Solid food vs gels?

Curious to know what people use on the bike. Do they lean towards solid food (bars etc) or more liquid forms of energy (gels and drinks)?

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Gels and the occasional banana. Turns out that solid food upsets my stomach, often enough.


I was coached by Pav a while ago and he got me doing first half of every ride or event with solid foods (bars) and second half gels. Finishing with sugary drink at the end if it is a self-supported event (everesting I did this with great success)


I like to start with bars and switch over to gels towards the end. My favourite bars are High5 because I like the taste, they don’t stick to the wrapper and stay in one piece. On the gel side, I use SIS Beta Fuel. My stomach can get upset with carb drinks so I stick to the mineral tablets most of the time.


I like to use real food and supplement with gels and other sports nutrition products. I’ve got some fantastic cycling recipe books. 2 of my favourite recipes are

  1. Oreo rice cakes- got this from a GCN video
    Homemade ‘Rocket Fuel’?! | How to Make a 2400 Calorie Energy Drink and Other Top Cycling Recipes - YouTube

Recipe from this excellent book

  1. Brioche rolls with full fat soft cheese, torn up prosciutto and fresh basil leaves. Chop rolls in half and each half is 1-2 mouthfuls. The fresh basil is a blast of gorgeousness in the mouth and tastes fantastic. You can also do sweet variants with honey and mashed banana.

The thing to bear in mind with normal food is that it’s usually more bulky than highly processed sports nutrition products because it contains more water. Nutritionally this is a good thing as the body doesn’t need to take onboard water to process the food your eating, however it can present logistical challenges to carry it all.


I tend to eat real food with a gel or so for later in the ride if required. A lot depends on the ride and intensity. I make my own carb drink but on long events/rides carrying anything to refill a bottle isn’t easy. So I might start a 100mile + ride with two 750ml bottles of drink mix along with solid food. I’ll refill the first bottle as soon as its empty and will then alternate between the mix and water while still eating real food.

Depending on the intensity of the ride I will mix in salted cashew nuts some times in with my home made fig rolls and oat bar chunks that I have in my top tube bag.


Sorry for the delayed response everyone! Some great advice here, thank you.

I am late to this and new to the forum. I ride Audax’s and food is something I’m always adjusting. I suspect my approach may not be of use to day rides or 100 milers where speed is important.

Overall I avoid gels as a regular fuel on rides because on longer rides, 600+, they lead to mouth ulcers, stomach cramps, diarrhea.

I am vegan and try to fuel on natural, homemade flapjacks, lentil rolls, peanut butter and marmalde sandwhiches, bananas, etc. Baby food in the squeezy pouches is good, banana sandwhiches, fruits, packets of microwave rice, salads with falafels, as much natural as i can to get. My both fuel and ongoing recovery.

I’m always attempting to plan ahead, ie what fuel can i eat now to ensure i have energy in a few hours time when it metabolosies. Gels give a spike but dont give sustained fuel.

At some point on long rides taste changes. A quick chinese meal is heaven, salty chips fantastic, - can’t bear mcdonalds but love the pancakes and salty fries.

I carry a gel or two as back up for those climbs when I’m all in but often don’t use them. Tend to use gels for intense turbo sessions.


This is really useful, thank you!

…well…depends on what type of ride/event you are fueling for…



how many miles per effort?

how much effort per mile?

whats the weather like?

hilly? flat? mixed bag?

how long in the saddle?

so many questions, lots of variables

i dont race so cannot offer any experience to fuel for that…but i do ride in a endurance/touring manner, several days, “stages”, back to back, grand tour style…50-70+ miles a day, 6K-12,000+ ft of climbing …that said, in a GENERAL way this is how i fuel for those good times…

morning -
eat breakfast! muesli, yogurt, fresh fruit, LOTS of espresso, hydrate.

i dont eat “heavy” in the AM, as it will sit hard in the stomach

mid-day -

this is the tough part…as i will probably be crazy hungry, but will need to moderate and not eat “heavy” rich foods as generally there is more riding ahead and a heavy rich meal will sit hard in the “top” of my stomache…my gut will lock it up high in the track and its super in comfortable

afternoon/post ride -
Dinner! EAT BIG BABY!!!

i get at the food early…super early! 5pm when possible, which very hard to do in italy, france, spain as places dont open till 7pm or later…not only does that 7pm timeline get me to bed late, but im in bed with a load in my stomache, which is bad for sleep…and my body is not ready to shit before i roll again the next day

ill save the late night party meals to the eve of rest day

fueling is a dance…gotta get the body in tune, in rythm to what im doing, how im doing it and when im doing it…more often than not im timing my meals so i can be sure that im shitting before i roll the next day…that said ive become a big fan of the prune europe…meal timing is essential!

on the bike? nothing really…surely no gels…but i really love a good cafe stop…espresso, local pastry…im had some FANTASTIC strudel in the alps/dolomites!!!..a quick, good conversation with local…in/out about 10-15mins…do that a couple times a day between breakfast/lunch and between lunch/finish and life is good.

often times ill skip the mid afternoon cafe stop and use the promise of a beautiful big meal (often made fresh at the chateau or villa, or dine out) this is the carrot, the bait that gets my ass in gear, gets me back to the barn asap…the imagery of a big festive tasty meal with others gets me in go fast mode…often putting in the bulk of the days work in those last few hours…with that mental game im able to smash thru all kinds of pain, dig really deep, full gas, pulling the group along…i love being the 2hr lead out man back to the villa :muscle:t2::stuck_out_tongue:

thats my "fueling strategy":+1:t2::star_struck:

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… Even though this is geared towards pros half my age, principals are the same, interesting none the less!!!

@kevstorr care to share your fig roll and oat chunk recipes?

One of the simple ones I do is this fig roll/ball

  • 1/2 cup almond/walnut/macadamia nuts chopped or swap for rolled oats
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 6 dried figs
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut or similar to coat the outside
  • 1/ 4 cup ground flax seed

Then just blend all a part from the coconut and either make mouth sized balls or flatten out in a tray and store in the freezer. Or put in fridge for about an hour to firm them up.

I might add some chia seeds as well, or peanut butter or cinnamon and perhaps cocae powder to change things up. I also added matcha tea for a different flavour.

Then I have an oven bake version as it has a biscuit outer. The filling is just the same sort of mix without the flax seed and rolled oats.

For the dough.
1tbsp chia or flax seeds
100g or 1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 tsp bicarb
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp maple syrup

Soap the chia seeds in 3 tablespoons of water to form a gel
Put the oats in a food processor chop to make a flour
Then mix with all the dry ingredients.
Add the rest of the ingredients and chia gel and mix well to make a dough.

Roll it out to a strip, you can play with the thickens and width depending on the final size rolls you want but say about 10cm 4" wide 4-5mm thick.
Spread the filling mix down the centre and then fold over the sides to meet in the middle. Press gently to stick it all together some baking sheet helps hear and then put it and the baking sheet onto a baking tray and bake for about 20-30mins @ 175 degrees C.

Hope this helps. there are a ton of recipes online for energy balls/bites. I’ve just tweaked things over the years.

Another simple one is Oat Banana and raisin cookies.

2 medium ripe bananas
about 1/2 cup 100g of raisins or chopped figs
320g of oats

Then just mix form some bite sized pieces and bake for 10-15mins @ 175


Thanks for the share - can’t wait to try this.