When to eat on the bike

3 years of Kits Energy

Some of you are moving away from being casual riders to cyclists training for an event. One of the most important things you will need to learn, practice, and eventually master is the art of eating during long rides and during your event. I’m not talking about eating while pedalling, although eventually you may be ready for that, I’m talking about eating at regular times during your ride to keep up your energy throughout your event.

When you are riding, your muscles use sugar and fat to do the work. The process of converting fat into energy is more difficult and time consuming so the majority of your energy will come from sugar or glycogen. Your body will use most of your available glycogen stores within the first hour. Unfortunately your brain only survives on sugar. So when you feel dizzy, light headed, confused, short tempered or faint this is because you don’t have enough sugar going to your brain. You may have already experienced this on a ride but if you haven’t you never want to get to this point. Once you are there, it is extremely hard to reverse.

You want to stay one step ahead of what our body needs which is why I teach all my athletes to eat on a schedule – whether they feel like eating or not. Normally in life you are counting calories so that you don’t over eat. Now I’m teaching you to count calories so that you eat enough. The timing of when you eat and the amount of calories you eat at each interval are the keys to having a great ride.

Use the following guideline to start with and then add or subtract calories as your stomach insists or your energy demands require.

Breakfast one hour before your ride of mainly carbohydrates with only a little bit of fat and protein as these both take too much time to digest (2-3 hours).
examples: toast with pb and banana, yogurt with granola and fruit, fruit smoothie, oatmeal
drink one glass of water and an extra glass of water for every cup of coffee so you are well hydrated

First snack at 45minutes into the ride: 200-250 calories for women, 300-350 calories for men of mainly simple SUGARS (very little fat or protein)
NOTE: The range of calories are a guideline for you to start with and through experience you will know if you need more or less.
examples: fruit bars, gels, white potatoes, bananas, fig newtons, sesame snaps, shot bloks, cliff bars, sharkies or a drink with calories in it like Vega Sport, Gatorade, Eload, etc
Bring a wide range of food choices as you may not “feel” like eating something but you MUST.
Drink 3/4 to a full water bottle or water with electrolytes in it if you are a heavy sweater.

If your ride is less than 2 hours, then you don’t necessarily need to eat again on the ride but you MUST eat another 250-350 calories as soon as you get home to replace the lost sugar during the last hour.  If you miss this 30min window after exercise, your glycogen stores will have a difficult time rebuilding which means that your next ride is going to hurt. AFTER you eat your post ride snack, eat a regular healthy lunch/meal complete with carbs, fat and protein to repair your muscles.

If you are riding for longer, you will repeat the above schedule EVERY 45 minutes.  Set your watch to an alarm if you have to.  The same “after ride eating schedule” applies to the long ride.

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