Best cycling snacks for fuelling on the bike
Fed up of gels and looking for some alternative cycling snacks to keep you going on the bike? Here's some fresh inspiration...
If you’re taking part in endurance sport that lasts for longer than 90 minutes, you arguably need to think about how you’re going to fuel it.
That’s because it’s generally accepted that by that point your body will have worked its way through its glycogen stores, which you’ll need to replace to ensure you have adequate energy to continue.
The general consensus is that the average person can/should take on 60g of carbs per hour from this point on, though how much your body needs or can tolerate will vary based on the intensity and duration of the activity, as well as how well each individual’s gut is trained.
In race scenarios, most athletes tend to rely on energy gels or drinks to keep them going, but energy bars can also be a great option on the bike leg of a triathlon, as you’re less likely to have gastronomical issues than if you’re running.
We’ve included a few bars in this list, but for a longer list, check out our reviews of the best energy bars.
Also in this list of the best cycling snacks, you’ll find energy chews, which deliver a hefty dose of carbs and can be a great alternative if you don’t get on with gels.
Speaking of which, we’ve decided not to focus on gels in this list given the fact that they don’t really feel like a ‘snack’, but if you want to have a browse of what’s on the market, take a look at our list of the best energy gels.
What you will find here, though, are a few examples of real foods that you can easily chuck into a top tube bag and munch on mid-ride, whether training or racing.
Best cycling snacks
Precision Fuel Energy Chews
- £7.99 for four packets
These portable chews from Precision Fuel are an appreciated alternative to energy gels on the bike but digestible enough for the run, too.
They’re a little like Turkish delight but less chewy. The neutral taste is cleansing on the palate, and, though we didn’t try them, we suspect the alternative of mint and lemon would be equally thirst-quenching.
The 30g of carb content is delivered as 2 x 15g chews. Again, splitting the sugar adds a usability that’s appreciated when looking to monitor intake in the deep throes of fatigue.
The ingredients list comprises just sugar, corn starch, water and citric acid. Good stuff.
Verdict: A worthy addition to your fuelling strategy and good alternative to gels.
Clif Bar Minis
- £11.99 for 10
Clif Bars have scored highly in previous group tests (76% in 344 and 80% in 329) but at 68g with around 40g of carbs for a standard bar, they may be a little much for some to digest on the go.
These new 28g bars with 16g of carbs and 108 calories make a handier mid-training or snack option, though, with three flavours available.
They taste pretty darn great, too.
Verdict: More portable but still tasty and natural version of the Clif classics.
Skratch Labs Energy Chews
- £24.95 for 10
These sporty Haribo interlopers are rather tasty, the intense orange hit deriving from orange juice.
Its texture’s comforting, too, the soft, jelly-like composition formed by pectin, the ingredient that’s commonly used to thicken jams.
In fact, they’re so moorish that it’s easy to consume all 10 pieces per pack within the first 30mins of your bike ride.
It’s a recommended two servings per packet, which equates to 18g (72cals) of rapidly-delivered sugar per serving.
Skratch Labs’ mission is to weed out excess ingredients and there’s no colouring agents and mystery additions.
Beyond the carbs, each serving delivers 80mg sodium from sea salt. That’s nominal and you’d want an electrolyte addition, especially when racing in the heat.
Verdict: A tasty energy lifter with no nasties. Just don’t eat them all at once!
- £34.80 for 12
Kudos to DuelFuel for a rather novel but logical idea. Feature one energy bar and one recovery bar all in the same pack, and you have your nutritional needs covered.
We tried the ‘Performance’ peanut butter and chocolate flapjack with ‘Recovery’ chocolate brownie.
The peanut butter flapjack contains 155cals, of which 20.8g derives from carbs, while the chocolate brownie contains 152cals, of which 21.8g derives from protein.
Both bars are also packed with vitamins, including C, D and E, plus minerals, including iron and selenium. So nutritionally sound and a great idea.
Our only criticism is that the taste could be improved somewhat, which stretches across the range.
A shame but hopefully rectified down the line. Oh, and they’re not cheap, either.
Verdict: A sound idea that’s ultimately let down by flavour and cost.
Supernatural Fuel Pouches
- £22 for 8
These impressive pouches of power are made from organic, plant-based ingredients.
The berry and quinoa version delivers 110kcals per 100g pouch with 14.3g from carbs, 2.7g protein and 5.1g fat. That suggests these come into their own over longer distances.
All the ones we tried were tasty, but take with water to help them down.
Verdict: Not cheap, but a great addition to your fuelling larder.
- £53.91 for 18
This popular choice of energy chew comes in pack of six chews totalling 48g of carbs per 60g serving, with multiple flavours available. Cost per serving is from £2.99.
SiS Beta Fuel Energy Chews
- £44 for 20
Packing 46g of carbs per 60g serving and utilising an optimal ratio of glucose to fructose, SiS says these gels increase carb usage efficiency without gastrointestinal discomfort.
All that comes for £2.20 per item, with lemon and orange flavours available.
Peanut butter jelly bites
If you to use real, home-cooked food to energise your bike sessions, consider making these peanut butter jam bites.
They offer the perfect balance of salty and sweet, are carb-rich and will feel like a real treat when it’s finally time to eat them.
Bananas are an essential part of your ‘rolling buffet’ of perfect carbs for cycling.
Peeled, loosely wrapped and stored in your jersey pockets, they’re easy to digest, rich in exercise-friendly sugars, glucose, sucrose and fructose, and provide abundant minerals.
Cooked sweet potato is a good alternative to sweet foods. Easy to break down, it delivers a steady dose of carbohydrate to the working muscles.
Wrap pieces in cling film or a freezer bag and pack in a saddle bag. 100g will give you 20g of carbs, plus a healthy dose of nutrients.
The perfect high-carb, low-fat food, dates are excellent for effective fuelling during exercise.
They’re also rich in minerals such as potassium and magnesium, which, along with water, will contribute to staying effectively hydrated.
These will give your muscles the all-important glucose that they’ll need during a long ride.
They also deliver ample vitamins, minerals and antioxidants (and a touch of protein), as well as being easy to carry in jersey rear pockets.
Top image credit: Getty Images/Wundervisuals