Healthyish fuelling

Hello all,

I’ve always made somewhat of an effort to try and fuel my rides in a reasonably healthy manner.

Oats is my go to pre ride especially in the morning, peanut butter on toast another one. On the bike I tend to carry raisins, bananas mostly and occasionally I’ll have nuts and flapjacks (when I find the time to make them). Flapjacks are great but the family devour them and it’s close to impossible to hold them back for my rides.

I really don’t want to go down the route of gels and bars as they are sickly sweet and don’t feel natural to be throwing into your body regularly. I have and occasionally still use a gel on days I know I’ll need them but don’t really want to be using them as a go to source of energy.

I’ve recently started using SIS GO energy for my turbo sessions as I felt I needed something extra for the tough sessions. It’s sickly sweet but it does help me that’s for sure. I’ve found three scoops too strong so have cut back to two scoops in a bottle and a second bottle with water and I tend to wash down the SIS with a mouthful of water. I’m still not convinced it’s something I want to use on a regular basis.

Has anyone any other reasonably healthy options that they find work really well to keep them topped up on rides?

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Different kinds of dried fruits pack lot of calories and nutrients.
I personally like dates, during long Z2 date/10min is enough for me.


Dates and trail mix are good, though they’re kind of a hassle on a ride, tends to get messy unless you’re stopping to eat.

If you have time then you can make your own rice cakes. Pretty good on many fronts - plenty of calories, cheap, easy to carry and eat on the bike, pretty easy to digest and absorb, can make them pretty healthy, and lots of things you can do to vary the flavour or add texture so you don’t get bored (add nuts or dried fruit, use different flavours of cream cheese, etc). Lots of recipes out there if you google them e.g. Team recipe: On-the-bike rice cakes - EF Pro Cycling. Or Team Sky Recipes for cycling success | 2 | Cyclist

Downside is they don’t last all that long, so I tend to only make a batch when I’ve got a big cycling weekend coming up. Upside is they’re not quite as moreish as flapjacks so they’re less likely to get devoured by the family before you even get a chance to ride!

Cereal bars are also a good convenient and cheap source of calories on the bike. Though not sure they’re particularly healthy and they’re not as easily digested as the options above so more suited to lower intensity rides.


If I’m fueling longer days pb bagels are great since they’re pretty survivable and edible regardless of the pocket they’ve been crammed in!

Plus can slice up a banana in there too for some of your 5 a day. Not great for a fast smash fest but perfect for anything else.


I also make my own flapjacks - maybe if you cut and wrap them right after making them, and store them with your bike kit, they’ll survive the hungry mouths in the house? They don’t really go off that quick.

I also buy oat bars (cheapo ones), there is so much choice now, some aren’t too bad from the ingredients. Lidl has own brand bars that are like Nakd bars (mainly dates, natural ingredients), but cheaper.

If you make your own rice cakes, you can also make savoury ones. Basically just cook sticky rice, mix with whatever you want it to taste of while hot, then compact it into a small tin (about an inch thick), chill and cut and wrap. I like mine with apple and cinnamon, but you could mix it with pizza sauce for a pizza one, or whatever you fancy. They keep in the fridge for a few days, though I always sniff them and bin when I’m not sure.

Alternatively, toast with jam is easy and quick to take.

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I like using honey or maple syrup, I purchased some reusable pouches online for it. Although it is similar to sticky and sweet “gels”, it is made of 1 ingredient. So far it has worked for me on even the hardest workouts.
I’m pretty sure both are about a 60/40 blend of fructose/glucose. That’s from what I’ve read online but I haven’t ever had GI issues fueling with either. I call them natures gel.

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simple sugars on the bike are not “unhealthy”. If its mostly the taste that is the issue then SIS uses artificial sweeteners. I would use a maltodextrin based formula as it is the least sweet. Skratch labs probably makes the “healthiest” sports nutrition with crushed dried fruit for flavoring


During intense workout when fast absorption is most important, gels certainly make sense. But during long less intense workouts it would be nice to combine getting energy with nutritional benefits. For example, with dates you’ll get B6, magnesium, calcium, iron etc. It just makes easier to have balanced whole day diet.


Agreed, for me its usually bananas since they are the easiest to pack and eat and the wrapping is biodegradable so I don’t have any waste


I regularly make things from the Feed Zone Portables cook-book. I’ll do rice cakes and some of their pastry-like recipes. The rice cakes hold up better when you wrap them in aluminum foil.
Sweet potato, bacon rice cakes are a hit with my buddies on a big ride. They’re savory and “sit” pretty well.

I have gone back and forth on this issue, given I have had many gastro issues over the years but in the last 2 years or so, I have managed to train my gut to take on the more synthetic products.

I always try to go for fruit over gels where possible. For me, this applies to threshold and below.

  • Banana pre ride
  • Dates, dried apricots, figs (bit worse on the stomach must admit), raisins work well.

For VO2 however, I resort to gels, a drink mix (home made malto and a bit of honey) and some sweets. Little to no fibre is the name of the game then.

When going out on long rides, I used to opt for a massive breakfast but finding this more so less productive. I feel sluggish. Now, i would have a bow of cereal - some whole grains and a bit of honey on, and then just eat fruit on the bike. Of course carrying is an issue, so I try to opt for “better” bars, if that exists. For me, these tend to be like “Raw Bites” or equivalent. Clif sometimes too.

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I pre ride fuel with steel cut oats with some walnuts, raisins, flax, pumpkin seeds, maple syrup, etc. I’ve been recently messing around with using leftovers of this to make oat bars. I spread it on a tray and heat it slow and low heat. Still refining this plan but seems like it might work to carry on bike.
I buy maple syrup by the gallon and often either use it directly as fuel on the bike or put some in my water bottles for easy “drink mix”.
Certainly bananas are good, apples too although a little more awkward to carry. I also buy those organic fig bars (can’t remember their name) cause they’re cheap, easy to carry, and tasty.
I was into dried dates and mango, papaya, and apples for a while. At some point I was ordering 15 pounds of dates from nuts dot com but my family and my GI tract told me I had to dial it back.


Generally prior the bout I go for solid foods – dates, banana, rice cakes, candy, etc. Usually a few hours before a big effort ride (time or intensity) I will make up some steel cut oats, blend with fruit, top with rolled oats & grape nuts – maybe even addi n some plain yogurt.

When I’m on the bike then I prefer gels and drink. I’m mixing up roughly a 1:1 maltodextrin - fructose concoction (and I put in anywhere from 22-88 grams of that into a bottle regardless of the size) and I found in a 16-20 oz bottle of that along with a 1/4 cup of fruit juice works well – in terms of flavor, fueling, and sweetness – in fact, using lemon juice it tasted fantastic! I pack gels along and on rides where it is convenient to stop (longer joyrides) I will pack some fruit or stop at convenience stores and buy fuel.

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Dental issues aside (for which there are solutions like chasing with water), downing sugar, when your body is burning it at a high rate, isn’t unhealthy.


In fact, it may be healthier if it prevents muscle loss.


Thanks all, appreciate all the replies. Some really good tips, time to start experimenting and see what works for me.

Never thought of honey or maple as a natural alternative to a gel, love both so sounds great. How do you pack/store them for your ride?

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I would mix with water

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They come in various sizes I get the 100ml it’s about 90g maple syrup at around 340 calories. 60/40fructose to glucose.

Just make sure everything is super tight or it will leak!


Slight detour but what dental options do you opt for, even with healthier food? Water chase? Chewing gum?


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