Cycling adventures in new places are awesome – as long as you’ve packed the cycling snacks and nutrition that will keep your body and mind sharp for the ride ahead.

Squashed banana? Soggy sandwich? No thanks!

Running out of energy in the middle of nowhere and not knowing if you’ll be able to make it to the end of the ride is horrible.

Want to avoid it?

Read on as Veloforte‘s elite cyclist in residence, Tom Couzens, delves into the best snacks for cycling to keep you fuelled wherever the road takes you.

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Why do you need cycling snacks for long bike rides?

When I first started riding, I didn’t know the importance of fuelling my rides correctly. I vividly remember bonking so hard on one intense ride that I had to stop at the Post Office five kilometres from home for an emergency can of coke.

It was at this point that I first started to investigate cycling nutrition. Realising everyone around me at races and on training rides were taking these things called energy bars, I went and ordered myself a whole box.

Drawn in by the hype, I thought these would revolutionise my cycling, but the experience of my first energy bar was one of the most disappointing sensations ever. With a consistency, palatability, and colour closer to cardboard than food, I now understand why so many people neglect their cycling nutrition.

Since this moment eight years ago, I have raced against the likes of Remco Evenepoel and Mathieu van der Poel and clocked up a fair few thousand kilometres as well as my fair share of energy nutrition bars. I have learnt a lot in this time and here I share some of the things I’ve learnt.

Why buy sport specific nutrition snacks?

The convenience of sports nutrition products makes them a more hassle free option than homemade bike snacks.

Know how much you’re consuming

The advantage of shop-bought, cycling specific snacks is that you know exactly how many grams of carbohydrates you’re consuming.

For instance, at the 2023 gravel national champs I finished 5th, consuming 100g of carbohydrates an hour. I knew the distance of the race and the approximate time it would take for us to finish and from this I was accurately able to work out exactly how many energy gels I would need to carry with me to hit this target.

Easy to eat

The second reason sports nutrition products are so good is that they should be really easy to eat.

Sadly, this is not true for every brand; over the years I’ve found some are so crumbly you end up dropping half on the floor while some gels are far too big and heavy.

This is where the Veloforte products differ; the energy gels in particular stand out most in terms of ease of consumption especially when racing. At only 33g they are around half the size of most other brands which means half the amount to carry and consume. To me this is game changing and meant I was able to make the front split at the gravel national championships as I wasn’t wasting my energy trying to consume gels double the size of the Veloforte ones.

Easy to digest

One downside of shop bought cycling snacks is that they sometimes aren’t the best during an endurance ride or race. You need to find products that work for you. I’ve seen athletes being sick due to their nutrition products not digesting properly and/or tasting disgusting.

Finding products, like Veloforte’s, that aren’t full of artificial ingredients that wreak havoc with your body is really important (more on that below). However, with there now being such a wide variety of products on the market I do think there is a product for everyone and I encourage everyone to try out a whole variety to find what works best for them.

What cycling snacks to eat during a ride?

Energy bars

The humble energy bar should be a staple in every cyclist’s cupboard of cycling snacks. These are the sports nutrition products I eat most often, especially during training sessions.

I find the release of energy to be slightly slower than the likes of energy chews or gels and with a high carbohydrate content I find them substantial when riding for multiple hours so I no longer need to stop at that can of coke five kilometres from home.

Which energy bar is best?

With so many energy bars on the market it can be nearly impossible to know where to start… Thankfully for you I have tried and tested my fair share of those on the market and from all this testing I have found that three things make a good energy bar.

Taste

You are only going to eat it and stay fuelled if it tastes good. For me a brand should have a wide range of flavours to choose from to give you options on rides and they certainly should not be too sweet or contain chocolate chips that melt in your back pocket on a sunny day.

Texture

Often overlooked in terms of importance is texture. I find oat-based energy bars are often far too crumbly and dry whilst rice based bars, I find are far too solid which in the past have left me struggling for breath.

Energy

Ultimately the most important factor is the carbohydrates the bar gives you. For me the optimum is 40 to 45g of carbs per bar. Anymore and I feel my system is overloaded and I struggle to digest it. Any less and I am left feeling short of energy.

Homemade energy bars

Homemade energy bars have become popular in recent years; often they are cheaper than nutrition products and are great if you have certain allergies. Plus, you can make them taste however you want.

The downside is that it can be hard to control the amount of carbohydrates in each serving. They can also be very difficult to consume. A carrot cake energy ball might seem a good snack for cycling before you set out, but a squashed carrot cake energy ball in your back pocket is never a pleasant experience!

Veloforte energy bars

If you are looking for a homemade snacks alternative, the Veloforte energy bars are a great choice. To me they tick all three things an energy bar should have.

