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How to Recover After A Long Bike Ride

June 14, 2012

With the Menomonie Gran Fondo this past Saturday, we thought it would be nice to a deeper look at how you can recover once you are done with a ride like that.

By:  Jane Schwartz Harrison, RD, Nutritionist

Congratulations! You just finished a long and challenging ride. But wait! Don’t abandon your nutrition needs just yet. The right mix of recovery foods will go a long way to helping you feel less sore, less stiff, and less tired in the hours and days that follow. A smart nutrition strategy includes a follow-up plan that will re-feed your glycogen stores and repair muscle tissue. Make sure you follow these five tips for prime recovery:

Timing Counts

The minutes immediately after you’re off the bike (when there is increased blood flow to your muscles) is when your body is most receptive to refueling.

  • Aim to eat within 15 to 30 minutes, and do not wait longer than 45 minutes.This is essential!
  • Then continue to eat at regular intervals for the next 24 hours to keep up replenishment.

Carbs Are Key, Protein Secondary

Carbs are the most important recovery nutrient. They stimulate the release of insulin, a hormone that helps build muscle and restock glycogen stores.

  • Aim for 1 to 1.5 grams of carb per kilogram of body weight in the first 45 minutes. Keep this up for about four hours after the event, or until you eat a larger meal.
  • For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, eat 70 to 100 grams of carbs per hour. One gram of carb has four calories, so that translates to about 300 to 400 calories of carbs as soon as possible after you get off the bike. You can break it up by having something 15 minutes after you stop, and again in another 15 to 30 minutes.
  • For the following 24 hours, your carb intake should be about six to 10 grams per kg of body weight (450-750 grams of carb for a 150 pound person).
  • Adding some protein to your carb can improve your recovery, but don’t overdo the protein (or fat) in the first couple hours, as that can slow the absorption of the carbs.

Smart Recovery Meal Ideas

Here are some meal/snack ideas that contain about 70 to 80 grams of carbs and eight to 15 grams of protein:

  • Large fruit smoothie made with milk or yogurt
  • Peanut butter sandwich and large carton of juice
  • Bagel and yogurt
  • 16 oz 100% juice and two ounces of low-fat cheese
  • Chocolate milk and a one or two granola bars
  • ¼ cup raisins, a large banana, and 16 oz. milk
  • Large baked potato and cottage cheese
  • Recovery drink with mostly carbs and nine to 10 grams of protein

Save higher protein intakes until at least two hours after the event. This could include chicken breast, fish, lean steak, high protein drink, etc.

Replace Fluids and Electrolytes

Replacing fluids lost by sweating is critical in order to prevent dehydration.

  • Your goal will be to drink on schedule during your ride and lose no more than 2 percent of your body weight (three pounds for a 150 pound person).
  • During training, practice weighing yourself before and after to get a sense of how much fluid you lose. For every pound lost, you need to drink 16 oz of fluid.
  • A pound of sweat contains about 90mg of potassium and 400 to 700mg of sodium.
  • As long as your recovery food or drink contains some salt or potassium, you don’t need anything special. One banana has 350 mg. Even foods like a cup of yogurt (520mg), large potato (800mg), cup of OJ (475mg), etc have plenty of potassium.
  • Sodium can also be found in most foods, from bagels and sandwiches to dairy and granola bars – just don’t choose low-sodium foods after the ride and you should be fine!
  • Don’t rely on sports drinks for potassium unless they specifically have it included. Check labels for sodium, as they vary.

With this recovery plan in place, you’ll be ready for another long ride in no time!


Position of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and athletic performance. J Am Diet Assoc. 2000;100(12):1543-1556.

Hargreaves M, Hawley JA, Jeukendrup A. Pre-exercise carbohydrate and fat ingestion: Effects on metabolism and performance. J Sports Sci. 2004;22(1):31-38.


What If…

June 10, 2009

Bill Metz, from OptumHealth, will be a frequent contributor to the blog. This is the sixth of many posts that Bill will be making, dealing with a variety of topics within the life of a recreational cyclist.

When not working, I have spent much of past couple of days finalizing plans for Team UnitedHealth Group and the MS 150 ride.

Unfortunately, the ride overlaps with the NVGP and I will miss the last three days of the race. On the other, I will be spending two and a half days with thousands of cyclists riding 150 mile through some beautiful Minnesota countryside while my workmate, Chris, is actually racing the NVGP. Having started cycling in a more serious way rather late in life, I often wonder if I could have gotten to the level where I was able to compete against the best pro riders in the US of A. As a 50+ year old, “what if?” becomes a much more frequently asked question.

