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The 30 Best Carbs for Energy Through Every Ride

This list is packed with options you can enjoy as a snack or a meal.

good carbs to eat, good carbohydrate fiber rich food
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We’re all guilty of eating the same things over and over again, no matter how often we try to switch it up. As a cyclists, this habit can work both for and against us. While you’re in the saddle, you want to eat foods that you know will give you long-lasting energy without putting too much stress on your gut. That’s why it’s tempting to stick with the same gummies, gels, and bars you’re used to consuming. However, doing this can hinder your performance, especially if you aren’t consuming the right nutrients or getting all you need. Plus, when you’re off the bike, you want a mix of nutrients from various foods to get all the vitamins and minerals required for healthy living.

Because carbs fuel your workouts and keep your body awake and your brain thinking clearly, we gathered a list of good carbs to eat, whether you’re clocking miles or just interested in overhauling your fridge and pantry with healthier whole food options. Let these best carbs for energy improve your rides and your day.

good carbs to eat, chopped sweet potato
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Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potato fry fans, you’re in luck! These orange root vegetables are chock-full of nutrients. A medium-sized cooked potato has about 103 calories, 24 grams of carbs, four grams of fiber, and a significant amount of vitamin A, vitamin C, and manganese.

good carbs to eat, cooked quinoa in a wooden plate on the table, top view
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Vegetarians and vegan love quinoa because it is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids. Another bonus: one cup of quinoa contains about five grams of fiber (for comparison, brown rice has about 3.5 grams of fiber), so it will keep you full and energized for even longer.

good carbs to eat, close up of orange slice on wooden cutting board
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There are few things more refreshing than juicy orange slices. While oranges are usually touted for their high levels of vitamin C, the energizing fruit is also a good source of fiber, folate, and vitamin B.

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These starchy legumes—also known as garbanzo beans—perform double-duty as both a complex carb and a protein, offering 45 grams of carbs, 12 grams of fiber, and 14 grams of protein per one cup of drained beans. They are also a great source of minerals like manganese, folate, zinc, and iron.

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There’s a reason oatmeal often ranks at the top of the list for pre-ride breakfasts: it’s filling, but easy on the stomach at the same time. That’s because it offers the perfect amount of fiber—4 grams per half cup—to keep you more satisfied than cold cereal does without sending you peeling off for a pit stop.

good carbs to eat, fresh grapefruit on chopping board
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These tart citrus fruits are made up of 91 percent water, which makes them a great for rehydrating. Like oranges, they also pack in vitamin C, fiber, and potassium.

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Black Beans

Starchy black beans are a great source of protein, fiber, potassium, and iron. Cook these with a pinch of salt and wrap them up with roasted veggies, cheese, and protein burrito for a satisfying recovery meal. (Need a burrito recipe? We’ve got you.)

good carbs to eat,fresh sliced whole grain loaf of bread
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Whole Wheat Bread

Whole wheat bread is a better carb choice than white bread because it contains more fiber and protein (not to mention essential nutrients like iron), which means it will take longer to digest, giving you sustained energy. Just be sure to select 100 percent wheat bread to make your jersey pocket PB&Js, as breads listed as “made with whole grains” sometimes only have a meager amount of the good stuff.

good carbs to eat, brown wholewheatwholemeal dry pasta spilling overhead view
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Whole Wheat Pasta

When you think “carb load,” chances are a plate of pasta comes to mind. While white noodles drowning in marinara can be simply a sugar bomb, whole wheat pasta provides protein, fiber, iron, and minerals to keep your body full and running smoothly. There are great gluten-free varieties of pasta, too: try Banza, pasta made out of chickpeas that has 25 grams of protein and 13 grams of fiber per serving.

good carbs to eat, gardenpeas
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Green Peas

These starchy seeds are often covered up in pot pies or soups, but that doesn’t mean they should be overlooked. While they aren’t crazy high in carbs—they only have about 21 grams of carbs per cup—they have 8 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber to keep you satisfied. For a well-rounded meal, add peas to a stir-fry of rice and chicken.

good carbs to eat, bowls of different lentils
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This staple dish in Middle Eastern and Indian cultures is cooked similarly to grains, but it is actually a legume. One cup of cooked lentils provides you with 18 grams of protein, 15 grams of fiber, 40 grams of carbs, as well as nutrients like folate, manganese, iron, and phosphorous.

good carbs to eat, squash
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Acorn Squash

This squash variety is a cousin to pumpkins and butternut squashes, and is known for its green skin and acorn-like shape. The starchy vegetable is high in beta-carotene (which our bodies convert into vitamin A), vitamin C, and potassium.

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Barley is a little more chewy and less sweet than other grain varieties, which makes it great for adding earthy flavor and texture to stews and risottos. One cup of cooked barley has about 45 grams of carbs, four grams of protein, and six grams of fiber.

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Chocolate Milk

Since we started playing sports, we’ve been hearing about how chocolate milk is the ideal recovery drink. While we have our holdbacks—mainly, that the drink contains a lot of added sugar—chocolate milk does offer protein, vitamin D, and calcium along with the sweet stuff. So go ahead and pour up.