  • Taste-wise, they’re the only energy bars on the market to win Great Taste Awards. There are seven flavours to choose from, so you will never struggle with flavour fatigue.
  • Each flavour uses a mixture of fruits and nuts to create a texture that is moist enough to easily eat without melting in your back pocket without being solid enough they will break your jaw every time you go to take a bite. The nuts also provide a refreshing crunch and texture.
  • They are packed full of around 40g of dual sourced carbohydrates.

Which is the best Veloforte energy bar?

The Classico is my personal favourite, reminding me of my year spent racing my bike in Italy, the mixture of zesty Sicilian citrus fruits, crunchy almonds and warming spices are sure to brighten up a grey day. This was the bar that started Veloforte.

Alongside two other flavours Lara, the head chef and co-founder of Veloforte used to hand make the energy bars in her kitchen and even hand wrapped every single bar.

Now with seven flavours to choose from, there is a flavour for everyone. If you prefer something a little richer than the Classico then the Ciocco is a seductive mix of chew dates, crunchy almonds and cocoa.

Cyclist holding a Veloforte Ciocco energy bar in purple wrapper

Energy gels

Energy gels are easily the sports nutrition product with the worst reputation.

They’re often packed full of artificial additives and synthetic sugars, have gloopy textures and unpleasant tastes; so it’s no surprise so many people hate them.

I have witnessed these to be the product that causes the most gastro discomfort to others and it is no surprise especially when you start to take a deeper look into what is found in most of the energy gels found on the market.

Avoid the gloop

One of the most common factors between the products causing these problems is maltodextrin.

Maltodextrin is a manufactured sugar that’s found in lots of energy products due to it being cheap to produce as it is made from the starch of rice, potatoes or corn. It creates a very highly concentrated glucose formulation which gives you a product that is high in carbohydrates. The downside is it’s very easy to over fuel on. This causes flooding of the bowel with fluids from your circulating blood, leading to the inevitable bloating and gastric discomfort many struggle from.

Go for natural ingredients

Instead, you want to choose natural options that will not cause such problems. The Veloforte energy gels do this perfectly. They’re made from real fruit juices and fruit syrups they are more like a nectar than a standard energy gel. It’s reassuring to see that all the ingredients on the back are recognisable….

A carefully derived ratio of fructose and glucose creates a powerful combination of dual sourced carbohydrates that are easy to absorb without the risks of overloading the gut. (Read why the source of carbohydrates is important, here.)

Size matters

The size of gels can often make them extremely difficult to both carry and consume, but as mentioned earlier the Veloforte gels are extremely portable thanks to being half the size of most other gels at only 33g.

Desto, which is Italian for to awaken, is my personal favourite out of the five flavour options on offer from Veloforte. Bursting with cherries and natural electrolytes it’s the first gel I have ever been able to enjoy whilst also giving me a performance advantage. The silky-smooth texture is easy palatable and the natural caffeine that comes from the Guarana I find helps to give me a far more sustainable boost of energy in comparison to other synthetic options.

Cyclist with three different Veloforte cycling gels in hands

Energy chews

Energy chews are one of the best snacks for long distance cycling if you’re looking for a quick burst of energy but don’t like the idea of energy gels.

Are they easy to eat?

Most brands chews resembling a gummy bear consistency that can be hard to consume whilst on the go.

Veloforte chews

The Veloforte alternatives are soft and melt in your mouth making them super easy to eat when the pace is high.

The biggest benefit of the handmade ones from Veloforte are again that they are only made from natural ingredients and so will not cause GI distress or discomfort. Each packet contains six individual chews, and one packet provides 44g of carbohydrates, so if you prefer to space out your fuelling then these are one of the best snacks while cycling. They contain the purest electrolytes so are the all-round perfect package.

What are the best Veloforte energy chews?

Mela also has a Great Taste Award so is certified delicious.

My personal favourite is the Fresco, the lemon and cool mint is refreshing on a warm day whilst the mint really helps to open up my airways when things are slightly on the colder side. One thing I love to do is stick to them to my stem and handlebar which makes fuelling on the go easier than ever before!

Cyclist holding pack of Veloforte energy chews

Drinks

It’s somehow surprising to consider hydration within the class of best snacks for cyclists, but in fact carb-based drinks are an excellent way to take in energy while also staying hydrated.

Why hydration is vital

Cycling hydration is often overlooked.

However, just a 5% drop in hydration can lead to a decrease in mental and physical performance by up to 30%. This is a staggering decrease that can be so easily resolved! 

Types of sports energy drinks

The first thing to understand with hydration and sports energy drinks is that there are three different types of sports energy drinks, which are as follows: 

  • Hypotonic – have a lower concentration of fluid, sugars and salt than blood.
  • Hypertonic – have a higher concentration of fluid, sugars and salt than blood.
  • Isotonic – have a similar concentration of fluid, sugars and salt to blood

Hypotonic drinks

Hypotonic drinks are absorbed at the fastest rate into the bloodstream. This allows for the fastest rehydration and electrolyte release.

