This will come as a pretty huge shock to anyone who’s spent any time with me in the past few years, but when I was growing up, I hated peanut butter. I remember standing in our family kitchen, trying a spoonful and then running for a glass of water because I felt as though it was sucking all the moisture out of my mouth.
Back in those days, I was a rower and a popular snack after a gym or ergo session was peanut butter and jam sandwiches - I found I didn’t mind the peanut butter so much when paired with jam. Of course, at that time, you could only really get sugar and palm oil laden peanut butter, but as the market of nut butters has boomed, so has my love for it. Funky Nut make extremely high-quality butters from all types of nuts and seeds and I’m yet to find a product I don’t like! Now, I regularly find myself standing over a jar of Funky Nut’s cashew nut butter, holding a spoon and trying to resist the temptation to eat just a little bit more.
As a professional cyclist, I have to pay close attention to what I eat to enhance both performance and recovery. Fortunately, natural nut butters fit perfectly into a healthy diet; they’re high in protein, fiber and healthy (unsaturated) fats, as well as being an antioxidant and nutrient rich, containing vitamins E, B6 and B7, folic acid, magnesium, zinc, copper, potassium and many other minerals. I take full advantage of this and have even been known to spread peanut butter on an omelette (thanks Katie Archibald for this gem)! By incorporating an ingredient that I absolutely love, eating optimally never feels like a chore.
The staples of my kitchen cupboard are Funky Nut’s almond butter and natural creamy peanut butter. Peanut butter works so well in both sweet and savory dishes and I often add a spoon of it to a stir fry with some chili sauce.
My overnight oats recipe with peanut butter
Nut butters are also great in overnight oats (60g oats, 185ml milk, 1 tbsp nut butter, 1 tbsp maple syrup, 0.5 tbsp chia seeds, pinch of salt and handful of raisins mixed together and left overnight) which I often have as a snack, as well as for breakfast.
Best recovery food after cycling
After returning from rides I usually have a recovery drink or smoothie along with a (large!) spoon of my almond nut butter, combined with bananas, milk and occasionally yoghurt, it’s a quick and easy (and tasty) way to get protein and carbs in after a training session.
Best cycling food while riding
Eating on the bike is crucial and it’s much nicer to have real food, rather than energy gels in my pockets. I try to make my own energy balls and bars, using recipes from my good friend Alan Murchison AKA The Performance Chef. His Budgie Cage Bars are my favourite, combining peanut or almond butter with a variety of nuts and seeds. When I don’t have time to make them, Funky Nut’s Nut Butter Snacks are great for when I am on the go.
Everybody needs an occasional treat every now and then, I always reach for a jar of the dreamy dark chocolate hazelnut butter and spread it on a rice cake, topped off with banana (though sometimes, the butter doesn’t actually make it on to the rice cake…!).
Not wanting to ever be without my nutty fix, I always pack a jar of nut butter in my suitcase when going abroad for races, in the fear that I won’t be able to find any as good as Funky Nut in the hotel or local shops. Sometimes, if I’m feeling generous, I may even share with my teammates…
Written by Hayley Simmonds. Hayley is a competitive cyclist, aero coach and performance chef. Follow her on Instagram @hayleyrsimmonds