This is intended to be a simple nutrition guide to help you through your training and events. I encourage every athlete to do more research on this topic, consult with a nutritional professional, and find out what works best for them. It is ok to experiment with nutrition during training, but never try something new during a race or event.
You can generally survive a one hour ride with very little food or water, but as you extend your rides beyond an hour, nutrition and hydration become critical. Just eating and hydrating is good, but answering three important questions will help you get the best nutrition strategy for your training and events.
note - During exercise you will burn more calories than you can consume. This is normal. Ideally, you will get the majority of your calories from stored fat in your body.
How much you eat and drink during a bike ride is unique to each person. In general, you need the following amounts.
|Calories/Hour *||~180 - 400**|
|Fluids/Hour||16oz - 24oz|
* Keep in mind that your fluid calories count towards this total
What to eat?
Your food options range from a homemade sandwich to energy electrolyte drinks like Gatorade. Understanding how quickly food breaks down, the affect on your digestive system and impact to your blood sugar levels is the key. Why is this important? In general you want to eat more complex foods at the beginning of a ride. These items will break down slowly and deliver constant energy ( not spiking your blood sugar level) for a long period of time. Simpler foods, like gels and blocks should be used during the middle and end of a ride. They provide more immediate energy (higher blood sugar levels) but for a shorter period of time.
How do you put it all together? - The 20% rule
Whether you are doing a 2 hour ride or a 6 hour century, you can break down your nutrition into 20% intervals. Here is an example for a century ride. You can use distance or time intervals. I prefer time.
|Time Interval ( hours)||Food||Fluid||Total Calories|
|1.2||PB& J Sandwich||16oz||180|
|2.4||Cliff Bar (Oatmeal)||18oz||200|
|3.6||Cliff Bar + gel blocks||24oz||250|
|4.8||gel blocks + gel||24oz||300|