Wondering what best foods to eat while endurance cycling. i.e. what to eat on a long bike ride or cyclosport event?
Ok, let’s start from the basics of how your body fuels itself when cycling. When you understand the basic underpinning principles, it will make it easy to see how all of this works together for you.
To make this easy for you, I’ve used an analogy instead of tiring scientific jargon. Let’s begin!
Here's a quick crash-course in understanding energy supply when endurance cycling:
CheatSheet Energy Supply Tutorial:
Imagine! ...cycling along, your body can access two energy tanks:
1. The first energy tank is your fat tank with a tap. This tap has a tiny tap from which fat can be accessed as a fuel. To access this fat for energy, you have to cycle really rather slowly because fat trickles out only slowly.
However, the fat tank is massive, so potentially it could fuel you for a few sportives back to back without you eating anything else if you went slow enough! (In reality, though it's not quite like this as you still need carbohydrates, but for arguments sake, let's say it is).
2. The second tank is your carbohydrate tank. This tank has a much bigger tap from which you can readily access carbohydrate as a fuel. As you cycle faster, your fat tap quickly phases to a trickle and you now access predominantly carbohydrate as a fuel.
You can very easily access this tank of energy because the tap is so big - but the drawback is that the carbohydrate tank itself is very small.
Because it's so small and the tank tap big, you can only access about a 2 hour energy supply of carbohydrate fuel before you run out of energy!
Therefore, carbohydrates are the body's "preferred" energy source for bike riding.
How to Use More Fat For Fuel WHILE Preserving Your Carbs...
Your goal then is to train the body to use more fat for fuel AND preserve the amount of carbs being depleted.
We can do this two ways...
You can train yourself to access more fat from your fat tank, preserving your carb stores in your limited carbohydrate tank.
The key is in trying to make the fat tank’s tap bigger. When it gets bigger you can go that bit faster and use more fat for fuel, hence preserving precious carbohydrate from the carb tank.
In other words, you can delay the length of time it takes to run out of energy by burning more fat for fuel...
To go faster for longer: train to tap into more fat for fuel to preserve precious carb stores
Now, professional cyclists are a great example of having extremely well trained fat taps (in scientific terms this is what's called the aerobic metabolism). They’ve cycled for so many years and built layer upon layer of fundamental endurance that they can go fast for a good number of hours on little food intake. They do need carbs, but run out of energy much later than we sportive amateurs would.
On the contrary, obese/highly unfit subjects have such poorly trained fat taps that they access their carb tank readily with hardly any exercise. They deplete their energies quickly many times a day.
You can now probably see why obese/highly unfit subjects crave sugary food so often…which in turn leads to diseases like diabetes. This yo-yo-ing repeats itself and they sadly get fatter and fatter.
The solution here for unfit subjects is to exercise - like riding a bike! Then they can train their fat tank to release more fat to curb sugar cravings and restore better energy balance during the day.
Anyway, - back to riding our bikes and what to eat to go faster for longer...
Long, Slow Distance All The Time To Train My Fat Tank', Right?
You might be thinking long and slow is therefore the answer, but unfortunately, not all of us have the time to do long, slow endless miles like a professional does over winter.
The solution here is keep working on your one long bike ride each weekend (minimum) will help considerably around your usual mid week training.
To increase your endurance then, you simply need to do your normal training and keep it consistent from week to week, month to month. Over the course of a good 4-6 months, you should see a difference in the time it usually takes before you fatigue considerably or running out of energy. You'll notice you go faster for longer before petering out which means your fat tank has become more efficient...
**BUT**, as we mentioned above, no matter how good your aerobic metabolism is at burning fat, your body will still prefer carbs for fuel. The carb tank is still being accessed - and for good reason:
Why it's a myth that fasting helps you burn body fat! It does not. All it does is deplete your energy reserves and your body becomes inefficient at burning fat for fuel. You actually slow down metabolism and feel dreadful if you try to go without eating breakfast before a long ride. It also takes much longer to recover after such rides, as the muscles are completely glycogen (carb) depleted. Then your body craves food...and craving for carbs increases the risk storing more fat, rather than trying to burn fat efficiently...
Listen, your body always needs carbs to burn fat. You need carbs to burn CALORIES, which in turn burns fat for fuel, - just like a fire needs wood to burn - never forget that!
