I sometimes do bicycle tours where I travel on the order of 12h a day for several days. That is, I need lots of energy a day, and I need to keep this up, so I really shouldn't have an energy deficit.

It's often difficult to find suitable food for this. Can you recommend me some vegetarian (vegan is a bonus) food? Requirements in list form are as follows:

  • High nutrition value per volume and weight.

    • It's okay if I need to add water to it before eating/drinking it.
    • It should mostly be carbs, with some decent amount of protein. Only little fat (not for energy, but to be able to use those vitamins and stuff which can only be used together with fat). I will be touring through France so there will be opportunities to resupply, but only basic stuff, no time to search for "specialty" food. Bread, fresh fruit, things which are eaten by lots of people in France can be assumed to be available to me roadside.
  • Easily digestible (otherwise the digestive system can't keep up with the raw amount of it)
  • It doesn't need to be completely balanced (after all after at most 2 weeks I'll resume my usual varied diet), but can't be completely off either, because after all I'm taxing my body a lot and need lots of stuff.
  • Either possible to carry a significant amount of it or widely available (I don't want more than 10kg or 20kg of baggage and that includes stuff other than food)
  • Keeps unrefrigerated
  • Doesn't crumble or squish easily (having to put it in rigid protecting containers adds a considerable amount of weight)
  • No cooking which goes above adding some boiling water and waiting a couple of minutes - time is also an issue.

This is in the context of this question (although that was in Italy instead of France).

  • 1
    You might also want to have a look over at bicycles.se, specifically the nutrition tag. Although a question superficially similar to yours was deemed off-topic, many of the recommended ride-foods are vegetarian anyway (e.g. nut/seed/oat-based snack bars, dried fruit) and quite a few are vegan (if you avoid whey-based protein supplements ). This is also similar to multi-day hikes, where vegetarian food is good because most forms of non-veg food that keep well are heavy.
    – Chris H
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 9:28
  • A source of hot water makes a massive difference -- and the weight of a hexamine stove is so small you might even save it back on dehydrated food (soya meals for example). Where are you touring? Are campfires a possibility? What sort of resupply options do you have (even fresh fruit at the roadside makes a difference)?
    – Chris H
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 9:32
  • @ChrisH Yeah, I updated the question. I'll take a hexamine stove, it's in France. Campfires take too much time. On cycling SE several questions like mine were closed. I fear mine has problems like those too, it's really a bit broad. On the other hand, the requirements aren't that easy to fulfill, so it doesn't seem an answer couldn't list the principal things to look out for.
    – Nobody
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 10:30
  • 1
    France makes a big difference -- bread is available in the smallest villages and the default loaf is vegan, so on many days you'll be able to use this as a significant source of carbs (it's light if bulky, and very cheap). You should investigate the other bakery products -- many use butter but are vegetarian.
    – Chris H
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 10:35
  • 1
    Have you considered powdered meals like Joylent (jimmyjoy.com) even as a suplement of your regular meals? A package of around 600g is more or less 2000 kcal, it's quite easy to prepare and eat and would keep your vitamin needs covered.
    – S -
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 13:51

4 Answers 4


On caloric density with bikepacking

In the past decade, I (vegan) have gone on several multi-thousand-kilometer-long cycling trips and also multi-day or longer-than-a-week trekking trips. These two types of trips are very different!

In the case of trekking, you will likely be deep in the mountains. You'll see few people, you'll get your water from streams, and you'll have to carry every calorie you consume with you from day #1. Calorie density is important here!

In the case of cycling, you'll be able to carry more weight. You'll probably ride on roads and pass shops selling fresh fruit, restaurants /street vendors selling prepared food, and grocery super stores with a plethora of vegan food items. Calorie density is not so important here.

This is one reason I prefer cycle touring to trekking; you really don't need to worry about your foods caloric density! In extreme cases (like when I've ridden through long stretches of desert in the middle east), then I will carry an "emergency kilo" of couscous in my food bag--that's about 3,700 calories = enough for 1 day in a pinch).

What to buy at the market

Other than that, when cycle touring, you should plan to stop once a day at a market and buy ~3,000-7,000 calories = 1 day's supply of:

  1. Fresh Fruit
  2. Dried Fruit
  3. Nuts/seeds
  4. Bread, Noodles, Couscous, etc
  5. Veggies
  6. Spices/Soup packets as needed

Fresh Fruit

Because the fruit is fragile, I'll usually eat all of it right there after I checkout and before I pedal away from the market. Something like 10 bananas and a few stone fruits are a wonderful, light snack ;)


If it's summer, I'll usually skip cooking all-together, and most of my calories come from bread. This is one of the best luxuries of cycling vs trekking: bread.

Bread Protip: Buy a loaf of bread, a bunch of bananas, and a jar of peanut butter. Make peanut-butter & banana sandwiches out of the entire loaf, then put the sandwiches back in the bread bag. If you have a handlebar bag, you can eat the sandwiches while you ride. How's that for a time saver?

