Updated: Jul 17
There are many stories of how cycling has transformed people’s lives - from couch potato to cyclist extraordinaire. Many of us are riding to stay healthy and keep the weight off, which are great goals. But, in our quest to keep the weight off many of us make a fundamental error that directly affects our riding experience. Often we try not to eat too much while riding, thinking that this will help us in our weight loss goals. At Sans Chaine we would say that this is a big mistake and advocate for the opposite approach: eat on the bike to fuel your riding and watch what you eat afterwards.
We use the term fuelling rather than nutrition because that is really what you are doing - putting gas into your tank. The more fuel you can put into your tank and burn the better your riding will be. The higher the workload, or the higher the wattage in your efforts, the more direct the link is between fuelling your ride adequately and the ability to do the work. Pay attention to getting in more calories while riding and you will notice a significant difference in how you feel towards the latter parts of the day.
Maximizing your caloric intake
It used to be thought that athletes could only take in about 240 calories per hour but we now know that the body can take in upwards of 300 calories per hour, or even more. Keep in mind that each person is different and your fuelling strategy needs to be personalized and practiced. You don’t necessarily need 300 calories per hour, but one gel per hour at 75 calories isn’t enough.
Using a high calorie drink mix such as Infinit Nutrition's Ride mix, where you are getting about 280 calories in a water bottle makes fueling very easy - a bottle an hour and you’re done (stash a couple of ziploc baggies in your pocket to refuel at the rest stops). Any combination of snacks and drink will work, it is just a matter of sorting out what works best for you.
With the goal of maximizing your caloric intake in mind it is essential that you practice your fuelling strategy in your training. By practicing your fueling in training you can test out the products you are using in a variety of conditions (think hot and cold days, hard and easy rides) and train your stomach to get comfortable taking in the calories. On race day you don’t want to suddenly start pounding the calories, when on all your other rides you barely ate, as it can often lead to gastric discomfort and bloating.
Eat more while out on the bike and you’ll feel better while riding. You will also notice that you don’t finish each ride famished, wanting to pound the biggest plate of pasta you can find when you get home. Practice and hone your fuelling strategy and it will help you ride better than you expect come your big event.