Loving the BITE: Pesto for the Big Ride or Recovery

Who here wants to reduce fatigue and inflammation, optimize blood flow, and stay healthy this season?  Yes, please.  And, who wants some pesto?  Yes, pretty please.  Well, it must be your lucky day, because here at Loving the Bike, we’re about to make it all happen.

Recipe of the week: Simple Fresh Basil Pesto

  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves*
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (or substitute sunflower seeds)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice and 1 to 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated**


Place basil, garlic, pine nuts, lemon juice, and lemon peel in a food processor or blender, and process until coarsely chopped.  Add 1/2 cup of the olive oil.  Process until fully incorporated and smooth. If desired, add salt and pepper to taste. If serving immediately, add remaining oil and mix until smooth.  Top with cheese. If allowing to set, refrigerate and add remaining oil and cheese when ready to serve.  Or, if freezing, transfer to container and drizzle remaining oil over the top. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw and stir in cheese. (Freeze in ice-cube tray to form perfect sized servings to add to foods later). *No basil?  Use spinach instead! **Want to keep it dairy-free?  Parmesan mostly adds texture and a salty flavor, so simply omit and salt/pepper to taste.

Training Nutrition: 

  1. The night before a “big” ride or race, try whole-grain pasta, brown rice, or sourdough bread with chicken and pesto.  It will provide long-lasting carbs, protein, super-nutrients from basil, and healthy fats.
  2. On a long ride, try these for whole food fuel: Split 1 whole pita bread into 2 rounds.  Sprinkle 3 Tbsp pesto and 3 Tbsp parmesan cheese onto one round.  Top with other round.  Bake at 350 deg F for 10-12 minutes and cut into 6 wedges.  Eat 3 wedges while stopped and fueling up on ride (15-20 grams carbs).
  3. Recovery: Try a sourdough pesto chicken sandwich or leftover Pesto Chicken Pasta (from #1).  It will hit the spot with carbs, protein, and sodium.  Make sure to drink a tall glass of water on the side.


As one of my favorite flavors, basil is in high demand in my kitchen.  But, it’s more than just great taste.  Fresh basil provides:

Reduced inflammation and oxidative stress:  Basil’s flavonoids, especially orientin and vicenin, are phytonutrients that protect cell structures from radiation and oxygen-based damage (free radicals/oxidative stress).  And eugenol, one of basil’s volatile oils, works to block the inflammatory activity of an enzyme (cyclooxygenase) in the body.  Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, also work to block this enzyme.  Remember, this not only has implications for inflammatory conditions like arthritis, but also fatigue in endurance athletes.

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