These types of drinks also have a much lower risk of bloating, cramps and GI distress than you often get with other energy drinks.

All four of Velofortes electrolyte powders are hypotonic electrolyte powders. The powder format is something I personally love. The fizz produced from effervescent tablets has caused me GI distress far too many times; they are now something I avoid.

For me, Veloforte’s powders taste like a still fruit tea. When I drink them, I don’t get the sensation of furry teeth or baking soda on my tongue of the artificial effervescent alternatives.  

Out of the Veloforte range, my personal favourite is Passo. The combination of sun-drenched mango and passion fruits creates an infusion that tastes good whilst maintaining my hydration. Muscle cramps were something I really used to struggle with, but since using Passo I have had no issues.  

Hypertonic drinks

Hypertonic drinks have the highest dose of carbohydrates as they have the highest concentration of fluid, sugars and salt.

With the slowest absorption rate of the three types, they can actually cause dehydration. This is because the body has to move water from the bloodstream into the intestine to dilute the fluids before it can absorb them. Many people, including myself, find that these can leave you feeling nauseous and thirstier than you were before.

A lot of people do enjoy hypertonic drinks as a way of topping up their glycogen stores, but relying on these as your only source of fluid on a ride is not a great idea.

Isotonic drinks

Isotonic drinks differ from the other two by being a somewhat middle ground between the others.

They tend to have more carbohydrates than hypotonic drinks but less than hypertonic ones which means the time taken to absorb into the bloodstream lies somewhere between the two.

Many commercial sports drinks on the market are isotonic, but a quick look at the ingredients often reveals high levels of sugars, sweeteners and additives, which I find causes stomach cramps and bloating. 

My suggestion: test them for yourself and decide what works for you.

Bottle of yellow Veloforte cycling hydration drink in bottle cage on bike

What cycling snacks to eat after a ride?

Protein shakes

During a long, hard ride your body takes a beating and without a post-ride protein shake it’s hard to get stronger.

Protein is responsible for the growth and maintenance of muscle mass, so it’s an essential macronutrient of any diet, especially after intense training. During exercise your muscles undergo serious stress and after protracted exercise, your body gets into a serious glycogen debt, so it’s important to replenish your glycogen stores with carbohydrates and help repair your muscles with protein so that you can get up and go the next day.

Which Veloforte protein shake is best?

Two protein shakes that have the optimum 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein are Veloforte’s Nova and Vita recovery drinks. They are also packed full of electrolytes which are perfect for helping to restore hydration after exercise.

Vita is my personal favourite out of the two and I would even go as far as saying it’s my favourite sports nutrition product in the world. It tastes exactly like a freshly made milkshake and it’s brimming with flavour making it unlike any other protein shake on the market.

There are also two other protein powders that make up the recovery range and these are Cappo and Molto. Both with 20g of protein per serving they contain very little carbohydrates and just over 100 calories. With gut healthy prebiotics and containing all nine essential amino acids as well as a host of other benefits, they just might be the hardest working protein shakes on the market.

Oat snack bars

I always feel sorry for anyone whose house I stay at because as a cyclist I eat at least double that of an ordinary human being.

That means I always have my next healthy cycling snack lined up, which can often get tricky with the balance between convenience and health being a hard one to get right. I have a number of “real food” favourites, which I like to rotate to keep things exciting.

Carrots and hummus

The volume of carrots makes this an excellent, filling, option that is also relatively cheap, whilst the high fibre content of the hummus also helps to satisfy that craving.

Hummus is also packed full of minerals and vitamins as well as some protein to provide an overall well-rounded snack. If you want to get really keen, get that food processor out and make your own!

Greek yoghurt and granola

With a high protein content and packed full of probiotics which are great for gut health, Greek yoghurt is a great staple to have in your fridge, whilst granola can be great at increasing carbohydrates. I love to make my own granola (sometimes even adding dark chocolate chips for a treat) but be wary of shop bought ones being packed full of sugar.

Banana slices or banana chips on top of granola can also be a great option.

Peanut butter on toast

Peanut butter is low in carbohydrates and yet high in fats and protein. As long as you make sure you choose a good quality butter that is made of 100% peanuts, these fats are in fact heart-healthy. Peanut butter is also high in calories, which can make it a great snack for after a long day in the saddle, with the toast providing an adequate amount of carbohydrates to keep you going until your next proper meal.

Other nut butters, like almond butter, can also make good snacks for cycling.

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are one of those wonder foods that are full of fibre, vitamins, and minerals. They are also an excellent source of energy and carbohydrates. Bake them in the oven and you have a delicious, healthy snack for after a cycle ride.