UPSHOT: always eat a normal carb rich breakfast before a 1.5 hr++ training; and during, top up with carbs every 20 minutes, IF your goal is to burn body fat and of course go further without tiring for longer: our goal of efficient, effective endurance training.
What Food To Eat On A Bike Ride To Keep Carbs Topped Up?
So let's back up our learning a bit. We've understood about the fat tank and carb tank and how we should do at least one good weekly longer ride to build our fat tanks bigger (i.e. build our aerobic metabolism)...but equally, we now understand we MUST still eat carbs too - to help burn fat AND keep those carb stores supplying us bike energy while riding.
So the next question I hear you say...well Rebecca what food should I specifically eat on rides to make sure I never run out of energy?
If you haven't experienced this already, running out of carb stores is an uncomfortable experience and can be quite serious if ignored long enough. (As I mentioned above, deliberately trying to run out of energy, does nothing for you other than put the body under needless stress which it replies by storing more fat when you begin to eat again - as well as put you at risk of hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar)...)
You can tell when you're getting low on biking energy:
How To Tell You're Becoming Hypoglycemic:
Stage 1. Start to feel shaky somewhat. You start to feel a bit peckish. The "red fuel light" has indeed come on! :). You've started to notice your speed is off for a few miles...
Stage 2. If you don't eat at this point, you'll start to feel very strange: lightheaded with a stronger sense of wanting something to eat. Ride performance is definitely slowing. You're thinking about finding a bakery or store and food is number 1 on your mind.
Stage 3. Ignored further, your ride performance starts to decline to a crawl. This is because the body is now preserving the last carbs for your brain to function. You feel desperate to eat FOOD! Do not ignore past this signal - you must eat sugar in any form NOW...This is the ONLY time a Mars bar or snickers, sugary sweets - a cafe sugar left behind by a coffee...a piece of bread...WILL save you here! 😉
Stage 4. Ignored even further and your craving is all consuming. You'll have to stop on the bike. Your talking slurred. Even counting out money is a chore. The brain is shutting down...and you need to phone for help or get food. Hopefully you phone for help sooner rather than stage 4, if you've forgotten all energy bars/have no money or riding when stores/cafes are shut, or there are no cafes etc.
The key is to NEVER EVER leave your start point WITHOUT some kind of food with you. I keep cereal bars in my bike bag, always!
The bottomline is to BE prepared and remember to always eat.
Getting to the Point: What To Eat - Slow Carbs vs Fast Carbs?
As you should now know (from reading above), your preferred energy source is going to come from carbohydrates. You are looking for carb foods which supply you with energy slowly over a long time period. This is because fuel that releases slowly over time, fuels you for longer...In contrast, fast sugars like candy, mars bars, coke cola etc., supply you with fast sugary carbs, but does not give long lasting energy...
Best slow carbs for cycling include:
Can You Eat A Mars Bar or Drink A Coke Cola?
If you ONLY ingest sugary bars or drinks on a bike ride, like a Mars Bar you may be in for trouble.
Pure sugar (also known as 'fast carbs'), release quickly into the bloodstream causing a sugar spike. When this happens, you usually trigger a hormone called insulin to bring it under control.
Unfortunately, insulin can end up causing your blood sugar levels to plummet from being very high, to being very low – and you may find you’ve completely run out of energy after 20 minutes of ingesting the nasty culprit!
Mars Bars give you a 'burst' of fuel energy and should only be used when you've quite badly run out of energy (as mentioned above). OR, if at the end of a very long ride you need a 'pick me up' to get you home!
TIP: A favourite amongst many cyclists is the use of Coca Cola - pure 100% sugar 'pick me up', with its caffeine and wonderful refreshing taste - flat coke that is 🙂 . Pro riders are well known for a swig of coke in the final 20 minutes / 15km of a long ride.
Physiologically, the combination of high sugar and caffeine picks up your energies fast, although nutritionally it's a very unhealthy beverage for athletes, due to the high sugar content. Nevertheless, it IS commonly consumed effectively as a legal performance booster (ergogenic aid) at the end of a long ride or race :).
Overall though, for longer rides, we endurance cyclists look for ‘slow releasing' carbohydrate foods to supply us with a continuous ‘flow’ of energy during most of the ride.
How Often Should You Eat On A Long Bike Ride?
You may read elsewhere that you can delay to eat for the first hour on the bike, because the body has a good supply for about an hour and a half/two hours before depleting. This is true in some cases; you can go out training and decide to start eating on the hour with no adverse affects to your ride performance.
