ride.
Chia seeds are an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and antioxidants. The best way to consume Chia Seeds on your ride is to mix them into your water or sports drink. Chia seeds are small enough that you’d hardly notice them when drinking. When consumed this way, chia seeds create a gel-like coating in your stomach which helps slow down the process of breaking down carbohydrates into sugar. For a cyclist, this slow digestive process means increased endurance on your ride. Not only that, but the gel coating can also prolong your ability to keep in hydration and electrolytes during long rides.
During a ride, your muscles use all of your stored glucose to fuel your body. When your body runs short on glucose it prefers quick, absorbable energy that provides glucose right away.
Some use GU or different types of energy gels for this fast replenishment of glucose. However, the energy in these gels burns quickly and creates a huge spike in blood pressure. A viable replacement to energy gels for a quick boost of glucose is maple syrup. Now we’re not talking about Aunt Jemimah’s syrup here, but rather pure 100% maple syrup. The sugars in maple syrup provides the same quick energy fix as energy gels. The real difference, though, between the two is that maple sugar has a lower glycemic index compared to other sugars. This means that it provides this quick fuel longer over a period of time. Not only does maple syrup fuel you for longer, but it also contains manganese, zinc, potassium, and antioxidants which help replenish needed vitamins and minerals. A company called Untapped makes drinking maple syrup on your ride effortless with small portable packets so you don’t have to worry about getting sticky syrup on you during your ride.
Coconut oil is made up of about 90% saturated fats. You might be thinking that would be the last thing you’d want to be consuming on a bike ride, but actually, the fats in coconut oil are actually incredibly good for you. Unlike most saturated fats, the saturated fats in coconut oil are medium-chain triglycerides(MCT). This type of saturated fat digests quickly and turns into an immediate source of energy. MCT has also been shown to reduce blood lactate levels and perceived exertion rates.
Sweet potatoes come packed with high energy complex carbohydrates for steady energy throughout your ride as well as boosted blood flow for increased oxygen to your muscles. Sweet potatoes also contain a key ingredient called beta-carotene, which can help protect your muscles against wear and tear while riding.
After a long day worth of riding your body requires protein to rebuild your muscles. Salmon is perfect for providing that protein without all the extra calories. As a matter of fact, just a half fillet provides about 40 grams of lean protein at a cost of only 400 calories. Not to mention, salmon is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids that help reduce inflammation in your arteries. Studies also suggest that omega-3 acids enhance blood flow to your muscles, which can help keep you riding longer.
Yes, water is not a super food, and it might seem like a no-brainer, but there is no point in talking about the best foods without bringing up hydration. Both nutrition and hydration go hand in hand and your cycling performance will suffer without one of them. Being hydrated is critical to prevent dehydration and injury. If your ride is longer than 1 hour and you are working up a sweat, coconut water, diluted juice, and sports drinks are best.
Even though we’re cycling enthusiasts, we aren’t experts on all of the superfoods out there that may improve your ride. If you know of any superfoods you eat on your rides, post on our Facebook page and let us know!