When it comes to fueling, our primary objective after a ride is to restore muscle and liver glycogen by consuming carbohydrates.
This process of turning fuel into glycogen is called “glycogen synthesis” .
Whatever stage of fueling you’re in, the type of carbohydrate you consume can impact the rate of glycogen synthesis; this brings us to a few terms that factor into “best practice” guidelines for after ride fueling . First up is the glycemic index or “GI”.
Glycemic Index (GI)
A food’s “GI” is defined by the amount it increases blood glucose and insulin after consumption. In general terms, the higher the GI, the more rapidly a carbohydrate is available as fuel to the body.
If you’re aiming to refuel as quickly as possible, choosing moderate to high glycemic index foods are your best option .
Glycemic Load (GL)
A food’s “GL” combines the glycemic index with the quantity of carbohydrate in a serving. In a practical sense, this means foods that are denser with carbohydrate carry a higher GL, while some foods that have a high GI but are less dense with carbs (like a watermelon), will have a lower GL.
To get a clearer picture of the approximate GI and GL of common foods, check out the chart below. GL is noted on the right of GI in parentheses.
|Pancakes: 102/(23)||Bagel: 69/(24)||Potato Chips: 54/(11)|
|Baked Potato: 86/(26)||Doughnut: 67/(17)||Banana: 52/(12)|
|Cornflakes: 81/(21)||Coke: 63/(16)||Orange Juice: 50/(13)|
|Rice: 72/(30)||Power Bar: 56/(24)||Spaghetti: 49/(24)|
|Watermelon: 72/(4)||Snickers: 55/(19)||Tomato or Broccoli: 15/(1)|
Armed with some basic info about glycogen synthesis and the glycemic index, let’s transition to specific guidelines for fueling after your ride.
- Jeukendrup, A.E. and M. Gleeson, Sport Nutrition. 2019.
- Burke, L.M., et al., Carbohydrates for training and competition. Journal of Sports Sciences, 2011. 29: p. 17-27.
- Atkinson, F.S., K. Foster-Powell, and J.C. Brand-Miller, International tables of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2008. Diabetes Care, 2008. 31(12): p. 2281-3.
- Kuipers, H., et al., Carbohydrate feeding and glycogen synthesis during exercise in man. Pflugers Arch, 1987. 410(6): p. 652-6.