For cyclists to perform at their peak, a balanced and healthy diet designed for their demands is key. And with athletes more and more embracing vegetarian and paleo diets to get the energy they need, SRQ spoke with local nutritionists and foodie fitness gurus to talk balancing intake before, during and after the ride, no matter the diet.


Channeling ancestral roots, the paleo diet focuses on fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, eggs, healthy oils and nuts. And for working out, Virginia Ray Harshman, a personal trainer and certified sports nutritionist with the International Society of Sports Nutritionists, recommends a focus on fruits, vegetables and nuts. Also a cyclist, Harshman understands what fellow riders need to refuel and suggests a nutritious smoothie before exercising, nuts or dried fruit as a during-workout snack and lean meats or baked seafood for post-workout nutrition, but nothing deep-fried. And while classic paleo suggests eggs and meat after the ride, for those not wanting a full meal, Harshman recommends protein-rich shakes containing plantains, carrots, beets or whey protein power. “The best post-workout snack is undoubtedly whey protein,” she says. “You can get creative with your whey and make a shake, smoothie, or bake some bars with it.” Keeping this in mind, riders should avoid sugary fruits post-workout due to the glucose traveling directly to the liver, as opposed to the muscles, not aiding in the recovery of a strenuous ride.

PRE-WORKOUT  Fresh Juice

Taking Harshman up on her protein-rich drinks, CROP Juice offers a variety of different healthy creations, including Radiance—a juice made up of kale, chard, carrot, green apple, pear, beet, celery and cucumber. CROP Juice, 2320 Gulf Gate Dr., Sarasota, 941-923-8640. 


When staying true to a paleo diet, Larabars are a great option. Flavors include apple pie, banana bread, cashew cookie and pecan pie. Stay away from bars containing peanuts. Contrary to the name, peanuts are actually legumes, not nuts, and therefore do not count as paleo-friendly. Whole Foods, 1451 1st St., Sarasota, 941-316-4700.

POST-WORKOUT  Two-Egg Protein

Finish the ride in time and stock up on protein with a stop at the Toasted Mango Café for the simple Two Eggs dish. This meal comes with two eggs served in any fashion, but feel free to add an extra protein boost with a side of turkey sausage (bacon, if one must) for $2.Toasted Mango Café, 430 North Tamiami Trl., Sarasota, 941-388-7728.


Yvette Bernosky, beach body coach, personal trainer and owner of Yvette’s Health and Fitness Center, advises vegetarians to consume a variety of nutrients, including proteins, carbohydrates and plenty of water. “Proteins are going to help you maintain and build muscle,” she says. “Carbohydrates give your body energy and fats help you absorb nutrients into your body as well, having an efficient neuromuscular system and brain function.” Bernosky encourages pre-workout meals to be two hours in advance, allowing for the food to digest and work as fuel. She also recommends having protein immediately after a workout since it helps repair muscles. In addition to wholesome nutrients, Bernosky suggests riders drink plenty of water before, during and after workouts. Not only does water hydrate and enhance energy levels, but muscles, tendons and ligaments are primarily composed of water, making hydration necessary for increased performance and recovery. Yvette’s Health & Fitness Center, 1743 Fruitville Rd., Sarasota, 941-376-9599.


The Mediterranean Tofu Plate, rich in protein and carbohydrates, includes mushrooms, olives and sundried tomatoes sautéed in basil pesto and served with toast, working as a healthy and filling pre-workout vegetarian dish. Simon’s Coffee House,5900 South Tamiami Trl., Sarasota, 941-926-7151.

DURING-WORKOUT  Kind Fruit and Nut Bar

These bars taste good and do good. All-natural and made of whole nuts, 5% of the profits go towards the PeaceWorks Foundation’s OneVoice initiative, advocating for co-existence in the Middle East. The bars come in a variety of flavors such as dark chocolate nuts and sea salt, caramel almond and sea salt and almond and coconut. Richard’s Foodporium, 2856 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota, 941-316-0546.

POST-WORKOUT  St. Armands Salad

The St. Armands Salad contains organic spring mix, oranges, red onions, feta cheese, walnuts and homemade mango vinaigrette, providing healthy proteins and carbohydrates in fresh natural ingredients. Green Zebra Café, 476 John Ringling Blvd., Sarasota, 941-388-2848.

Non Restrictive

Not adhering to any dietary restrictions, a non-restrictive diet does not rule out any products but still focuses on healthy eating. Chef Alyson Zildjian of Zildjian Catering creates healthy dishes and works mostly with athletes, nutritionists and coaches. “Don’t use nitrates or preservatives,” she says. “Use healthy fats and balance good carbs, which can be gotten from veggies.” Rather than using items with nitrates or preservatives, try opting for fresh and healthier options, eliminating unnecessary chemical intake. Contrary to the negative connotation associated with fat, there are healthy fats too, including avocados, nuts and beans. Much like fats, carbs are not always bad for you either. Vegetables serve as a healthy way to take in carbohydrates and can be served grilled, baked or raw. As a whole, consuming fats, carbs and proteins is key with balancing a healthy diet. Zildjian Catering, Sarasota, 941-363-1709.

PRE-WORKOUT  Avocado Toast

This avocado toast includes thick-cut whole grain toast topped with fresh smashed avocado, EVOO, lemon and Malden sea salt, served with two basted eggs, balancing protein, fat and carbs. First Watch, 1395 Main St., Sarasota, 941-954-1395. 


Cliff Bars are an eco-friendly, healthy snack made for anyone on the go. Some flavors include apricot, cinnamon almond swirl, berry pomegranate chia, blueberry crisp and many others. Fit2Run, 140 University Town Center Dr. Space 110, Sarasota, 941-358-5100.

POST-WORKOUT  Baja Chicken Salad

The Baja Chicken at Fast N Fresh can be served as a salad or a wrap. The dish contains romaine, shredded cheddar, sweet yellow corn, black beans, red onion, diced tomatoes, tri-colored tortilla chips and grilled or spicy chicken with a house-made low-fat chipotle ranch, combining flavor with healthy ingredients. Fast N Fresh, 32 South Osprey Ave. #103, Sarasota, 941-702-2900.