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A Guide to Cycling Recovery

Often understated in terms of importance, recovery from cycling should play an essential part of your training plan. Whilst we’re all tempted to cram in those after-work hours wherever we can, not taking time out can actually hinder our progress much more than we expect. Read on for our top tips for cycling recovery and make sure you’re getting the most out of those hours in the saddle.

Table of Contents

8 Tips for Cycling Recovery

Proper rest and recovery after cycling can make your training more effective, reduce the risk of illness and help you get ready for your next tough session. There are many elements of rest and recovery so we’ve decided to share our top tips to boost your post-cycling rest and recovery:

1. Include a Cool Down 

Recovery starts before you even step off the bike when you include a cool down into your session on your smart bike. When you cool down, you gradually reduce your heart rate whilst keeping the blood pumping around your body, this helps deliver oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, which aids cycling recovery.

a cyclist resting after a bike ride with their helmet and water bottle


2. Try Warming Down

Alternatively to cooling down, try aiding your cycling recovery with a warm down. We know all too well this may be the last thing you want to do after a hard ride but you should never underestimate the importance of this warming down step. Taking a spin at a high cadence and low resistance will help rid your body of toxins and expire them as carbon dioxide.

3. Source Proper Nutrition Before & After Cycling

If you’ve got another ride to come, try and make sure you can fit in an easy to digest meal around 2 hours before, with 1-2gs of carbs for every kilo of your body weight- the first step to cycling recovery is preparation!

Post ride nutrition is key. During a ride you’ll burn a combination of glycogen from carbs and fat for fuel, and the harder the ride the more you’ll burn. This means that you need to eat properly after cycling. You’ll need a combination of:

  • Carbohydrate to replenish glycogen stores - 0.8-1g/kg (e.g. a 70 kg cyclist would need 56-70g of carbs - around 4 slices of wholemeal bread)
  • Protein to repair damaged muscle tissue - 20-25g (a small chicken breast)
  • Fat - a small amount of fat is thought to help promote muscle repair (half an avocado)

To optimise your cycling recovery, you should take advantage of the 30 minute ‘window of opportunity’ post-training. Try making something quick that’s easily absorbed, and a mix of carbohydrates and protein. Examples include 2 eggs on toast or a chicken sandwich. 

4. Stay Hydrated

Like nutrition, hydration is also extremely important. Performance starts to falter even at low water loss - and even a 4% body weight loss due to sweating can have an impact on how your muscles work. Dehydration will also lead to an increased core temperature and an increase of muscle glycogen use. For short rides, water is fine, but if you’re going hard consider adding some electrolytes to replace lost salts, or go for a sports drink that contains carbs and sugars for energy.

a cyclist holding a water bottle to fuel post-ride recovery

Keeping hydrated during your session is essential, but it’s just as important to focus on hydration during cycling recovery too. Once you complete your session you can aid recovery from cycling by drinking to thirst. If your session was particularly sweaty, you might want to add some electrolyte or salt tablets to aid hydration.

5. Take Rest Days

If you’re using a training plan to structure your training, it will include rest days and it’s important not to skip these. The allocated rest days help your body to repair itself after a tough session and ensure you’re fully prepared for the next one.

When you have a rest day, you should be doing just that, resting! However, if you’re itching to include some sort of activity into your day, try something like stretching, yoga or walking the dogs.

6. Try Active Recovery

If your training plan allows, or you’re not racing multiple days in a row, active recovery is always a good option. An easy spin will keep the blood flowing and help deliver the nutrients you need to your muscles. The quicker your muscles can repair themselves, the quicker you can get back to it!

7. Get Enough Sleep 

When you’re sleeping well, your body works on repairing your muscles which aids cycling recovery. Most athletes need at least seven hours of sleep and some sleep experts suggest that the hours slept before midnight can be more effective than hours slept after midnight, so you might want to start your bedtime routine a little earlier than usual. 

8. Find Downtime Before Bed

During tough bouts of training, it’s essential to get some rest and recovery from cycling. Everyone’s body and optimum sleep schedule is different- but it may be worth trying to get in an extra hour or power-nap if you can. Try not to train two hours before bed, and avoid caffeine and alcohol.

Improve your Performance with Wattbike

At Wattbike, improving your cycling performance is easier than ever thanks to our cycling data. You’ll find tailored insights to your training every time you ride. Whilst performance tests and training programmes mean you can benchmark your progress and reach your goals.