Taking an overseas cycling trip can be a great adventure. There’s new roads to explore, good banter and strava segments to conquer. Keeping yourself well-fuelled is key to ensure you get to the end in one piece, minimise time sitting in the van if you run out of energy and stay healthy. If you’ve ever wondered what a sport nutritionist would serve to eat during a cycling tour for a ride side lunch, here’s your answer!
Last month I joined forces with Eat Sleep Cycle on their Trans-Pyrenees Tour to support them on the van and on the bike and ensure their riders were well fuelled throughout the week. A 750km journey from Girona to San Sebastian with over 17,000m of climbing, this is no trip for the faint hearted!
While you can get away with eating simple sugars and living of gels or jelly babies for a day or so, keeping yourself fuelled day in and out on the bike during long days, arduous climbs you need real food. That’s where I came in!
My roadside lunches would typically consist of a combination of different carbohydrates, proteins and fats served in a buffet style so riders could pick and choose what took their fancy. There were salads, cold meats, fruit and vege to ensure all macronutrients and micronutrients were covered. Here’s a little taste of what I thought about when putting foods on the table and some combinations that worked really well for you to consider at your next roadside lunch.
Couscous salad, quinoa salad, baguettes, bread rolls or wraps typically formed the main carbohydrate sources available to choose from. I like using quinoa because it adds extra protein, fibre and substance to fuel long bike rides. My quinoa salad was made using roast vegetables, fresh herbs, sundried tomatoes, feta and extra virgin olive oil.
Many supermarkets these days will offer grab and go salads of different varieties so it’s worth checking them out. I was pleasantly surprised by what was available. A Mediterranean pasta salad went down particularly well on our trip – pasta, cherry tomatoes mozarrella, balsalmic vinagarette and lettuce leaves. Simple but delicious.
Baguettes are a no-brainer for mid ride food. They also wrap up nicely in foil for a backpocket snack to keep you going later during the day. One of my favourite combinations I discovered when out guiding on the bike was a baguette stuffed with spanish omelette, cheese and salad. I discovered that avocado and cheese on a seeded baguette is just as delicious. It certainly revived me and gave me energy after climbing Super Bagnieres!
Sliced ham and cold meats, eggs, cheese, cooked chickpeas. As a special treat I served chopped up roast chicken on the last day of our tour which went down really well.
Little tins of tuna, chickpeas and other beans are great because they are shelf stable sources of protein, travel well and come in pre-portioned packs which helps to avoid any unnecessary waste.
Olive oil to drizzle on salads, mini mozzarella balls to eat with tomato slices and avocado to spread over a baguette or eat straight with a spoon and a tin of tuna.
Usually I would have some sorts of nuts available to snack on to add some protein and good fat sources, however we had a guest on our trip with a nut allergy so we went with a blanket nut ban to avoid any cross-contamination.
Fruit and vege
Salad is an obvious one when it comes to adding vege to your roadside lunch. Crispy lettuce leaves, cucumber slices, capsicum added colour to the plate. Sundried tomatoes and roasted peppers turned out to be a winner. I tried to differ it up, sometimes putting potato salad on the table, other times it would be beetroot, coleslaw and even a celery salad made an appearance once!
Chopped pieces of ice cold watermelon were a HUGE success on hot sunny days. Not only were they refreshing, but they had hydrating properties as well. I would often incorporate some fruit into something for dessert. While fresh apples weren’t too appealing to our riders, cooked apple tart was very popular!
If you’re eating a proper meal mid-day, be it roadside like we did or in a restaurant or cafe, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to digest and absorb all that goodness. There’s nothing worse than stuffing your face full of food, getting back on the bike and being faced with a tough climb and feeling a bit ill in response.
Have you been on any cycling camps recently? Let me know any new food combinations you tried and enjoyed while out exploring on your bike!