However, in a long sportive you need to eat sooner than the hour point. I say this because it’s not just the distance that is going to take it out of you. Realise that you will have the course elements to deal with: wind, rain, hills, nervous energy, your pace, your cycling pedalling style and as we’ve mentioned – how well you are trained for endurance. All of this will have a draw on your overall energy requirements.
The earlier you eat, the better you can preserve your carb tank from getting anywhere near depleted. Even a ‘low’ energy tank can see a decrease in overall performance – you don’t necessarily have to ‘run out of energy’ completely to have a performance drop…..so eat early and keep well topped up!
As a general rule of thumb, you should eat every 20 minutes on a long sportive.
Obviously though, this rule is just guidance as it depends on WHAT you ingest.
I can only talk from personal experience of riding 6-8 hour sportives/races/long rides and pass on what I’ve found over the years. This may or may not suit you, but this is what has worked/has not worked for me out on the road (i.e. not in a sports lab):
Example of Foods I Eat On Long Bike Rides, and WHEN:
A cereal bar and/or pieces of fruit cake – probably the best form of food for a long sportive because I find the amount of energy lasts for a good 25 minutes before having to top up again. I will delve in my back pocket again and eat an energy bar at the 20 minute point throughout my ride. A cereal bar is easy to carry with you and usually not too cumbersome to chew.
‘Pate des fruits’ or energy gels – never worked well because they don’t give enough energy – even though it’s stated they are high energy, I continually found I had to top up with them every 10-15 minutes to get the same energy boost as a simple cereal bar or fruit cake. Great for the last 10km of a 2.5 hour triathlon, hopeless for long sportives + 3 hours!
Sandwiches - the most fantastic energy boost eaten in combination with cereal bars around the 3 hour + point. I believe there is a tipping point in a long bike ride where you NEED something substantial to boost your carb tank. A good sandwich with honey or peanut butter can lift your whole ride. A tip is to cut off the crusts, then cut into 4 squares. The only drawback is sandwiches tend to be cumbersome to eat and rather dry – hence why I only eat it once an hour from about 3hr + onwards.
Energy carb drinks (a hypertonic solution): you can just get away with using only a carb drink for up to three hour bike rides. Carb drinks are great for short races where you won’t have time to ‘eat food’ as such, but for longer ‘sportives’ or races you need ‘food’ regularly. I also find that carb drinks dehydrate me over the course of a 3 hour ride which isn’t good. If you add a cereal bar to this, you will dehydrate even further! I also find carb drinks make my stomach cramp in waves by the end of 3 hours.
How do you combine keeping hydrated as well as fuelled with enough energy?
The key to this is to drink an isotonic solution like Isostar. (Please read my detailed post all about hydration: How To Keep Hydrated During A Long Bike Ride).
As a quick summary - if you’ve been used to "hypertonic" sports drinks (an energy carb drink), an "isotonic" (electrolyte replacement drink) should taste less concentrated and you’ll wonder if you’ve added enough powder! You should only just taste the flavour – AND feel so much lighter on your stomach. You don’t need much to replace electrolytes during your rides but it’s critically important not to drink just plain water.
...water doesn’t absorb into the bloodstream as fast or as well as an isotonic electrolyte solution.
You then need to drink regularly during your ride – this is critical if you are also eating carbs at the same time because the body WILL absorb a lot of water from you to digest carbohydrate! This is the drawback of eating carbs and a fine balance for you to find.
As a rule of thumb, drink up to 750ml every hour (that's one big bottle of fluid) – keep doing so to best counter your carb intake, or you will run into problems late in the ride.
I’m not saying get uncomfortable with too much fluid sloshing around, but find a balance for what works for you both eating and fluid replacement, specially riding more than 3 hours. Please read my post on hydration for more guidance.
Test, Test, Test Everything...
Test everything I’ve said here in fuelling for training. See where you might improve and then try it! When you feel confident in a strategy, then is time to put it to the real test in a local sportive. The differences can be huge performance wise cycling post 3 hours…so it’s worth always seeing if you can improve things.
Testing is the way to become a faster and more experienced cyclist – so don’t just take my word for it – get out there and test your ride nutrition to find a fuelling strategy that works for you!
Quick Point Summary:
Congrats for getting this far with this very long post! I hope you had some "ahha" moments! Now, the best way to reward yourself with such a long read is with a hot cup of tea – no sugar
If you enjoyed this post, do share on Facebook and with your friends. I look forward as always to any comments or questions you may have...comment below the archived comments..
