Looking for the best cycling snacks? Welcome, my fellow hungry cyclist. This post is jam-packed with everything from quick high-energy sports nutrition to healthy snacks and long-ride endurance food. No more bonks, no more sour stomach, no more emergency stops at the 7-Eleven (actually who am I kidding, that last one is still totally a great idea).
I have personally eaten a LOT of food during bike rides. I eat when I ride my local roads and trails, and I also eat a TON when out bikepacking and traveling on my bike. Sometimes I even do these silly things called bikepacking races where the main goal is to eat ALL THE FOOD while pedaling for days or weeks. So rest assured, I have eaten everything there is to eat while biking, and I’m here to recommend the best cycling snacks for all types of rides.
All these cycling snack ideas made the cut because they’re packable, durable, and nutritionally on-target for a specific type of bike ride. From short and fast lunchtime workouts to long and leisurely weekend rides, and everything in between, I’ve got you covered. I’ve even got options for keto and vegan folks. Feeling snacky? Let’s get to it.
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Energy Snacks for Cycling
These high-carb cycling snacks are great for shorter, high-intensity rides or hard efforts within a longer ride. When your heartrate is up it can be hard to eat “real foods,” so cyclists — similarly to runners — often eat energy snacks like gels and gummies. These carb-bombs go down easily and are packed with quick-burning fuel to keep your pedals turning.
Be forewarned: for many of us, these sweet and carb-heavy snacks lose their appeal after a few hours. They provide a quick hit of energy, but too much at one time can lead to a crash (metabolically speaking) on the other side. You should mix this type of snack with more “real food” to keep you feeling full and energetic on long rides (find food ideas for long rides down below).
Sports gels: I consumed far too many of these while trail running back in the day, so I usually avoid them now. But I can’t deny that they’re a fantastic shot of energy when I’m teetering on the edge of a bonk or powering up a climb. There are abundant options to chose from, but for a varied sample I like Honey Stinger (organic and honey-based), Huma (fruit and chia seed, super healthy), and the classic Gu and Gu Roctane.
If you like the energy but don’t like the goopiness of gels, energy chews like Clif Cloks might be for you.
Dried fruit is an excellent high-energy cycling snack that feels refreshingly natural alongside more processed and artificial gels. My favorites are apricots, mango slices, and banana chips. You could also go for relatively unprocessed fruit leather snacks, though these are more expensive.
Tailwind drink mix: For longer intense efforts, Tailwind Endurance Fuel is an absolute lifesaver. It combines electrolytes and energy in a gut-friendly powder that doesn’t taste overly sweet and doesn’t leave funk in my water bottles. I use it during bikepacking races and it always tastes good and goes down easily, even under the gnarliest of circumstances.
Gummy candies: When you really need a dose of sugar for quick energy, gummy candies are a cycling favorite. Fill your feed bag with Swedish Fish, sour gummy worms, fruit snacks, or classic gummy bears and you’ll be unstoppable (for a couple hours at least, until the sugar crash hits).
Oreo cookies: This may be more of a bikepacker thing, but I love to put a roll of Oreos in my stem bag at the beginning of a big climb and reward myself with a cookie every few hundred vertical feet. I’m a huge chocolate lover but chocolate tends to get melty, so this is the next best thing.
Payday bars: A secret of long-distance cyclists and readily available in every convenience store, Paydays are the rare candy bar that doesn’t include chocolate and won’t make a melty mess on a hot day.
Aussie bites or granola clusters: The chewy oat-filled goodness of Aussie Bites makes them one of my favorite snacks for cycling and pretty much anything else. Granola clusters are a similar concept, and you can also DIY your own versions of these if that’s your jam.
Sweat and salty peanut butter bites: This favorite homemade snack packs a great balance of macronutrients and flavors; the sweet and salty combination is sure to taste good when you’re working hard on the bike.