What if I would have had access and connection to a biking club that was into racing and I got involved. Would I have been able to develop a bigger engine and run with the big boys? Would I have been a sprinter? Would crits have been my thing or time trials? Or would I have been forever a cat 4 rider with just enough left to finish in the middle of the pack?

What if I would have kept that old Schwinn 24 incher and used some of my brother’s motorcycle parts to modify it for off road trails? Would we now be riding WAM’ers (William A Metz) instead of Gary Fishers?

What if I would have instead stripped that old Tornado down and fixed the gearing so you always had to pedal and didn’t provide a brake. Would I now be all tatted up with a cool bag that I sling over my shoulder, (which I would have also invented) delivering documents in NYC?

What if? What if I would have started sooner, ridden harder, pushed it longer, suffered a bit more, or not let up? Would I be stronger? Faster? Better? Would I be racing with Chris? Would that be better than the MS 150, or just different? The good news is: it is ours to decide.

So, it is the right question, just asked the wrong way. What if I start now?


All Blogged Up

June 4, 2009

Bill Metz, from OptumHealth, will be a frequent contributor to the blog. This is the fifth of many posts that Bill will be making, dealing with a variety of topics within the life of a recreational cyclist.

Work. Remodeling. Commitments. Weather/Wind. It’s a conspiracy! They are all working to keep me off the bike, and, so far they’re winning. My mileage has taken a serious hit this year and if I don’t find out who is behind all this, I will record my lowest totals in 10 years. Lacking a CSI team when I need them, I decided to do my own investigation.


Big projects demanding more time, bad economy, high unemployment, I have a good job that 10 other poor devils would put a hit on someone to be in my shoes….Guess I better bag the ride and attend that noon meeting.


Big project demanding more time, kitchen in the spare bedroom, washing dishes in the tub, one too many microwave dinners….Guess I better bag the ride and varnish the baseboard.


Big events demanding more time, 80th birthdays, graduations, mom needs help with dad and the garden. Gladly bag the ride to spend time with those that have given me so much.

Weather / Wind:

Big winds, I mean really big, unseasonably cool temps, no one to go with so I can draft, rain and sometimes snow…Guess I will bag the ride and wait till it warms up in the afternoon.

Like most conspiracy theories, this one has turned out to be just that, a theory that, in this case, has proven out not to be a conspiracy but something called life. Sometimes the balance tips away from riding to the other forces that demand my time but I have been around long enough to know that it is a balance, and sooner or later it will swing the other way, if not this year, then next.

Now, if I wasn’t doing this blog I could get some serious miles in…


Let The Games Begin

May 27, 2009

Bill Metz, from OptumHealth, will be a frequent contributor to the blog. This is the fifth of many posts that Bill will be making, dealing with a variety of topics within the life of a recreational cyclist.

Motivation is a strange and individual thing. I have found that what motivates me to get out and ride has continually evolved and changed over the past 15 years. When I first started riding, my motivation was to crest the hill on Wall Street road without feeling like I was eating a lung and about to spit a spleen. Pretty basic on the motivation sophistication scale, but, that feeling didn’t prevent me from giving it another go. It motivated me to work to improve.

When I started riding with a couple of other guys on Saturday morning, my motivation shifted. I quickly realized that in order to keep up on Saturday and avoid long lonely rides back to town on my own, I was going to have to put in some serious saddle time on days other than Saturday. (I was really slow) So, my motivation became ‘keeping up the guys’ and slowly I improved to where I could hang on the back, drafting with my tongue rattling against the spokes like the six of clubs I used to cloths-pin to my fender bracket as a kid. That was on the flats, hills were a different story. I hated hills. We would hit even the smallest rise and I would immediately fall off the back. I felt like I was going backwards. When I finally got to the top where the rest of the group was waiting, they would look at me wondering why I was bleeding from my eyes. Not really, but that’s how I felt.

So my motivation changed again. I figured that if I were ever going to be able to keep up on the hills, my attitude needed to change. I needed to embrace the hill, love the hills, and be the hills. So, rather than deciding to take the flat loop when I would go for a spin, I would choose the loop with the most hills. I would practice my pacing, tempo and breathing. I even did hill repeats. Slowly, I found myself keeping up. With newer members joining, I no longer the last rider up the hill. Even better, I was able to keep pace on my turn through the pace line.

