Even for the most disciplined pro cyclists, coffee rides are a must. Stopping at a local coffee house on group rides or riding solo to one as a destination is simply part of cycling culture. While these pit stops are a fun way to support local businesses, caffeinate, use the restroom, have a treat, and socialize, they are not the best thing for your training. Stopping for too long mid-ride signals to your body that your training is over and recovery has begun. This makes it very difficult for your body and mind to continue the same effort when you get back to riding.
In addition to the break in training, the calories you consume here can make it difficult for your body to digest and feel energized to keep training. Many cyclists refuse to take in the needed 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour during training only to triple that intake in one coffee stop visit. This works against your performance and overall health and body composition. Next time you roll up to a coffee house, try these picks to keep you on the right track.
- Aim to keep the stop under 30 minutes.
- Do the intense part of training before or after the stop, don’t break it up.
- Use them as a destination for recovery spins.
- Use them as a way to break up 3-hour (or longer) endurance rides.
- Start or finish the ride at one instead of using it as a break mid-ride.
Mid-Ride Coffee Shop Picks
- Vanilla latte 16 ounces—or any flavor you prefer with any milk—will provide roughly 250 calories and 40 grams of carbohydrate, which is an ideal amount for most to fuel an hour of training without putting strain on digestion. The caffeine will also perk you up.
- Espresso with sugar is great for short, intense rides when you just need a little something to get you going. Take a shot or two of espresso with sugar or simple syrup to reap the benefits of caffeine for hard training without putting extra fat or protein into your gut, which slows the ability to utilize those carbs.
- Iced black tea is a good choice if you’re not into coffee. Tea is a great option for providing hydration and antioxidants with just a hint of caffeine. This drink is virtually calorie free, so pair it with a bar or food option to fuel your legs to keep going.
- Oatmeal isn’t the most exciting thing to order at a coffee shop, but it’s a smart one. This meal will fuel your body with satisfying complex carbohydrates to keep you riding for hours.
- Turkey pesto panini is a good option when riding for hours because you are likely to ride through a normal mealtime. This can disrupt your body’s regular rhythm for food intake, causing you excessive hunger and potential to hit the wall. Grabbing a sandwich like this provides a satisfying option without going overboard. You can even wrap half, stick it in your kit pocket and eat the rest in an hour or so.
- Bagel with schmear is a great option for an endurance ride. The combination of easily digestible carbohydrates and fat will provide both fast and lasting energy to keep you pedaling.
- Oatmeal cookie is another option when you know oatmeal would be a good choice but the freshly baked cookies just look and smell too good to resist. Grab an extra, wrap it up and take it with you for later in the ride. You’ll be more motivated to ride hard knowing you have a delicious cookie waiting to consume!
Skip These Coffee Shop Options
- White chocolate mocha 16 oz is an indulgent treat that will set you back 450 calories, roughly what most of us burn in an hour of moderate cycling. The high-fat content will likely make you feel heavy and sluggish when hopping back on the bike. Scale back with a honey oat milk latte or simple cappuccino.
- Grain bowls or salads may seem like good grab-n-go options, and while they are a healthy choice in general, they are likely to leave you feeling bloated and lacking energy on the bike. Save a meal like this for after the ride.
- Glazed donut—fried dough dipped in sugar coating…what’s not to love?! The 27 grams of fat (13 grams of which are saturated) will only make it difficult for your heart to pump blood efficiently to working muscles and is likely to cause gastric distress. Opt for a bagel or slice of banana bread instead.
- Caramel Blended coffee drink 16 oz—and most blended beverages in general—is a bad idea. Most varieties come in at almost 500 calories, more than 10 grams of fat, and about 70 grams of carbohydrate. This is more than your body needs to ride your bike. If you need to cool down, opt for your latte over ice.
READ THIS NEXT: 10 Health Benefits of Coffee