In the winter or if it's cold at night, I'll go for noodles, couscous, oats, and other just-add-boiling-water items that will fill me & warm me.


Lots of (root) vegetables will last days or weeks without refrigeration. But when put in a black ortlieb in 40-50 degree desert road heat, they may only last 24-48 hours. These include:

Carrots, Radish, Cabbage, Tomato, Onions, Lemons, Garlic, Ginger, Chilies, etc

All of these are cheap, easy to find anywhere in the world, and can be eaten raw. Carry a small pocket knife and one of those small "cheese" graters (the size of your thumb), then you can also just cut these up and eat them with your more energy-dense foods above.

Other (luxury) food items that I carry on the bicycle:

  1. Peanut Butter
  2. Chocolate
  3. Olive Oil
  4. Lentils (for cooking or sprouting)

Nutritional Supplements

As you can see, as a vegan even traveling in some of the most remote parts of the world by bicycle, you shouldn't have to pack any specialty items to achieve all of your caloric needs day-to-day.


That said, the above diet is likely low in two essential nutrients:

  1. B12 (since the above diet is vegan)
  2. Calcium (since the above diet has nearly no dark leafy greens)

Therefore, before I go on a trip to some remote corner of the earth to do some long-term cycling, I'll pickup a 3-6 months supply of once-daily vitamins:

  1. vegan multivitamin with ~500-1500 mg of calcium
  2. B12 with 1,000 - 2,000 mcg of methylcobalamin


Also, if it's really hot, then you risk overhydration (insufficient electrolytes). You can buy lots of fancy "electrolyte" drinks or powders for this, but you know what else is high in electrolytes? Citrus. So if you're sweating like crazy then just squeeze a lemon into every third water bottle you drink, and eat lots of salty nuts.

Boiling Water: The Candle Stove

There's a lot of ways to boil water with different trade-offs. For me, the most important thing is that I can buy fuel anywhere--even in a remote mountain village in Nepal. That's why I prefer candle stoves.

All you need is a metal can, cardboard, and candles.

It's hard to imagine a single place in the world where you can cycle that you can't buy candles. That can't be said about hexane, propane, wood, alcohol, white gas, or petrol.


Energy-dense and simple to prepare

Basically everything that is high in carbs, low in water content and can be prepared by boiling for less than 15 minutes in one pot:

  • Rice (can't be whole rice, or it will take long to cook)
  • Pasta (whole wheat)
  • Oatmeal
  • Couscous
  • Quinoa
  • Add some red lentils or split peas right into the same pot for quick-cooking proteins.

To make this more balanced, consider buying at least one piece of fruit and vegetables a day, when you have the opportunity. Eat raw or steam over the boiling water. (A bamboo steamer is lightweight but somewhat bulky.)

Food to quickly replenish

You are looking for dense food that contains a lot of glucose and/or fructose with a relatively high glycemic index. Some salts (to compensate what you loose by sweating and to facilitate hydration) and proteins (to facilitate carb processing) are a bonus. The former is available in (semi-)dried fruit: Banana chips, dates, figs, apricots, sweet potatoes (baked and dried). The latter is available in nuts.

This leads to two suggestions: either make your own trail mix with lots of dried fruit, or try one of the various vegan energy balls or energy bar recipes that are out there on the internet. If you like the idea of making your own energy bars etc., I recommend buying a copy of "secrets d'endurance" or "bonheur en bares" by Cécile and Christophe Berg. These are small cookbooks for vegan endurance runners. They are in French and I am aware only of German translations. However, the instructions are easy to translate into English with a smartphone.

Useful links

There are two relevant questions on our outdoors sister-site:

  • Thanks, that goes into exactly the direction I had in mind. I speak decent French, so those cookbooks will be great. You think one piece of fresh fruit is a good amount? Or what is "at least"? Those are the things I was thinking about. What about the relative amount of protein? Is whole cereal better, or the other kind (the latter is easier to digest, isn't it?)? Although I guess the more I think about the question (as in the preceding subquestions), the more I can also research myself.
    – Nobody
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 13:55
  • @Nobody I would say more is better, but less is easier. :) You can probably perform on no fresh, fibrous food for a couple of days, remain healthy a few weeks, and survive forever. It's a matter of balancing good nutrition and the necessities of traveling where no steadfast rule applies. Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 14:00
  • @Nobody About the protein/carbs ratio: I can't give you a precise number (its probably somewhere between 1:4 and 1:5), but even a weightlifter needs more calories from carbs then from protein. For an endurance athlete this applies a fortiori. Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 14:06

These calorie-dense no-bake trail bars were designed for backpacking– packing the most amount of calories into the the least weight. They are also recipe my whole family enjoys. Consider these as a Clif-Bar replacement for mid-day snacks or even a meal replacement. Credit for this recipe goes to the hiker named “Bigfoot” who got the recipe from hiker “Even Keel” whose mother mailed him these bars on the trail.