Motivation to get out and ride is different than motivation during the ride. Since I was a kid, I always made games out of things which, unbeknownst to many, are forms of motivation and a way to improve. Whether it was mowing the lawn in the straightest line, or spending hours tossing the tennis ball against the house pretending to shag down and throw out that runner at first base, or the skidding and jumping contests on my bike, playing the game improved my skills. Now, town sign sprints and charging the hills play the same role as does coming up with other games on long solo rides. Here is an excerpt from my book “Saturday Morning Rides” on playing games:


The sun sinks low on the horizon at the end of a ride at the end of another season as I head west on Dennison Boulevard towards home. I turn north on Kane Avenue and glide over the first rise. Mesmerized by the fading light, I don’t notice the rider appear on my right. We pedal along in silence enjoying the late fall spin, side by side, crank for crank in eerie unison. I glance to my right and catch him sizing me up and as we scope each other out, we nod. It’s go time.

I spin it up to 20 mph and he matches me, still at my side. As we drop down the far side of the rise, we both pick up the pace to 21, 22 and then 23. I’m starting to feel the burn. This will not be easy, so I start to plot my attack. Dog hill, I will take him on dog hill. We both move down to the drops as if we have read each others mind and try to put the hurt on. As the road turns west up a small rise, I concentrate on my plan, focusing on dog hill, eyes ahead not wanting him to read my thoughts again. Heading straight west now I steal a glance to my right to see if my torrid pace is having any effect and find he is gone. Looking to my left confirms my guess. He’s on my wheel. I throttle back and prepare for dog hill.

As soon as I hit the hill I leap from the saddle, shifting up three cogs in one seamless move, fluid and powerful. No way will he be able to follow. Hammering over the summit as the sun touches the tops of the trees, I take a look back to confirm my dominance only to find him stuck to my wheel like the mother following her son blowing the whistle in the The Triplets of Belleville

I put the hammer down again, but feel him match my pace, my cadence and even my ragged breathing as I suck oxygen to fuel the fire. Now all that remains is the Northfield town sign sprint and this wheel-sucker has me set up all the way so I back off slightly and prepare for the final push.

To my surprise he comes along my right side as I turn north on 246 looking for a straight up sprint, mano a mano, for all the marbles. In unison, we rise out of the saddle for the initial rush, side by side again clicking up through the gears, the cool damp evening air rushing past, our heads down, grinding it into the big ring as the sun melts into the treetops and the shadows merge and stretch to the eastern horizon just as we streak past the sign he disappears into the night and I raise both fists in victory.


Things Somehow Always Seem Better On Days I Ride

May 13, 2009

Bill Metz, from OptumHealth, will be a frequent contributor to the blog. This is the fourth of many posts that Bill will be making, dealing with a variety of topics within the life of a recreational cyclist.

I ride at noon as often as I am able. I would prefer to commute and get regular miles in that way, but, I am fifty miles from the salt mine which is about ten miles too far to commute, right? My rides from work contrast greatly with my rides from home.

At work, I have to sprint to the locker room for a quick change into my OptumHealth kit. From there it is a about a fifty yard walk through the hall in spandex. I must say the looks are, well, interesting. Once outside, it’s unload the bike from the trunk of the Civic, pull on the shoes, helmet and gloves and hop on and GO, and STOP at the parking lot entrance light, and GO and STOP at the Highway 55 intersection, and GO and slow for a stop sign, and GO and STOP for the light at Glenwood, and GO and STOP for the light at Highway 100, and GO….and, well, you get the picture. Until I get on to one of the many trails that pepper the Twin Cities area, the riding is great practice for the stopping and the going. Traffic is heavy and impatient, fumes spew from trucks and factories and the further into the ride I get the more that all begins to fade and my head starts to clear and my focus sharpens and the endorphins flood my system.

Post ride, it’s running the fifty yard gauntlet, this time in sweaty spandex. The looks are even more interesting. Hit the shower and try to cool down as fast as I can, which is never fast enough to not pit-out my dress shirt. (Hint #1: wear light colored shirts. They don’t show the lingering sweat soaking through as much as dark shirts do. Hint # 2: whenever possible, schedule a meeting you can take by phone right after a ride.) Somehow, back at the desk, things always seem better on days I ride.

At home, it’s different. I can don the bike gear whenever it’s convenient and wait for an opportune time to ride. Twenty steps to the garage and I am off. One stop sign later, I’m pedaling the rolling hills of Rice and Goodhue Counties. Traffic is minimal and there are long stretches of country roads where the only impediment to my progress is the strength of the wind. Except for the occasional turkey barn, the air is fresh and clean and lovely. The further into the ride I get, the more that all begins to fade. My head starts to clear and my focus sharpens and the endorphins flood my system.

Post ride, I work in the kit till I cool down, jump in the shower. Five minutes later, I am back to work.

