What To Eat Before & After A Spin Class

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By Robbie Ferri

Personal Trainer & Cycling Instructor

Robbie from “Riding with Robbie” is a Personal Trainer living in in Norfolk, UK. He has bikepacked all over the World, and also raced ultra distance at a top-level. He has worked closely with industry leaders such as Shimano.

When it comes to exercise, a big part of being able to perform is eating correctly. Nutrition is key not only during a workout but before and after. At Girl Bike Love, we get a huge amount of questions about nutrition and what you should be eating while on the bike.

From being a spinning instructor for many years alongside a personal trainer and ultra cyclist, I have learned a huge amount about eating the right food at the right time. In this article, we’re going to answer one of our readers’ most popular questions: “What should I eat before and after a spin class?”

Disclaimer: This article has not been written by a healthcare professional and or expert nutritionist. It can only be taken as our opinion and not used in the context of professional advice.

The right food for you

In this article, we’re not only going to be recommending excellent pre-spinning food but also teaching you how to pick the perfect foods for you that you will enjoy the taste of and the ingredients are easy to find.

Why is it so important to get your nutrition right?

Nutrition is so important, whatever the sport may be. It could be indoor cycling, running, skiing, or even swimming. Here’s why you always need to be on top of it.

Health

When I first started studying nutrition, one of the first quotes I heard was, ” You get out what you put in, ” and I 100% agree with this. If you can eat well and go for the right foods, you will get many benefits, the main one being good food is great for your health.

Digestion

Eating the right foods is not only good for your health but also great for your digestion. If you eat the right foods which can digest quickly before a workout and digest slowly afterward, it can help fuel and workout and stop you from overeating.

Performance

When you exercise, you want to get the most out of your body you can and keep hitting those PRs. If you don’t have the right fuel, then you’re not going to be able to get the best performance.

Recovery

Good food not only powers your performance but also fuels your recovery. The key to improving fitness also comes in what you eat after the workout and the effort you put into your recovery.

It makes you feel good

Eating the right foods before and after a workout makes you feel great. If you were to eat fast food before a spin class, you would be fuelled, but you’re not going to feel good while exercising.

Understanding food

Before we talk about what you should and shouldn’t eat while exercising, it is important to understand a few things about food.

Macronutrients

The first thing is macronutrients; typically, the best way to break them down is by splitting them into carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

Carbohydrates are going to be excellent for fueling as they are digested quickly and can provide energy that can be used to fuel a high-intensity exercise such as being in a spinning class.

Then you have your proteins. The main job of proteins is to help recovery. You can use it to fuel workouts, but it isn’t as good as carbohydrates.

Then finally, we have fats. Fats are excellent at releasing energy slowly and are heavily used in the body as an energy reserve.

The best way to look at it is to imagine your body as a fire, and the food fuels that fire. Carbohydrates are like putting gasoline on a fire. They will give it a huge boost, but it dies out quickly. Then you have your protein, and that’s like putting wood on the fire. It releases energy, just not as quickly before it burns out. Then finally, imagine your fats like coal. They will last the longest but can’t release their energy quickly.

If you want to learn more about Macronutrients, then you can get loads of information from this article at Join Zoe.

GI Index

Then we have the GI index, which is food’s Glycemic Index. This is a scale of 0-100, and depending on how it scores is how it will affect the blood sugar in the body.

Low Glycemic

0-55

A low glycemic index food is excellent for regulating blood sugars and can help people with diabetes keep control of their blood sugar. Foods in this group are vegetables, nuts, and meats.

Medium Glycemic

55-69

Medium glycemic means they sit between low and high glycemic foods. You will find foods like boiled sweet potatoes and couscous in this category.

High Glycemic

70-100

High Glycemic foods are chocolate, chips, cereal, and even cake. These are going to really push the blood sugar high. These are ideal for you to release energy quickly.

If you want to learn more about the glycemic index, then check out this article from Healthline.

Calories

Finally, we have calories, and you more than likely would have heard of calories before. A calorie is a unit of energy equivalent to the heat energy required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1°C.

