Many cyclists are unclear on what food or supplement is the best to take on the road and some pay a high price for this. The short answer is there is no right or wrong food stuff, but rather the foods should be thought of as fuel. Cycling for long periods is demanding on the body. Without proper nutrition, you will run out of energy (glycogen) and hit the dreaded wall (bonk).
The duration of your ride will determine whether or not food is necessary. You can think of the length of your rides as such:
- Short rides – last for less than an hour
- Medium rides – 1 to 3 hours
- Long rides – last for more than 3 hours
Assuming you follow a balanced diet, you shouldn’t need to take food on short rides. Your diet should be adequate enough to support you and your energy requirements for up to a maximum of 1 and 1/2 hours.
However, with medium and long rides, taking something to eat is absolutely essential.
NUTRITION SOUQ ESSENTIAL TIP: You should always take water no matter what length the ride is!
WHAT FOODS TO TAKE
During the ride, you need food that will enhance your performance. That means focussing on food that will get into your system and start showing results in no time. And as far as these foods are concerned, you have a number of options which can include:
REAL FOOD STUFFS:
Sandwiches, cake etc. (these are high in sugar and carbs, but can be a little on the heavy side)
- Energy bars
- Energy drinks
- Energy gels
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but a good starting point.
NUTRITION SOUQ RECOMMENDATIONS (these are easy to carry and consume):
LIMITLESS 100% NATURAL ELECTROLYTE RECOVER +
- Has the right quantity of carbs to keep you moving
- Replaces lost fluids quickly
- It's 100% natural and easy on the stomach
- It comes in an easy to drink formula
- 8 flavors available
- Replaces a lot of nutrients you lose cycling
- Good source of steady energy
GU ENERGY GEL
- Lots of flavors to choose from
- Also gives a lot of energy
- Has other nutrients the body loses on the ride.
GU ENERGY CHEWS
- For those who want something chewy
- Has all the nutrients to help you reach your final destination
HOW MUCH TO EAT
Some cyclists eat more than they need and others don't get enough. Both of these situations can have negative results. Eating less means you won't have enough energy and will fade quickly. Eating more may upset your stomach and affect your performance. The body can only process 30-60g of carbs per hour. So keep this in mind when eating.
WHEN TO EAT
Here is an example nutritional breakdown of a basic 2-3 hour training ride:
- Pre Ride (at least 2 hours before) - Eat a basic carb and protein mix meal
- The Ride - Take 2 water bottles - 1 plain water & 1 electrolyte solution. Drink water frequently sip as you ride, don’t gulp. This will leave you feeling bloated and heavy. One key thing to remember is not to wait until you’re thirsty. Drink mainly the electrolyte solution.
- At around the 1 and 2 hour point take on board an energy gel or bar followed up by regular water to help digest and assimilate the energy.
- Post Ride - A post ride protein & carb drink or snack, particularly in the 10 to 15 minutes immediately afterwards, will take advantage of the window of maximum glycogen & muscle fibre re-synthesis cutting down on muscle soreness and fatigue
NUTRITION SOUQ TIP: Try GU Recovery Drink Mix as an awesome post ride recovery snack/drink
Author: Tyson Wilcox
Author Bio: Tyson’s fitness journey began along with the birth of CrossFit. After his initial class he was immediately hooked and decided that understanding all he could about fitness and CrossFit was his path. After many years as an enthusiast, Tyson is now a fully certified CrossFit coach who spends his days eating, sleeping, competing in and teaching CrossFit.