A note on caffeine: Be cautious about cycling energy products that include caffeine. While the pick-me-up is nice, there may be a crash (metabolic, not literal, hopefully) coming on the other side. It’s also possible to become desensitized to caffeine, as any coffee lover knows, reducing its effectiveness when you really need it. I limit my caffeinated snacks to one or two per day during hard race efforts, and only for “emergencies” while training.
Nutrition Bars for Cycling
Bars make a fantastic cycling snack because they’re portable, convenient, and available in so many flavors and nutrient blends. You have a dizzying array of options: meal-replacement bars, energy bars, protein bars, fancy carb blends, organic and all-natural…
Everyone thinks they make the best nutrition bar, and the more boutique brands can be quite expensive. Personally I don’t want to pay several dollars per bar, so I tend to stick to the more mid-range options. Here are a few of my favorite bars for cycling.
ProBar Meal Bars: tasty flavors and natural whole-food ingredients make these bars feel more like “real food” than many. Gluten-free.
KIND Bars: heavy on nuts and low on processed ingredients. Avoid those with chocolate in hot weather. Gluten-free.
Bobo’s Oat Bars: high in carbs without being too high in sugar, and just plain yummy, almost like an oatmeal cookie. Gluten-free and vegan.
Clif Bars: a classic go-to full of carbs and quick energy, relatively affordable, and available in a ton of flavors.
Clif Nut Butter Bars: A bit more fat and less carbs than regular Clif bars, so better suited for longer or less intense rides, but in my opinion much better tasting than the originals
Nature Valley chewy protein bars: a decent protein bar that’s more affordable than most
Lenny & Larry’s Complete Cookie: basically a nutrition bar disguised as a cookie — what’s not to love?
When choosing a nutrition bar for your bike rides, keep in mind that different recipes are designed for different purposes. The relative amounts of the three macronutrients — carbs, fat, and protein — can tell you what purpose it’s best for.
Higher carb content provides more quick energy, helpful for powering up a climb or recovering from a bonk. Fat doesn’t provide much energy in the moment but will help you feel full and satisfied, which is important on longer rides.
Protein is mostly about helping your muscles recover afterward, so it isn’t essential during shorter rides. But including some protein in your cycling snacks makes it easy to hit your overall protein targets, especially if your rides are long and your snacks are taking the place of a full meal.
Savory Cycling Snacks
If you’ve been on a few long bike rides, you may have hit a point where the thought of another sports gel or energy bar makes you want to wretch. Savory snacks are a bit harder to find, but they can be so helpful for preventing palate fatigue. They’re often especially delicious on hot days, when the salt helps replenish your electrolytes.
Here are my favorite savory cycling snack ideas, many of which are also higher in protein and make great foods for long-distance riding too (more on that below).
Nuts: Simple salted peanuts, almonds, or cashews make a great savory cycling snack. You can up the savory factor even more with flavors like smokehouse or BBQ. Trail mix is also a good option; the slight sweetness from dried fruit can make the nuts more palatable without being overly sugary.
Beef jerky or snack sticks: An excellent source of protein and salt, great for a feeling of “real food” on longer rides, though not a source of quick energy (no carbs). I often find jerky too dry while riding, but I enjoy beef sticks (and I’ll shell out for the fancier grass-fed type over Slim Jims, when available).
Epic Bars: Like a cross between meat jerky and an energy bar, these interesting creations are a little weird but better than I expected. You might get used to them. As with jerky and meet sticks, these are very low-carb.
Savory bars: A few bar makers are coming out with savory flavors of energy bars and protein bars, like this “Italian Bruschetta” flavored protein bar from Afar.
Potato chips: An undeniable carb-heavy classic and perfect indulgence for hot days. Go ahead, let them get smushed and dump the crumbs into your mouth. When carrying a fresh bag, open the top slightly to let the air out for more efficient packing. Leftover french fries work too!
Healthy Cycling Snacks
There are so many ways to define “healthy” these days, and I’m no nutritionist. For purposes of cycling snacks I’ll define healthy as having more whole foods, less processing, some fruit and/or vegetable content, and minimal added sugar. If you’re feeling the urge to eat clean on your next ride, try these healthy cycling snack ideas.