[Archived Comments (41) from former Easycycling site]:
April 1, 2011 at 9:27 pm
ok these are very good infos. I didn’t knew about the fat…that’s somewhere but not really being used *hehe* and I don’t drink enough……. but for a 2 hour ride you’ll need 2 bottles and then you can’t return as there are no refill statioins in the middle of nowhere
I’m eating those cereal bars as they are cheap but working excellent. And I prefer bananas and isostar …….carb drinks yea they make my tummy ache *urgh* so I will ride and try…… my daily rides will be 8-12h long …..phew !!!!!
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April 1, 2011 at 9:31 pm
Hi Tanja – you are riding a tour too, so it is imperative you eat well in the evenings and drink fluids overnight to hydrate the best you can – eat a good breakfast every morning without fail and try the best you can to keep well fuelled and hydrated on your rides. It’s going to be more a mental battle than anything else Tanja, so keep positive and keep those pedals moving round – it’s the only way to the finish line! Best of luck!!!
April 2, 2011 at 11:07 am
so what to eat in the evenings? Spaghetti? I’m lost with eating habits already….. somedays I feel too weak to ride, then so strong that I don’t mind riding for hours. hmm. on the ride itself there are plenty of rest stations (yay) …but training here is a bit different. I may have to take you along …. I still have place in my bag
April 8, 2011 at 8:49 pm
Hi Tan, yes just EAT – eat spaghetti dishes as much as you can and hydrate the best you can too. It will be a big learning experience for you, so don’t worry if you don’t know everything before you take part. The most important thing is to relax and enjoy it.
April 8, 2011 at 8:07 pm
Thanks Rebecca – very useful, as is the hydration article – I’ve got my first ever sportive on Sunday 10th (Cornwall Tor 44 miler) and will be taking all your advice.
April 11, 2011 at 7:16 pm
Well, the deed is done and the Tor completed – but in 4h 18 mins, which is a darned sight slower than I had hoped for. Very hot day, very very hilly (even worse than Dartmoor, which I have been training over!). Kept well hydrated but not sure I got the feeding right – perhaps not often enough and too much via energy bars.
Also had the embarrassment of having to walk up a couple of the steeper hills – I did OK on the long drags (very slow but steady), but failed miserably on the steeper bits. It was the legs that let me down – breathing was fine, just didn’t have the power in the legs – especially painful on the thighs if I tried to stand up on the pedals, so all climbing done seated. I’ve also wrecked a new pair of Look cleats due to the (unexpected) walking! Still, next stop the Dartmoor Classic 100k on 26th June. Onwards and upwards as they say!
April 11, 2011 at 8:09 pm
Hey Pete – congratulations on your first sportive in what will have been tough conditions with the sudden rise in temps we’ve had this weekend. You will have learnt TONNES from this bike event and from now on can only get better!
Yes, it will take time to find what works for you with feeding, although eating often is key to keeping your energies up over such a long ride. Glad the hydration was ok though as some cyclists really struggle with this when the temps do a sudden jump up in spring.
As to walking and finding steep hills tough – it sounds like you’ve not got low enough gears. I don’t think it’s a question of power – just a question of ‘technique’ and pushing way too big a gear on the steep sections, fatiguing you hugely…..Fatigue also really necessitates having those lower gears and would save you the frustration of having to walk – and ruin your new LOOK cleats…
If the hills are very steep then the only way over them usually is to get out the saddle – again it depends how low your gears go! Getting out the saddle uses different muscles, so you’ll fatigue quickly only after a few hills IF you’ve not used this out the saddle technique AND you’ve not go low enough gears…then quickly you have to sit because it’s all you can manage and by the end of the ride you can only walk…
You will feel wiped after this event, so rest up well this week…and resume back training later this week or even the weekend.
1. check you got low enough gears!
2. practice getting out the saddle now on training rides
3. keep practicing your feeding
4. keep having loads of fun!!
Great stuff Pete – big congratulations – very proud of your achievements!!
Look forward to hearing about the next event!
April 13, 2011 at 5:29 pm
Hi Rebecca, great site – it’s a real mine of information. You mention eating every 20 minutes – are you eating 3 Clif bars an hour or do you eat a range of suitable things to ensure that you are eating the 1 – 1.5g of carb per kg of bodyweight that I understand to be the optimum amount of carbs to eat per hour while riding ? Is it possible to eat too much while on the bike ?