Typically a man requires 2500 calories a day and a woman requires 2000 calories a day. Each food you eat will have calories, and the more calories your food can give you, the more energy you have to burn.

If you want to know more about calories, you will be able to find it here in an article from Live Science.

What To Eat Before After A Spin Class

Pre workout food

Now you have learned a little bit about food. It will be much easier to understand what we look for in pre-workout food. Spinning is a high-intensity exercise, so we need food that will give us all the energy we need for the workout. So we are going to be looking for food with;

  • A mix of medium and high glycemic index rating
  • A good amount of calories
  • A food that is easy to digest
  • Food that won’t make you feel bloated
  • Low fiber content

The mix of medium and high glycemic is going to cover you for quick-release energy and also some energy which will release slower to ensure you get to the end of the session. We want a good amount of calories, roughly 100-200 for a woman and 200-300 for a man. On top of that, we want our food to be easy to digest and not make you feel bloated.

Pre workout food recommendations

Now for what you’re waiting for, the food we recommend getting in before a cycling session. We only recommend one meal at a time. All five could make you feel a little uncomfortable.

Oatmeal and Fruit

Oatmeal and fruit are a great way of getting some perfect pre-spinning energy in. It has a medium glycemic oatmeal and a high glycemic fruit. Giving you not just prolonged energy but also an instant hit to get you going. It’s really easy on the stomach, and you can easily adjust the quantity for the perfect calories.

Porridge and Honey

Another great quick meal before you start spinning is porridge and honey. You have your slow-releasing carbohydrates from the porridge, and the honey is going to give you the quick hit of energy you need for the sprints.

Toast and Jam

If you’re looking for a bit more of a simple, less messy snack to eat before spinning, then you can throw a couple of pieces of white bread in the toaster and slap some jam on it. Again like with the other foods, it’s a high-carbohydrate snack with a mix of high and medium glycemic carbs.

Cereal

Another excellent snack that I love as a pre-ride snack is cereal. It not only gives an excellent base of slow-release carbohydrates but with added fruit or a little sugar, you will get fast-release energy too. The calories are good for what you get, and with the milk to help it digest, it’s great on the stomach. Even a cereal bar will be ideal if you’re in a rush.

Banana on Rice cakes

The final pre-ride snack we can highly recommend is rice cakes with banana on top. It’s a tasty snack that feels light on the stomach, with a lot of carbohydrates to help you power through your workout. If you want to add more calories, some cyclists even mash up the banana with a little peanut butter for extra flavor. Try not to put too much as it’s quite fatty.

When to eat your pre-ride snack?

We recommend eating roughly about 30-60 minutes before your workout. This means the food has time to settle and starts getting into your system, ready to smash those PRs. This is different for everyone, so you might need to eat a little earlier or want to eat it closer to your workout.

What to avoid eating before a workout

So what do you need to avoid before a workout? To keep it simple, you’re going to want to avoid heavy fats and proteins. Going back to our macronutrients, carbohydrates can power a workout and give you the energy that releases fast; it’s like putting gasoline on a fire.

Fats and proteins do not do the same job. They are used for recovery and for slow-release energy. Think of these again as wood and coal. So before a workout, focus on carbohydrates and try to avoid too much protein and fatty foods.

Post Workout Food

So you now know what you need to be eating before a workout, what you need to be eating after a workout. Unlike pre-workout meals, you don’t need to be thinking about fueling high-intensity work. It would be best if you thought about replenishing what you lost and giving your body what it needs to recover the best it can.

  • A mix of low glycemic foods that aid recovery
  • A good amount of calories
  • A food that is going to be heavy in protein and has some fats and carbohydrates
  • Food that will make you feel full and stop you from snacking

So we need foods that are not going to spike your energy levels but still replenish what we have used. These will generally be low glycemic foods. We want foods with a few calories in to ensure you don’t go crazy on the snacks later but don’t undo the good work you have done on the bike. Finally, the last thing we need is food full of protein to aid that recovery and keep us full.

Post Workout Food Recommendations

So this is what we recommend for after a cycling workout. We highly recommend knowing the calories you are putting in while making your food, so you don’t over or undereat.

