I get asked a lot about cycling nutrition, especially when I tell people how long my weekend training rides can often be. “Do you stop for lunch?” – unfortunately, the café stops have to drop-off at some point, it’s not like I can stop for egg on toast on the actual race, is it!?
You have to find out what works for YOU best, because it’s not the same for us all! Some people love gels and carb drinks, some people love a good old jam sandwich… I’ve even heard some people like to bring pork pies!
Let’s start with breakfast…. I would always recommend a complex carbohydrate to be the bulk of it, good old-fashioned oats. I would then recommend adding a fat source to slow down the release of carbohydrates so you’re energised for longer! Nuts, nut butter, or coconut oil are great options. Now we’re getting to preferences, but I like to add a lil’ bit of honey (I like to pretend it’s for the anti-inflammatory purposes, but it’s the sweetness really!), and a serving of fruit for flavour!
You want to start your ride with a good breakfast behind you… like filling up your car before a long drive!
Now, personally, I think this next bit depends on the nature of your ride. Are you cycling 100 miles for nothing but social fun, which could include café stops? Is it a training ride for a specific race? Or is it a race/sportive itself?
If you are cycling for the fun of it with no real purpose, then your nutrition doesn’t need to be quite as strict. Personally with these types of rides, I generally just try to take on calories every hour to avoid the dreaded ‘bonk’ (this is v important). I like to use real foods such as bananas, Soreen slices (malt loaf), natural energy bars, with maybe a café stop including cake or egg on toast!
If I am on a training ride (most likely) for a particular race like an upcoming Ironman, then I like to replicate my race nutrition in ways. I am definitely not pushing as hard as I would be during a race, so I wouldn’t take on the volume of calories or gels for this, I adapt accordingly to my perceived effort levels/energy expenditure. I will always stick to eating a minimum of every hour, and I will use the same foods/gels that I plan to race with, This generally means having a mixture of bananas, malt-loaf or energy bars for the first ¾ and the last couple of hours with gels. I really HATE gels, but they are a necessary evil when racing, especially with a marathon on the horizon.
The general information around on fuelling during a RACE is to consume around 60g of carbohydrates per hour, to replace your glycogen stores. My coach encourages me to take on food/gels every 20 minutes… small and frequent. As mentioned above, I take on solids for the first 4 hours or so, and gels for the last couple… this usually works for me.
Bonking (running out of glycogen stores) and feeling dizzy/fatigued/ like you cant make another pedal is not nice at all… it can ruin a ride and destroy a race completely. It’s important to be sensible with your nutrition and not neglect it…. It’s just as important as the training itself.
Hydration is absolutely KEY! Not only drinking enough, but replenishing electrolytes to avoid cramping! I always trained with water – so I assumed I could race on just water… WRONG! I learnt the hard way (see Bolton race report) and I will now always train with electrolyte tablets, it helps that they make delicious flavours!
I have a few good little energy bar/ball and breakfast recipes on my blog if you have a little nosey! Happy riding!