April 13, 2011 at 6:25 pm
HI Mark, I eat roughly about 3 Clif bars an hour, perhaps 4 depending on how I feel – I take a sandwich with me if I’m riding for 4 plus hours and always take a bannana with me too for variation. It’s imperative you eat what YOU FEEL is keeping your energies up and be flexible to adjust if you start getting peckish. So, if you don’t feel you are getting enough simply eat another bar or if that’s boring to your pallet, vary your food: eat a small sandwich or a piece of fruit instead….it’s really down to personal preference and what WORKS for you.
Of course it’s possible to eat too much which in turn brings too much blood to your stomach causing cramping because your cycling legs are fighting for the blood too….not a nice situation to be in and you have to slow down to let the food digest and the pain to go!! Usually though common sense prevails and you leave a time gap of about 20 minutes so food can properly digest – that’s why it should be small and often within an hour, not one big feed per hour.
If you want to get scientific, then yes the quote above is correct for the optimum amount of carbs / bodyweight to eat per hour – however remember that how YOU feel out on the road with changing energy requirements an hour is the absolute bottom-line – never rely only on what’s stated in a scientific text book – cos it might not work for you!!
Question everything, test everything and absolutely read the science – but always stick to what works for you…
Hope this helps!
May 3, 2011 at 4:51 pm
Great article. I’ve now got some tips for my 6 hr+ bike rides I’ve started doing.
I’ve not been managing the last 2 hours very well, but I’ve now realised after reading this that I havent been drinking enough iso-drink and not eating at all! (oops). I only have a 1.5 camelbak + 750ml bottle with a couple of energy gels eaten towards the end of the ride. I guess I need a rucksack full of bottles and food.
I like the tip about peanut butter sandwiches – which type of bread would have the most energy? Granary/White/Brown/Wholemeal?
May 3, 2011 at 5:28 pm
Hi Andy, thanks for commenting.
Yes, it sounds like you might need to drink more and eat something more substantial on your rides, spceically if you are going longer than 6 hours at a time. As to the bread, it depends which one tastes best to you! Some riders like white bread, others like granary – I suppose for me I’d choose a granary because I like the taste and like the fact it’s got wholesome seeds and grains in it – not quite as ‘heavy’ as a complete wholemeal bread/flour…..really Andy it’s down to personal preference!
Hope this helps…
June 11, 2011 at 12:02 am
For my own 3% I have found smoked mackerel sandwiches as the best energy boost at the later stages of the ride! That said, you can do all the right things with eating but I find the problem is ‘pace:’ If I go out to ‘enjoy’ a training ride over a sportive (e.g. The Anthony Maynard Sportive route near Reading) I find I finish the whole thing very comfortably. But if I try to ‘push the pace’ (only a bit faster) to see if I can get a good time – I hit the 3 to 3.5 hour point and BONK! The wall comes down, and that’s using the same eating pattern. I must admit I have never considered eating or drinking as early as 20 minutes into the ride, and indeed every 20 minutes, but I will give this a go next time and report back – sounds a good tip !
How do you store all this food for easy retrieval without stopping?
June 11, 2011 at 11:10 am
Hi Nick, – smoked makeral sarnies might not make you very popular on a sportive due to wiff of something ‘fishy’…:-)), however, if it works for you at the 3 hr point then that’s brilliant.
You say this is what you eat ‘later on’ in the ride at 3 hours – so what do you eat up until that point?? What you eat between the beginning and the 3 hour point is critical to you surviving when you up your pace during events.
I presume you drink and eat ‘something’ – how often and what?
Look forward to your reply and helping you out,
June 11, 2011 at 5:06 pm
well, I’ve tried different things, I always drink diluted pure orange juice with a quarter teaspoon of salt added (per bike water bottle) and that gets sipped regularly but as for food, I’ve tried oat bars and I’ve tried a high protein foodpack as well – boiled eggs and peanuts, but noticed absolutely no difference – 3.5 hours into the ride – bonk! However, I must admit I normally don’t start to eat until at least 2 hours into the ride, so maybe that’s where I’m going wrong. As said I’ll try this new technique of scoffing earlier on and more regularly, and report back
June 12, 2011 at 3:22 pm
Hi Nick – yes try eating earlier on and more often. You also need to look for small bars you can reach in your back pocket and eat as you ride along. You might like to try Clif bars – these have been good for me, eaten every 20 mins or so from the first half an hour onwards when training.
