Cycling enthusiast Bikey Venky talks about how you can fuel up to enjoy a smooth cycle ride with proper nutrition and hydration.
The two most important aspects that have an impact on any of your rides are – how you train and how you fuel your ride. While many understand the importance of proper training with gradual buildup of efforts, periodization etc., not many understand the importance of properly fueling their rides.
Fueling for a ride includes both hydration and nutrition. Hydration and nutrition have a big say in the quality of your training or just any riding for that matter. They determine how well you are able to train, recover, or just how you are able to enjoy your ride.
Typically, you would end up burning about 300-600 calories per hour of cycling depending on your body weight, metabolic rate, intensity etc., but we don’t need to replenish all the calories that we burn. At any given point, we have glycogen reserves worth 1200-2000 calories in our bodies. Hence, it is recommended that we refuel our body of about 15-25% of the calories expended per hour. That would mean 90-150 calories per hour assuming you end up burning 600 calories per hour. This roughly translates to about 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour and these carbs can be taken in the form of natural sources like bananas, nuts and dates etc., or energy bars made out of slow release items like sources of carbs like oats and dates etc. While this can be your nutrition during the ride, you might have to load up before the ride if you are attempting a long endurance effort.
When you are going for a ride longer than 2-3 hours, it is advisable to have breakfast before you start your ride. The breakfast should ideally be slow absorbing carbs like oats porridge or a bowl of fresh fruits and nuts. This can be 1-3 hours before your ride start time. Once on the ride, you can supply more fuel at regular intervals (every 15-30mins) in form of your favourite energy bars, peanut bars or bananas. This will ensure that there is a constant source of energy to your body and the energy levels never dip. With the right levels of energy, you are more likely to give your best on the ride and enjoy it more.
For intense efforts like races, a quicker absorbing energy source from gels might come in handy.
During the rides, we not only burn calories but also lose a lot of body fluids and electrolyte balance in the body which can be distorted. The resultant dehydration leads to diminishing performance in riders. To keep the performance levels up, we need to restore the electrolyte balance in the body by adding electrolytes to our hydration bottles and drink regularly on the ride. The rate of hydration depends on person to person and the ride conditions. But, in general, about 600-1000ml of hydration drink per hour is suggested.
It is a good idea to make it a habit to drink water in small quantities at regular intervals like every 15-20 mins. Depending on the intensity of the ride, one can use one or two hydration tabs in a 600ml bottle and look to consume one bottle per hour. Something like the Fast & Up reload hydration tabs have all the necessary electrolytes. There are some riders who prefer more natural sources like common salt, lime, and sugar. Whatever is your source, it is important that the body’s electrolyte balance is restored for the body to recover and get stronger.
- Hydration: About 600ml per hour with electrolytes. Electrolyte sources: Fast & Up Reload tabs, Common Salt & lime with or without sugar/honey.
- Nutrition: 30-60gms of carbohydrates per hour. Sources: Bananas, Peanut bars, Dates & Nuts, Energy bars, Energy gels etc.
- Post ride: After a hard ride, having a combination of carbs and protein (in approximately 4:1 ratio) for easy recovery. It can be normal food that you take or milkshakes with fruits like bananas etc.