The key to sustained endurance when on an extended ride? Clean burning energy. Packing healthy, nourishing food for a bike trip is just as important as training for one. When you’re spending all day on a bicycle, you have to work harder to supplement all the calories you’re burning. This involves snacking every couple of hours, in addition to meals. Here’s our list of our personal favorite foods to bring when we’re bike touring. In this blog post, we’ll explain the benefits of each.
Best Foods to Pack for Bicycle Touring
- Vegan energy bars
- Nuts/nut Butter and trail mix
- Tinned fish
- Jerky, summer sausage, meatless jerky
- Pickles (with pickle juice)
- Mustard packets
Oatmeal is one of the best foods for athletes, as oats are a slow-burning carb that will power you through the first part of your morning. It’s also super lightweight and the individual packets make packing a breeze. If you decide to take a stove, a hot bowl of oatmeal will warm you up on a chilly morning before a ride.
They are a must for bicycle touring. Within an hour or two, your body will have burned off the breakfast you ate and you have to recharge. After all, it’s you that’s powering the bike, not an engine. Tahoe Trail Bars contain oats (our favorite slow-burning carb), dried fruit, and nuts to power you through the next couple hours of your ride. They’re also easy to pack and require no preparation, so you won’t have to waste time with food prep before you get back on the road.
Nuts will fill you up, but trail mix with nuts and pretzels or dried fruit (or another type of carb) is even better. Nut butter is also a great source of energy, and you can spread it on crackers or a slice of bread. Because nut butter, especially peanut butter, is distinctly American, it might not be available in grocery stores when you’re abroad (or if it is available, it’s likely to be a lot more expensive than what you would find in the U.S.) Don’t forget to pack peanut butter, and your favorite energy bars, before you go, since you may not be able to find them in other countries.
Eating tinned fish is an easy way to get protein when you’re working your muscles all day. As the building block of your muscles, protein helps you restore and increase muscle mass. Other portable sources of protein that will store well in your pannier are jerky or summer sausage. For a meat-free alternative, dried jackfruit or other types of vegan jerky can supplement your protein intake.
Cheese is another delicious source of fat and protein to pack when you’re bike touring. Individually packaged string cheese, wax-wrapped cheese or aged, hard cheese will last the longest.
Keep the Cramps Away!
Cramps are an often unavoidable part of bicycle touring when you’re clocking lots of miles daily. There are some foods, however, that may help keep cramps at bay, or at least alleviate them.
Bananas are one of our favorite snacks to bring while bike touring, although you need to make sure to carefully pack them in your pannier so they don’t get smashed. We suggest, as with other fruit or veggies that you plan to bring, to buy less ripe bananas – they’ll ripen throughout your trip. Bananas contain potassium, calcium, and magnesium, which are essential nutrients that can help ease muscle cramps.
Avocados are also loaded with potassium (twice as much as a banana!) and magnesium, and, if bought when unripe, are great to pack on a bicycle tour. They’re a great source of fat and calories, which will keep you energized for when you’re biking long distances. You can eat them plain with a spoon, or slather avocado on a slice of bread for a carb- and fat-rich meal.
While some dispute this claim, recent studies have proven the beneficial effects of drinking pickle juice to relieve muscle cramping. Pickle juice helps you stay hydrated, and contains sodium and vinegar that help you replenish electrolytes. Researchers hypothesize that vinegar is the magic tool, as it may trigger a muscular reflex to get rid of cramps. There are less studies about whether pickles themselves offer this same relief, but it doesn’t hurt to enjoy a crisp, crunchy pickle while you’re bicycle touring.
Jars of pickles may add extra weight or take up room in your pannier that you can’t spare, but there are other ways to intake vinegar. Some seasoned bikers carry mustard packets, like you might find at a fast food restaurant, as they attest that eating mustard delivers immediate cramp relief.
Fresh Fruit and Veggies
In addition to the items listed above, there are so many other delicious foods that you can pack. Depending on how often you plan to stock up on food, and whether or not you’re cooking all of your meals, your meal plan will vary. Adventure Cycling aptly notes that if you’re biking in a more rural area, your options may be more limited and you may not have access to a grocery store. Here are some fresh fruits and vegetables they recommend for bicycle touring, that will store well in your pannier:
- Sweet corn
And of course, bananas and avocados are great fresh foods to pack.
When you pack smart for a bicycle tour, not only do you save time and money on your trip, but you’ll make it easier on yourself to stick to healthy foods. Chances are if you’re biking in a rural area, your food options may be nonexistent or unhealthy. A greasy burger is definitely excusable after you’ve biked hundreds of miles, and it’s perfectly fine to indulge every once in a while. But if you only eat unhealthy foods on a trip, it’ll be a lot harder to break that habit when you return to daily life. Packing healthy foods that will sustain you for a long time is more economical, and better for your body.