As to foods, look for carbohydrate based foods NOT protein based foods like nuts, eggs or protein food packs! You need the slow release of energy to sustain you on a long bike ride and you get this through eating carbohydrate based foods, so look for ‘oaty bars of any kind’, fruit cake, dried fruits, or ‘gels’ instead.
Also eat well for breakfast too, or an hour or so before you ride – porridge oats are a favourite for many cyclists as the energy from oats is slow release and sustains us for much longer than many other foods…but you still need to remember to eat early and often on your long rides.
Hope this helps,
July 17, 2011 at 7:13 pm
Right, did my first sportive today so I can finally report back. Your suggestion of taking food/energy drink every 20 or so minutes worked a TREAT. I didn’t actually take any food, just bought two great big Camelbak podium ice bottles, and filled them up with Innocent Banana and Strawberry Smoothies, diluted with about 25% water and with each one containing about a quarter teaspoon table salt. It was about 105k over very hilly roads, so to arrive home in a good time (i.e. pushing the pace) but still feeling sprightly was a genuine new experience. Thanks!!
July 17, 2011 at 7:38 pm
Hia Nick – massive congratulations on finishing your first sportive! There is no better feeling on finishing a long ride or sportive and feeling strong! And, love to hear that my advice has helped you out to have a super day! Look forward to how you get on with the next sportive….and don’t hesitate to keep asking questions…
August 21, 2011 at 1:26 pm
Need some advice. I am an Amputee and Diabetic doing London to Paris at the end of September. Can you please advise what product would be best to have on this ride. We are doing 75miles first day 50 miles 2nd Day and 75 miles 3rd Day. Any help would be most apprecaited.
August 21, 2011 at 3:58 pm
Hi Russ, many thanks for your question. Unfortunately, I’m not in a position to advise about what food you should eat on a long ride if you are diabetic. I’m not qualified in this area to expertly advise you. For this you need medical advice and support, for which I’m not a doctor. Have you tried asking a sports doctor or qualified sports nutritionalist for this? I’m sorry I can’t help further, but I do wish you find the answers you’re looking for. I wish you all best with your London to Paris event at the end of September – you have amazing courage! Rebecca.
September 13, 2011 at 10:11 pm
Thanks for a very interesting article. I really wish I’d read this a few weeks (or months) ago! I have just finished my first long multi-day cycle ride, with my old heavy hybrid + gear, from Holyhead to Cardiff over 3 days, and had a tough but fantastic time but energy levels were up and down all over the place. I now realise that while I deserved it, the massive breakfast roll at the Storey Arms (A 470 by Pen-y-Fan) probably wasn’t the most sensible idea
I look forward to using the info and eating a bit more sensibly on future rides.
September 15, 2011 at 1:48 pm
Hi Bob – massive congrats on finishing your first multi-day sportive! You’ll learn a lot about your cycling over a three day sportive…yes, the food intake needs to be consistent and very regular. You also need to eat very well in the evenings and in the mornings too. The massive breakfast roll might not have been the a big problem in fact – more to do with what you ate consistently from then onwards…..little and often is my advice, although as said a good brekkie won’t do your cycling any harm (as long as you allowed some time for digestion!)…all things to learn Bob and find what works for you! Congrats again – 3 days is a big effort on the bike…
October 26, 2011 at 11:12 pm
I recently discovered your4 web site and have been reading many of your informative articles. Your advice and explanations are the best I have found through Google etc. I am an amateur 69 year old cyclist who has been riding for the past 12 years. I found the hydration and fueling articles very helpful and I am practicing them now. Your spining/pedaling article is great. I have read it many times and am practicing spining over 80 most of the time.
I have question: I need to improve my perfomance on the grades and hills. I haven’t had much experience in long grades. I am training for a 10 day trip across Germany, Austria and Hungary next September 2012 and need to strengthen hill/ grade climbing. Do you have some ideas, programs or advice for an old guy? I am averaging 14 mph over 40 miles right now. Hills take me down to 60 if they are long ones and I struggle at that. I ride 3 times a week which I will increase to 4 times as I get closer to the trip.