Baby food pouches: Wait, hear me out. It’s basically a better sports gel! These little pouches go down easily, require zero chewing, come in tons of flavors, can be found at any grocery store, and are very nutritious. When you get tired of artificial gels, this little shot of fruit and veg will taste divine. If you really can’t stomach the baby food thing, they make versions for adults too.
Huma Chia Energy Gels: Imagine the most health-conscious real food sports gel ever, and you have Huma. Based on fruit puree and chia seeds, these offer the convenience of energy gels without that “is this actually food?” feeling.
Oranges: Relatively durable, and in the middle of a bike ride the juice from a fresh slice tastes like the nectar of the gods.
Apples: Similarly, a nice crisp apple makes a delicious healthy cycling snack and won’t get too banged up in your bike bag.
Dried fruit and fruit leather snacks: This is a good way to get some quick energy while retaining that “real food” feeling. I love dried apricots, mango slices, and banana chips. Fruit leathers are super convenient; look for those with real fruit and no added sweeteners.
Keto Cycling Snacks
To be honest, keto cycling snacks probably aren’t the best choice for most people. If you’re not already on a ketogenic diet, the lack of carbs in keto-friendly foods will have you bonking on longer rides. And if you are eating a ketogenic diet, you theoretically need very few snacks during your ride. You’ve trained your metabolism to burn fat, not the carbs everyone else needs to shovel in.
That said, eating is a nice diversion from pedaling now and then, and even keto folks eventually need to eat some food on a long ride. If you’re eating a keto or low-carb diet in normal life and want to maintain it on the road or trail, here are some excellent keto cycling snack ideas. (Some of these are repeats from the savory snacks section above.)
Nut butter packets: Many nut butter packets are high-fat and lowish-carb, even really tasty ones (chocolate hazelnut and almond butter, yum!), and the unsweetened kind are keto-friendly. They can be a little dry sometimes but they’re a great source of calories on-the-go. The little single-serve packets are cute, but you could just go straight for the more economical 6 ounce squeeze tube…
Nuts: Simple salted peanuts, almonds, or cashews make a great keto cycling snack.
Beef jerky or snack sticks: An excellent source of protein and salt, great for a feeling of “real food” on longer rides. I often find jerky too dry while riding, but I enjoy beef sticks (and I’ll shell out for the fancier grass-fed type over Slim Jims, when available).
Epic Bars: Like a cross between meat jerky and an energy bar, these odd creations are a little weird but better than I expected. You might get used to them.
Babybel cheeses: These delightful wax-wrapped cheese circles make a great keto cycling snack. They’re filling, a different texture than everything else you’re eating, and they hold up well in the heat. String cheese also works.
Prosciutto cheese wraps: If you’re feeling fancy, wrap some salty prosciutto around a string cheese stick. This low-carb cycling “appetizer” is all fat and protein, and a nice chance of pace from more minimalist snack foods.
Parmesan crisps: Many people struggle with the lack of crunchy crispy foods on a keto diet. If that’s you, add some parmesan crisps into your cycling snack repertoire. They’re almost as good as potato chips.
Perfect Keto Bars: Anything with “keto” in the name tends to be expensive, and these bars are no exception, but they are extremely good as far as keto-friendly bars go. There are a number of keto bars out there, but these are higher calorie than most and I find them very palatable even during exercise.
Vegan Cycling Snacks
Eating vegan on the bike does require a bit more planning, but fortunately you still have plenty of options. Many of the foods already listed above make great vegan cycling snacks, and there are also plenty of bars and other snacks made specifically with vegans in mind. Here’s a list:
Food for Long Bike Rides
Planning a big ride? You’ll want to approach nutrition a bit differently. Snacks for long-distance cycling need to provide a varied nutritional profile with more fat and protein, not just quick-burning carbs. They also need to be palatable and varied, so you still want to eat them even when you’re many hours deep and the thought of another sports gel makes you want to barf.