Protein Smoothie

My personal favorite post-workout food is a protein smoothie. I like mixing a scoop of protein powder with a little milk, a banana, and a small spoonful of peanut butter. It tastes incredible and has everything you need. You get the protein from the protein powder, carbohydrates from the banana, and fats from your peanut butter. It’s also rehydrating and very filling. It can be a little high in calories if you are not careful with portion control.

Scrambled Egg on Brown Toast

Another favorite post-ride meal of ours is scrambled eggs on brown toast. The eggs give you an excellent protein boost paired with some good fats, and the bread is your source of carbohydrates. One piece of toast with butter and a couple of eggs is roughly 250 calories, and it’s a very filling meal. It does take a little time to make but well worth it.

Salmon, Wholegrain Rice, and Vegetables

It might not be the most interesting post-workout meal, but you get a lot of nutrients, and it’s going to be incredible for your recovery. Salmon, mixed with some wholegrain rice and mixed vegetables, is going to be incredibly filling and tick all the boxes you need. It’s great recovery food, and you get your fats and protein from your salmon, carbohydrates from your rice, and nutrients from your vegetables.

Greek Yogurt, Protein, and Nuts

For a quick and easy snack, you can make in less than a minute. We recommend a mix of greek yogurt, a scoop of protein powder, and a small amount of crushed up nuts. It’s very filling, easy on the stomach, and ticks all the boxes regarding nutrition.

Chicken Salad with Pasta

One of our favorite muscle-building recovery meals is chicken salad with pasta. It’s tasty with a little dressing on the top and is filled with protein from the chicken, carbohydrates from the pasta, and then all those healthy nutrients from the salad greens. You have to be careful not to add too much dressing and pasta, which can ramp up the calories.

When should I eat my Post Ride Food?

You will hear a lot of fitness professionals saying you need the recovery food in as soon as possible. It doesn’t mean you have to jump off the bike and instantly start eating your food in a tupperware box. We recommend getting it within an hour or latest, within two hours.

What should I avoid eating after a workout?

Eating after you workout is important; your body needs to replenish itself and start its recovery process. Many people don’t eat after a workout, which can have negative effects if you are trying to get fitter.

We recommend avoiding high glycemic foods like sweets or junk food. This will spike your energy levels and might end you having a bit of a sugar crash. Something is better than nothing, but you really are going to need to focus on proteins more than anything. If you are stuck for time, a protein bar is perfect.

Morning or Evening Spin Class Should I change what I eat?

Honestly, many people overthink when to eat and what to eat. No matter the time, morning or evening spinning classes, you can eat whatever you want, provided it offers the nutritional value you need. I personally am not shy to eat rice and vegetables for breakfast even though it might come across more as an evening meal.

Some cyclists try to focus on lots of carbohydrates in the morning to fuel the day and lots of protein in the evening to help the recovery while you sleep. Unless you are a professional athlete, then I wouldn’t overthink this.

What should I eat after a Spin Class to Lose Weight?

If you are trying to lose weight, then the key for you is to eat fewer calories than your body needs. This is what we call a calorie deficit. If you want to ensure those workouts help shift the pounds, the best thing you can do is track what you eat using applications such as MyFitnessPal.

When it comes to fueling a workout, you need to find a balance between not eating too many calories and having enough energy to work out properly. We recommend just keeping the calories low in your pre and post-workout meals to ensure the weight loss goes in the correct direction.

To learn more about calorie deficit, check out this excellent article from Healthline.

Conclusion

Food is a very unique subject for everyone. We all have different attitudes toward it, and we all have different tastes. When it comes to pre and post spin class meals, we highly recommend going for meals you like and ensuring that they tick the boxes to either give you energy or help your recovery. It’s also a great idea to keep checking your calories to ensure you’re not under or overeating.

Robbie Ferri

A Personal Trainer and Ultra Cyclist living in King's Lynn in Norfolk, UK. From Ultra Cycling World Records to Bikepacking Races and a huge amount of time on the gym floor training myself and clients my experience when it comes to Health and Fitness is vast.

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