For years, pro cycling teams refueled largely at the mercy of whatever the hotel kitchen dished out. But in the past decade, nutrition became a central focus, as teams (and even whole races, like the Tour of California and USA Pro Challenge) hired chefs to manage meals for hungry racers. If only enthusiast cyclists had access to that: finish a great ride and walk in the house to wholesome, nutritious and tasty meals. But postride, we’re often too tired to cook, and hungry enough that we eat the most convenient thing we can find in the fridge or pantry. That can be counterproductive. Prepared foods or snacks often don’t have the right mix of nutrients our bodies need after exercise. And, if you’re riding in part to lose weight, you may eat too much of a calorie-dense prepared food before you feel full. But good, quick food isn’t impossible. Barb Grealish and her husband Chris have cooked for the Garmin-Sharp team for five years at big US races. She sat down to share some of her hard-earned wisdom on refueling tired, hungry cyclists, and some of her favorite recipes. Keep it Simple The fewer ingredients, the less time (and money) it takes to cook. But there’s another reason to stay simple, says Grealish. Exotic ingredients not only take time to source and prepare, but they can sit poorly on an athlete’s stomach. Simple, clean foods digest best. Keep it Natural Prepared foods aren’t just calorie-dense; they often contain chemicals to enhance flavor, color or shelf life that you’re better off without, says Grealish. She even makes her own granola. “Looking at store-bought granolas, a lot of them have things like preservatives,” she says. “What I make is just what it is: straight, basic food.” Use the Science Grealish is constantly texting Garmin’s sport science director, Robby Ketchell, with nutrition questions. “Should I use agave nectar or maple syrup in the granola,” she says of one example. They picked maple, because it has a lower glycemic index than agave for more sustained energy. They stay away from foods that cause an inflammatory response, like wheat, in favor of starches like sweet potatoes and rice. She also sometimes makes a refreshing post-ride drink with electrolytes and anti-inflammatories like ginger (recipe below). The magic food? Red beets, which are nearly a perfect fuel for endurance athletes, with carbohydrates, antioxidants, the electrolyte potassium, folate, and nitrates and glycine betaine, which promote cardiovascular health. Make Ahead No one wants to cook after a ride. But you can make most of the best postride foods in advance and either eat them cold or quickly warm them. Boil or roast beets and sweet potatoes ahead of time, then reheat them. Mix salads and bag them, with dressings to be added later. Even proteins like salmon and chicken can keep well in the fridge for about two days. One evening of cooking can yield meals for a weekend of hard rides. Grealish’s big secret, though, is pre-mixing and storing the elements that flavor meals. She’ll make and store pesto and salad dressings in advance. “They’re plant-based, so they’ll keep for up to a week in the fridge,” she says. Take pre-cooked cold chicken breast, add a sundried-tomato pesto and heat, and you’ve got a great, savory protein. Her secret weapon: a rice cooker. “Rice cookers keep rice warm, so set it before you leave and it will still be warm when you come back.” Buy one with a programmable timer, she says, and you can even come home to still-warm rice after a four- or five-hour ride. Season at the End Grealish seasons food lightly during cooking. Beets are boiled or roasted, then peeled; sweet potatoes are often simply tossed with a little olive oil and salt and roasted. She steams rice in a rice cooker with chicken broth or coconut water, which add nutrient value and flavor. “It’s never just plain water,” she says. On the dining table, staple condiments like hot sauce, balsamic vinegar, good olive oil and grated parmesan cheese allow you to mix and match and season to taste. A typical post-race meal includes a salad, several kinds of starches like beets, sweet potatoes and rice, and a lean protein. Get the recipes, here.