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Think “potassium,” and bananas probably come to mind. Along with potassium (one banana offers 12 percent of your daily value of the mineral), the fruit contains energy-boosting carbs (27 grams) and 3 grams of fiber—enough to keep you full without causing stomach issues.

good carbs to eat, wooden crate of red apples
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The old saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” may have some merit: a medium-size fruit contains 19 grams of natural sugar, 4.4 grams of fiber, and is high in polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants. Dip the slices in some peanut butter for a carb-protein power snack.

Brown rice
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Brown Rice

Of the grains on this list, brown rice has one of the highest amounts of carbs and lowest amounts of protein and fiber—but that’s not always a bad thing, especially when you’re fueling up for an afternoon workout or early-morning session. Brown rice differs from white in that it contains wheat germ and bran, which supply fiber and protein.

good carbs to eat, woman holding bowl with fresh blueberries harvesting concept female hands collecting berries
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One cup of this superfood staple packs in 15 grams of natural sugar, 3.6 grams of fiber, and nearly a quarter of your daily value of vitamin C. Add a handful of blueberries to your morning oatmeal or smoothie for a satisfying, nutritious boost.

Green Pears on Wooden Board
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Pears have a similar nutritional makeup to apples—both are around 100 calories per medium-size fruit—but pears have slightly more fiber (6 grams) and less sugar (17 grams). The fruit is a good source of vitamin C and vitamin K, which is a critical vitamin for maintaining healthy bones.

good carbs to eat, bowl of popcorn viewed from above
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No, we aren’t talking about the butter-soaked movie theater version. Made from corn kernels that expand and puff up when heated, this low-fat (if you leave out the butter) whole grain food offers carbs along with protein and fiber, which makes it a great preride snack.

healthy grain salad and bread for lunch
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This hearty, nutty-tasting grain contains wheat, which differentiates it from the gluten-free grain varieties, like rice or quinoa. But if gluten’s not an issue for you, this dish is a great way to add more protein, fiber, iron, and zinc to your diet.

Natural creamy Greek yoghurt on wooden table background
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We all know Greek yogurt is king when it comes to protein per cup, but Greek is very low in carbs, whereas regular yogurt might give you a better sugar boost before hitting the road. For a more satisfying snack, add some protein, such as a nut butter or seeds.

good carbs to eat, fresh carrot and carrots slices on table
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Carrots get their bright orange color from beta-carotene, which is converted by the body into vitamin A, a nutrient that helps support healthy vision, reproduction, and the immune system. Roast these starchy, fiber-full vegetables like you would sweet potato fries for a filling side.

Date palm on a traditional craftsman market
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Dates are basically nature’s candy. Chock-full of natural sugars, they are a great, quick alternative to processed gummies. Even better, they also contain essential nutrients like iron, potassium, vitamin B6, and fiber.

good carbs to eat, dark chocolate bar with cocoa beans
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Dark Chocolate

While the benefits of dark chocolate have been touted for years, it’s important to remember that not all of bars get a healthy sticker. It all depends on how much cocoa solids (which provide nutrients like iron and antioxidants) the bar contains; if it is a 70 percent dark chocolate bar, that means it is made of 70 percent cocoa solids and 30 percent sugar. Aim for a percentage of 70 or higher to get your sugar fix while also enjoying the health benefits.

Sliced and whole beetroot on kitchen paper
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Most people either love or hate these blood-red veggies, but if you lean towards the latter team, here’s a few health benefits to sway your opinion: beets are relatively high in fiber and potassium, as well as vitamin C, iron, and magnesium. They also contain nitrates, which may help to boost your performance on the bike.

Variety of tortillas
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Whole Wheat Tortillas

Burritos and tacos are staples of cyclists’ diets for a reason: They’re simple to make, portable, and delicious. To get a little more health bang for your buck, though, you should opt for tortillas made with 100 percent wheat, as they have more fiber and nutrients, like B vitamins, than white versions. If you’re gluten-free, corn tortillas are a great alternative.

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White Potatoes

While white potatoes don’t get nearly as much love as sweet potatoes do in the health food world, these starchy root vegetables are still packed with vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B6, potassium, and magnesium.

good carbs to eat, sweet canned corn in bowl on darl black stone slate board
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Corn straddles both vegetable and grain categories, because it can be eaten off the cob or transformed into grain dishes like grits, cornbread, and polenta. Along with supplying energy-boosting carbs, the starchy vegetable is a good source of vitamin C, B vitamins, and magnesium.

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Whole Grain Cereal

The trouble with most breakfast cereals is that they are high in sugar but low in fiber and protein, leaving you hungry for more mid-way through your ride. If you don’t want to give up your daily bowl, though, try opting for whole grain cereals that are higher in fiber and lower in sugar, such as Nature’s Path Flax Plus Multigrain Flakes or even better, Shredded Wheat.

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Digital Editor Hailey first got hooked on running news as an intern with Running Times, and now she reports on elite runners and cyclists, feel-good stories, and training pieces for Runner's World and Bicycling magazines.
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