Things somehow always seem better on days I ride.


The Rest Will Follow

May 9, 2009

Bill Metz, from OptumHealth, will be a frequent contributor to the blog. This is the third of many posts that Bill will be making, dealing with a variety of topics within the life of a recreational cyclist.

If our city, county, state and national politicians want to get a firm understanding and a true appreciation of the current state of our transportation infrastructure, they should all start riding a bike. Cyclists get up close and personal with our roads and bridges and not only see the current state of affairs, but often experience it first hand.

It wouldn’t take very long. Every county commissioner should be required to ride the county roads, state reps and senators should ride some of our state roads and our city administrators and engineers should be required to take a spin around town. They would be appalled and change would happen.

Take State Highway 246 from Northfield to Kenyon for instance. My group, The Northfield Bicycle Club, tries to avoid this road but we have to take it to get to some of our other favorite routes. It is riddled with holes, and ruts and the pavement will soon be worse than the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix. A few days ago, we left Nerstrand with a group of 12 riders heading for “dog hill”, a route that takes us for about 6 miles on the 246 mess. When we stopped to regroup at the intersection of CR 9 and 246 we found that we only had 10 riders remaining. We all turned back to collect the other two, figuring they had punctured (I love saying that) or, worse yet, bent a rim or come off the bike in a crash. It was even worse than expected. They had totally disappeared in one of the crevasses in the tarmac. Seriously! We had to ask a nearby farmer for a log chain and a tractor just to get them out.

Maybe the Rice County commissioners should ride CR 1 from Montgomery to Dundas, another “beauty.” The last time we rode that route the guy next to me dropped into a rut so deep his pedals started scraping the pavement. If I wouldn’t have reached over and grabbed his helmet (he’s 6’2”) and given him a huge tug, we might have lost another one.

We ride most of the paved roads in Rice and Goodhue counties and can’t figure out why the neighboring state to the east is not only able to maintain their paved roads better, but somehow they have managed to BLACKTOP ALMOST ALL OF THE ROADS. We often travel to Wisconsin to ride the bluff and coulee areas of Buffalo and Trempealeau counties. Not only are the hills challenging, but the roads are in great shape. (They also have way cooler names for their roads like Alligator Slide, Hammer Lane, Pretzel Pass Road, and my favorite, Bill’s Valley Road.) The only difference that I can figure out is that the Wisconsin politicians must all ride bikes.

So, when you write to your congress people, commissioners, mayors and senators, don’t demand that they spend money on our crumbling infrastructure, demand that they start riding a bike. The rest will follow.

“Bill’s Valley” Metz


Rainy Day Regrets

April 27, 2009

Bill Metz, from OptumHealth, will be a frequent contributor to the blog. This is the first of many posts that Bill will be making, dealing with a variety of topics within the life of a recreational cyclist.

I should be riding instead of writing. Just about now the folks I spend countless hours behind, next to and in front of during the spring, summer and fall are about 2 hours into the Minnesota Ironman bicycle ride, and I feel guilty.

How can I feel bad sitting here with a hot cup of coffee in the warm confines of home after getting an additional 2 hours of sleep? I’m looking out on a cold, misting rain with a 15 mph wind and my rational self says ‘I choose wisely’ and yet, I should be out there. I should be out there pushing the headwind while the cold slowly creeps deeper and deeper between the muscles past the soft, connecting tissues and ligaments till it gets right down to the bone. I should be sitting on a wheel battling the spray, grit and occasional night-crawler lifted from the pavement into my face while imagining the black stripe being painted up my backside. I should be cursing the weather along with the others wondering why the heck we didn’t stay in bed while secretly knowing we are the better for it because, these are the rides that stories are made of.

Stories like the one from three years ago when the Ironman still came through my hometown of Northfield. We started off from town on a similar morning albeit about 10 degrees warmer. When we got to Lakeville we didn’t let our buddy Brendan know about the remains of a worm plastered to his cheek while he checked in. Yuk! Remembering him “thanking” us in his shy Irish accent as we rolled over with laughter is now part of the common history of the group and it comes up whenever we ride in the rain. We always laugh. Nobody remembers the mundane.

So, I should be out there building new stories. Stories I should be part of and the only way to be a part of the story is to be part of the ride and the only way to be a part of the ride is to fight off the voices that call me back to the warmth of the covers and coffee, to pull on the shorts, socks, shoes and slicker, to load up the bike, meet the mates and head out into the cold, lashing rainŠ and ride.

The mist has now turned to a steady rain with a bit of thunder mixed in and I regret the allowing the voices of warmth to win over the pull of the story to be written…next time.