Going on a long bike ride is extremely demanding on your body but with some simple nutrition tricks you can significantly improve the distance and speed that you ride at. We’ve put together some of the top tips that you can use to finish your next ride stronger.
But first, why do we need sports nutrition? We often hear that a rider in the Tour de France will burn in excess of 8,000 calories a day. Of course this is extreme, but the point is that you will burn a lot of energy when you are cycling and the main source of that energy is carbohydrates. The problem is that you only have a limited store of carbohydrate and when this runs out, you will significantly slow down and start to struggle. In fact, if you completely run out, you’ll hit the wall, or ‘bonk’ as cyclists often say. So replacing your energy stores with carbohydrates is key to extending your endurance performance.
Secondly, sports drinks often contain electrolytes, because when you sweat, you lose more than just water, you lose important minerals like sodium and potassium. These are essential to the proper functioning of the muscles and therefore important to replace when cycling, alongside the fluid you lose. How much fluid lost will vary from individual to individual, and depending on weather conditions. In extreme situations, sweat rates can exceed 2 litres per hour, but typically you’re likely to lose around 1 litre per hour.
So here are five simple nutrition tips that can make a big difference to your next ride:
1. Start straight away
Begin to eat and drink early into the ride. You start to sweat and use carbohydrates for energy as soon as you are riding. By topping up on fluids and carbohydrate, you are protecting the stores in your body so that they can last you longer. EnergyBar is great for munching quickly while on the bike.
2. Little but often
This is something every pro rider will tell you. Eat and drink only a little at a time, but do it regularly. Every 10-20 minutes is a good frequency to aim for. This means you get a steady supply of energy and fluids without overloading your stomach.
3. Choose the right drink
Use a sports drink like EnergySource that provides you with both fluids, energy and electrolytes. Water alone does not contain the minerals you lose through sweat. And having carbohydrates in your drink means that you also get an energy supply.
4. Pace yourself
Keep an eye on your intensity from the start. The harder you ride, the more strain you put on your body. Save energy where you can, whether this means following your friends wheel or taking it a little easier on the descent. Especially early on, it’s easy to push a bit too hard because it feels easy, but you could be using up vital energy stores. Save it for the second half of your ride instead. It’s a strategy crowd favourite Chris Froome uses. “Throughout the day I’m thinking constantly, ‘I want to try and pedal as easily as possible until I have to really go – and then I put everything into it’,” he tells bikeradar.com.
Copious studies have shown that caffeine improves endurance. Aim for around 3mg per kg of bodyweight to get the ideal performance boost. To make it easy, we’ve done a few calculations for common body weights and what products they could use to get to the ideal caffeine intake:
40kg: 120mg (425ml EnergySource X’treme)
50kg: 150mg (550ml EnergySource X’treme)
60kg: 180mg (650ml EnergySource X’treme)
70kg: 210mg (750ml EnergySource X’treme)
80kg: 240mg (500ml EnergySource X’treme + 1x IsoGel X’treme)
90kg: 270mg (750ml EnergySource X’treme + 2x Gel Plus)
You can either take this before the ride or strategically during the ride (about an hour before you think it’s going to get really tough). Your body removes caffeine from your bloodstream over time. Once you’ve loaded up with caffeine, you should top up with 30mg caffeine every hour. EnergyGel Plus and IsoGel Plus each contain exactly 30mg caffeine per sachet, so take one of these to keep you going later on.
We’d love to hear from you! Please share your cycling pics, comments and opinions with us on social media.