Cycling nutrition for vegetarians We all know how important cycling nutrition is – giving your body the right fuel before a ride, and of equally important, after a ride. And no, contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be a meat-eater to get the best and the most sustainable nutrition while cycling. In fact, there have been some reports of people who feel stronger when they exercised after becoming vegetarian. But for those who are new to the vegetarian lifestyle, you may be wondering how to get adequate cycling nutrition for the best energy and sufficient recovery. Here’s a little ‘how to’ to ensure adequate cycling nutrition for vegetarians:

Make sure you eat enough

The bulk of the foods eaten by vegetarians and vegans tends to have a very high fibre content which means that while they may fill you up, they don’t give much in the way of the necessary energy-giving calories. So when you are preparing for a ride, especially an endurance ride, make sure you are eating enough and focus on carbohydrate-rich foods such as potatoes and pasta.

Keep snacks on you as you ride

One of the top tips when it comes to cycling nutrition is to make sure you snack. Having handy healthy vegetarian snacks on you while you ride, especially on endurance rides, is essential to combat any hunger pangs that may arise, but more importantly, to keep your body well-sustained throughout the ride.

Ensure you are getting enough (and the right) protein

Getting enough protein, and the right kind (those that provide the essential amino-acids) is crucial for adequate cycling nutrition. The best way to ensure that happens, is to eat a variety of meat-free proteins with others that complement them, especially if your cycling workouts are gruelling and you are breaking down a lot of muscle. Some great proteins that should be eaten together are nuts, seeds, legumes (pea protein powder is a great source of protein) and grains (for example, nut butter on bread).

Get sufficient iron

An unfortunate truth about cycling nutrition is that we naturally absorb iron from animal products better than we do from plant-based products. But something that a lot of vegetarians may not know, is that by adding a little organic acid (such as citric acid from citrus fruits, or ascorbic acid, which is technically vitamin C) to iron-rich products such as Swiss chard, spinach, kale and nuts (to name a few) makes it much easier for your body to absorb the iron. So next time you have a kale salad use a citrus vinaigrette or even add in pieces of citrus fruit. Whatever you do, make sure you get sufficient iron.

Keep your B12 levels up

B12 is an exceptionally important vitamin for healthy nerve function and to create red blood cells. If you are still enjoying dairy products, your B12 intake should be fine, but if not, be sure to either take a multivitamin or focus on products which are rich in B12 naturally (for example, fortified soy milk).

Watch that you get enough creatine

Creatine (an organic acid) is extremely important for cycling nutrition because it’s responsible for supplying energy to all the cells in the body, especially those in the muscles. Unfortunately, again, it's easier for meat-eaters to get their dose of creatine, but taking a simple creatine supplement should suffice (with the recommended daily dose being 5g).

General tips:

  • It’s important to eat regular meals. Well-balanced breakfasts, lunches and dinners are essential for good cycling nutrition, and appropriate snacks for in between.
  • Remember to wait approximately 2-4 hours after eating and before getting on the saddle (this is different from person to person and depends on the size of the meal).
  • The super foods for vegetarians tend to be: peanut butter, tofu, chickpeas, seeds (such as sunflower seeds), hummus, yoghurt, almonds, walnuts, walnut oil, flaxseed oil, dried fruit (such as raisins, apricots and dates), eggs, broccoli, lentils, avocado, sweet potato and quinoa.
  • Here  is a great list of things to eat pre-cycle.
  • Click here for ideas and recipes for well-balanced post-cycling meal options perfect for vegetarians and vegans.
  • For some vegan smoothie ideas for post-workout snacks click here (<hyperlink to:>)

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