In my test the recipe made about 20 small bars, enough for our family our four to have each have two or three small bars for a breakfast, with eight bars left over for other snacks. For a two person single-overnight, consider cutting the recipe in half.

Our kids loved helping to make these. This increased their investment in trip and their excitement about adding the sweet, chocolately creations they helped make.

Beware the bars are a little sticky– probably not the best choice to eat straight out of a handlebar bag while riding!

Even Keel Trail Bars


  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup finely chopped nuts (we tried pecans)
  • ¼ cup wheat germ
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 4½ cups oatmeal
  • Almonds for topping (optional)


  • Mix together peanut butter, honey and vanilla extract in a large bowl
  • Add remaining ingredients and mix them in.
  • Lightly spray a pan with vegetable oil.
  • Press mixed bars into pan
  • Cut into bars
  • Press almonds into the top of the bars- close enough to get an almond in each bite
  • sub the honey for blackstrap molasses and it's vegan with a boost in iron & calcium Commented Oct 24, 2020 at 14:32

I think that the calorific content of food is simple, i.e.:

  • Fat: 9 (kcal per gram)
  • Carbs: 4
  • Protein: 4
  • Alcohol: 7

So a "high-calorie-density carb" is just whatever food contains the least water and most carbs -- for example, sugar (4 kcal/g) or dry couscous (3.75 kcal/g).

You increase calorie density by using drier (more dehydrated) foods with less fibre, and/or by using fattier foods.

And Couscous for example doesn't need "cooking" exactly: to prep it you mix it with an equal volume of boiling water and let it soak for 2 minutes.

Here's my attempt to describe iron rations. I guess this would get you through the week; but I don't know how digestible it is when consuming 7000 calories/day.

  • Carbs: couscous, because why not if you have hot water. It's close to maximum energy density for any carb. Most brands (check the label when you buy it) only need soaking for 2 minutes, not cooking for 5 minutes.

    Or bread, if you can buy it fresh daily, but it's bulky (fluffy) and goes stale.

    Or breakfast oats (like Muesli), because I think they say it has a better glycemic index than wheat, and/or more fibre (roughage), and (unlike other forms of oats) doesn't need cooking.

  • Salt: because of course. Iodized, preferably.

  • Other electrolytes: I think these are potassium and calcium (I don't whether you also need to replenish magnesium).

    • Potassium: dried apricots and (dried) bananas are said to be good sources. These also contain sugar (and preservatives). I don't know if you can digest them in bulk or only as a snack.

    • Calcium: a compact source is in pill form. Possibly a Vitamin C tablet or a multi-vitamin.

  • Oil: I like olive oil. Or pesto or a similar sauce.

  • Protein: I'd choose a simulated meat product if I could, e.g. a "veggie-dog" or simulated ground beef (pre-cooked). Because I think these have a higher % of protein per weight than pre-cooked canned beans (which are canned with lots of water). They might also be fortified (with iron, B12, etc.). Lentils are great but usually uncooked.

    Or there's stuff called TVP, I think it's light-weight (dehydrated). To rehydrate it, soak for 5..10 minutes. Then it's like tasteless ground beef (I don't like it, to be honest), so mix it with a sauce (e.g. with oil and tomato puree and couscous).

  • Vegetables: Do I have to? They're mostly water, therefore heavy. How about tomato puree, that's quite condensed?

  • Protein and Oil: nuts; also peanuts (which are a type of pea)

  • Thanks. That's good to know, but I would have liked some more concrete ideas, a list of suitable things containing all I need. I have thought about carrying a kettle. Electric ones are fairly light and can serve as a container for something else. But I generally won't have electricity, so I would need a gas based one and those are much heavier... But in hindsight I should be able myself to find a list of needed nutrients, go through it, try to find suitable food for everything and ask a more concrete question later when stuck.
    – Nobody
    Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 20:40
  • 1
    Something like hexamine fuel tablets with a corresponding stove and an aluminium pot are lightweight (probably lighter than the water you might carry in non-dehydrated foods).
    – ChrisW
    Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 20:54
  • Thanks! I didn't know about hexamine, this looks very interesting. I guess if I buy too much of it I'll get on all the terrorist watchlists, but other than that it seems really practical. :-)
    – Nobody
    Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 21:00
  • I'm curious about the "balanced" part of this -- obviously there is an overwhelming amounts of just raw carbs needed for the calorie increase, but micronutrients are also mentioned as important in the Question.
    – Erica
    Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 21:21
  • @Erica You're right that this is only at best a partial answer (e.g. it ignores nutrients, and even balance, and doesn't recommend specific foods (except couscous ... or rice except needs to be cooked)). I think there's a vast range of foods, with trade-offs which the OP must make (cost, weight, nutrition, palatability, balance, bulk, durability), so I find it hard to make a specific recommendation. But I thought that posting the basic calorie equation might be informative.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 21:29

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