“Long” is a relative term. A long bike ride is a few hours to one person and across an entire country to another. I’ve done both, and for me it’s when a ride spans more than one mealtime (breakfast and lunch, for example) that quick energy snacks stop being enough. At that point, the best snacks for long-distance cycling should start to resemble meals, at least in their nutritional profile. On really long rides, lasting all day or multiple days, the more “real food” I can eat the happier I am.
Below are some of the best foods to eat on long bike rides, selected from elsewhere in this post plus a few that I only reach for on the longest of rides. It’s fine to also eat quick-burning energy snacks (i.e. carbs) on long rides, but interspersing them with more substantial and varied foods will help you stay strong and happy over the long haul. Though protein and fat don’t technically provide much energy while riding, they do help you feel full and satisfied and can help jump-start your post-ride recovery.
More meats and cheeses: You’re probably already eating plenty of carb-heavy snacks, so one strategy for a long bike ride is to simply mix in more foods with high protein and fat content. All the keto snack ideas from above — Epic Bars, beef sticks, Babybel cheeses, etc — are great options.
More savory snacks: Sweet snacks might taste great in the beginning of a ride, but as the hours wear on you’re more likely to crave something savory. All the savory snack ideas above — smoke-flavored nuts, potato chips, etc — offer tasty variety and help replenish salt lost in sweat.
More whole foods: Artificial-tasting processed snacks can grow less appetizing as you eat more of them. Ideas in the healthy snacks section above, like fresh fruit or fruit puree pouches, are a refreshing change.
Meal replacement and high-calorie protein bars: I covered energy bars above, but there’s a class of burly bars specifically designed to offer boatloads of calories and well-rounded nutrition. Here are some of my favorites.
Protein cookies: a genius invention for when you feel like eating cookies, but want to also get some protein and other nutrients to jump-start your post-long-ride recovery process. I like Lenny & Larry’s brand; they taste great and also contain a boatload of carbs for quick energy.
Sandwiches and wraps: A classic PB&J sandwich makes a great portable snack for long bike rides. It covers many nutritional bases and can go without refrigeration in your bike bag. If your long bike ride includes stops you could buy a pre-made deli sandwich at a gas station or grocery store. If you want to pack a full meal for the road, many other hiking lunch ideas also work for biking.
Tailwind drink mix: I listed it above in the quick energy section too, but Tailwind Endurance Fuel is one of my favorite ways to get more calories during very long bike rides. I can always get some Tailwind down even when my appetite is gone or my stomach feels off, and that goes a long way toward avoiding a bonk.
Carnation drink mix: Tailwind is amazing for liquid calories but can be a little pricey. An alternative is to mix a couple Carnation instant breakfast packets into your water bottle (just be sure to clean it well after your ride!).
Chocolate milk: If you’re stopping at a convenience store mid-ride, chocolate milk is one of the best treats there is. Go for whole milk if you can find it. The blend of sugar, fat, and protein is exactly what your body needs on a long bike ride, and the cool liquid tastes divine on a hot day.
How to Carry Your Cycling Snacks
Now that you’ve got your pile of cycling snacks, what’s the best way to carry them on your bike? On a short ride you can get away with tossing a few gels in your jersey pocket, if you even wear a cycling jersey, but what about when more space is needed?
Stem bags, also called feed bags for obvious reasons, are little cylindrical bags that nestle into the corner of your handlebar and stem. They’re perfect for carrying an open baggie of snacks that you can eat one-handed while you ride. See my favorite stem bags here.
Top tube bags serve a similar function to stem bags, perching within easy reach at the front of your top tube. Their long shape is perfect for carrying energy bars and perhaps even a sandwich. I like this simple and affordable one from Moosetreks (you can see it in the photo above).
If you need yet more space, there’s a wide array of handlebar bags, frame bags, and seat bags that can handle a full day’s worth of food or even more. Take your pick based on your riding style, bike setup, and desired capacity.
My fellow cyclists, did I miss your favorite mid-ride snack? Let me know in the comments down below!
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