We’ve already covered fueling before and during your rides; in today’s post, we’re focusing on after you cross the finish line.

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” [1].

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 [1]. 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 [2].

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)
Glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL) data adapted from references 1 & 3.

Armed with some basic info about glycogen synthesis and the glycemic index, let’s transition to specific guidelines for fueling after your ride.

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  1. Jeukendrup, A.E. and M. Gleeson, Sport Nutrition. 2019.
  2. Burke, L.M., et al., Carbohydrates for training and competition. Journal of Sports Sciences, 2011. 29: p. 17-27.
  3. 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.
  4. Kuipers, H., et al., Carbohydrate feeding and glycogen synthesis during exercise in man. Pflugers Arch, 1987. 410(6): p. 652-6.