April 16, 2012 at 12:23 pm
I’ve read loads of articles/books on sports nutrition before but this article is one of the clearest articulations I’ve found to date. Interesting point about the body needing something ‘extra’ after the 3h30 mark – see recent Cycling Weekly piece on carb/protein drinks, seems protein plays some magic role that was hiterto not properly understood but key message seems to be that protein is not just for post-ride recovery. The point about isotonic drinks is interesting, too – personally I’m a fan of Torq products but agree, a lot of products on the market are probably too concentrated to work well on longer rides.
May 11, 2012 at 2:56 pm
Very good blog. Nice to have an unbiased take on such a key topic. Commercial products are progressing fast now and new and better energy gels are being released all the time. Don’t just stick to the well known brands such as High5 etc, there is a new energy gel, developed by Cnp professional in consultation with British cycling and the Sky Pro cycling team. Give it a try its called Cnp pro max energy gel, it is cola flavoured, I currently insist on using it.
September 8, 2012 at 9:22 pm
Great 411. I did not know about the fat tank. I will be doing a 100-mile ride on the 15th of Sept. will most def share you information with friends. Thanks.
October 4, 2012 at 10:40 am
I found a trove of information here for newbies like me. I switched to biking a year ago and instantly hooked to it. I have faced too many issues during my riding experience like hill climbing, long rides, knowing your gears etc. etc. I have added your site to my favorites list. Thanks again.
April 19, 2013 at 5:46 pm
Finally somebody put this in a way we can all understand!!! Thank-you..
May 7, 2013 at 4:54 pm
Thanks for this article, makes very interesting reading and lots learnt!! I am in training for my first Sportive (80k) after getting the Sprint Triatlon bug last year which got me into cycling. This event is my preperation for the London to Brighton which I am really looking forward to!! With the longer distance I guess its about putting in the miles and training the body to deal with it but your tips above are great. One question though, what is the best foods to eat the night before and the morning of the event to make sure that, in addition to food along the way, I will be best prepared for the ride? Cheers.
May 7, 2013 at 5:20 pm
Hi Colin, – I am just about to put the answer into a blog post – usually a substantial meal of your choice (carb based with some protein i.e: pasta dish, or steak and chips), hydrate well, – in the morning, eat a good breakfast and hydrate well too: porridge oats, toast, perhaps an egg too…the simple answer is to ‘eat well’ Colin – it is not the time to be on a diet, that is for sure! Will elaborate in my next blog post. Cheers and enjoy your cycling!!
July 27, 2013 at 11:19 pm
Rebecca. Great set of articles, thx for sharing
Doing my second 24hr road race at end of August. Did fine last year and did not run out of fuel. But this could have been more luck than judgement, basically varied it lots. Any specific advice though for this next one? Want to make sure I get it right as so much to think about…
July 28, 2013 at 7:31 am
Hi Doug, There is a simple rule in cycling: “if it WORKS, don’t change it!!!” So, if you remember everything you did last year with your fuelling strategy, AND IT WORKED…then DO THE SAME this year! Sometimes the temptation is to change things, even try things new specially when getting a bit nervous about your pending event …. If this was winter or spring, I might say try a new strategy in training, but as you are only a few weeks away, KEEP IT SIMPLE and copy what worked last year to the letter and you’ll, in most cases, get the same good fuelling result.
Hope this helps and BEST OF LUCK!
November 3, 2013 at 11:02 am
You mention eating 1 cliff bar every 20 minutes is that the whole bar or pieces? As it sounds like a lot of bars to carry if it is a whole bar every 20 minutes for say a 6 hour ride.
November 3, 2013 at 11:13 am
Hi Sylvester – yes, 12 bars (eaten whole) for 6 hours would be about right! Look for ‘easy to eat’ bars, not great big, dry bars that are hard to eat! You are using up a huge amount of energy, and it needs regularly replaced. You don’t have to choose all 12 cereal bars though, you can take say 6 cereal bars with you, and a bag of mixed fruit, and a couple bananas or energy gels near the end of the event. You can also look at adding a more carbohydrate mixed drink, (but never more than 7% concentration). The key is in testing this all out on long rides. You also have the choice of feed stations on route, so can perhaps minus a couple of bars due to two feed station stops (if you are in an event)…and if you have a road side friend who can hand you stuff..well, all the better!
January 15, 2014 at 11:57 am
Really interesting information and pleased to have read it.I do a lot of high intensity training on my turbo trainer, most sessions last 45 to 60min x2 a week plus 3 rides on the road 2-4hrs is there anything else you can tell me to eat or drink to keep my energy levels high.Big thanks Gary
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