Veloforte oat snack bars

At only 136 calories per bar, Veloforte oat snack bars are packed full of crunchy toasted seeds, juicy fruit, and gut friendly whole foods. They’re baked in small batches and each bar contains 25% of your daily fibre, from all natural prebiotics, to actively feed your wellness from the inside out.

One of my favourite energy snacks for cycling is taking one of these bars and putting it on top of Greek yoghurt. It’s perfect as a mid-afternoon snack during the working week or as an evening snack at the weekend.

Cyclist on a log ride in winter with green field and cloudy sky in background

How to choose what cycling energy snacks you need

Understanding how much to eat of these healthy snacks is crucial to maximising each product’s benefit.

The easiest way to work out how much you need is by working on the basis that the higher the intensity of exercise you’re going to do, the faster you want your carbohydrates to act.

Here is a breakdown of when I use each product:

Very high intensity

In a race-type situation, energy gels are the best snack to eat while cycling. Not only do they release carbohydrates at the fastest possible rate, but they are also the quickest to consume, so they give you the burst of carbs while being easy to eat when you’re riding at maximum effort.

Intense efforts session

When you’re training at an intense level, such as such as a sweet spot session, energy chews are a great cycling snack.

They act just as fast as energy gels but require chewing, meaning they are not quite as easy to consume when the pace is full gas.

What is great about chews is that you can spread out your consumption to maintain constant energy levels, because there are six individual chews per pack.

Lower-intensity rides

Energy bars make some of the best snacks for long bike rides, particularly when you’re on an easy ride or endurance session. They’re energy dense to keep you fuelled for the whole ride. With a little protein in each bar they provide the perfect balance to keep you energised.

Recovery rides

Oat snack bars are perfect for those easy sessions on the bike where you don’t want to take on anything too heavy but equally nothing at all. They are lightweight, tasty, and succulent making them the perfect snack.

How often should you be eating on the bike?

Simplicity is key to nailing your bike nutrition. To keep things straightforward, I always make sure I eat something every 30 minutes and drink at least every 15 minutes.

This way it is super easy to keep track of how much I have eaten whilst also making sure I don’t forget to eat or drink.

If you are that guilty person who usually goes the whole ride without touching your bottle or energy bar in your back pocket, it’s worth knowing that most cycling devices allow you to set reminders to eat or drink. This might help you remember!

How much should you be eating?

In terms of how much you should be eating per hour of riding to keep your blood sugar at the right level, again it is all down to intensity.

For anything zone 2 to 3, I personally aim and recommend 60g of carbohydrates an hour. This is then increased to 90g of carbohydrates when the sessions are intense or when racing. From here I can then work out how much to eat every half an hour.

A standard endurance cycling session will see me eating a bar and drinking a sachet of electrolytes per hour to hit my 60g target. During a race I might have an energy gel every 20 minutes along with a sachet of electrolytes every hour.

How to carry your cycling snacks when riding?

During the winter when you have many layers and pockets it is easy to carry enough snacks with you. However, as the temperature starts to warm up and you’re taking your layers off then putting them on again, it can be tough to know where to put your nutrition.

For this reason, I find a cycling bar bag handy. They’re super easy to store your snacks in and are also great for protecting them against the elements.

Where to buy your cycling snacks?

If you’re going down the homemade cycling snack route, then head to your favourite supermarket.

If you fancy trying Veloforte’s products, the most convenient method is setting up a Veloforte subscription. There are five main reasons:

  • You can create a custom box of your favourite products to subscribe to.
  • You save 15% on every single order.
  • You get free delivery on every single order.
  • You can pause, skip or cancel at any time.
  • It takes the hassle out of having to remember to reorder.

Or, if you prefer to buy your products in person, then why not head down to your local bike shop who will likely have a wide range of products on show for you to choose from.

Final thoughts

Now you have everything you need to know, all things nutrition, it’s time to start planning the next adventure. Where will it be?! The South Downs, Lake District or somewhere further afield; Mallorca or Borneo perhaps?!

Or read this for more tips on what to eat when cycling long distances and this for tips for more general tips on training for long distance rides.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

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Tom Couzens

Tom Couzens is an elite level cyclist. Currently riding for The Ribble Collective both on and off the road at an international level. Some highlight performances include finishing 5th at the 2023 Gravel National Champs and 3rd place at the Guildford round of the national crit series. He’s also represented Great Britain at the European Cyclo-cross Championships in 2020/21. With a handful of National level podium places to his name, he is no stranger to clocking up the miles. From ultra-distance races to one hour full gas cyclocross races and everything in between, he now works full time for Veloforte, helping people to understand how to fuel better so that they don’t make some of the same mistakes as him.

Last Reviewed: 23 January 2024

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