Getting into Gear for Will Bike 4 Food: Fuel your ride

By Liz Budd of Speed & Sprocket

wb4f-cyclistsWe all know that feeling — zapped of energy, exhausted and spent. While it can be paired with feelings of accomplishment at the end of a ride, we don’t want to feel that way in the middle of it. Here are a few tips for making sure you stay full of energy throughout your ride.

What to eat before a long ride

Whether you’re an elite athlete or just like to be active, eating balanced meals on a regular basis is the simplest way to maintain energy and prepare for exercise. A balanced meal should provide protein, fat, starch (think potatoes or grains,) and lots of watery crisps (think fruits and veggies.) Eating balanced meals for a week leading up to an athletic event will help boost your metabolism and prepare your body for exercise.

For those of you that are already maintaining this diet, there is still more that you can do to prepare. This is where a bit of carb-loading can come in handy. Carb-loading is a pretty simple technique: eat more starch (potatoes and grains), about 1.5 times the amount of starches you normally eat, starting two to three days before an athletic event. This doesn’t mean eating copious amounts of starchy foods. It simply means add a little bit more to your plate and eat a little bit less protein and fat. This will allow your muscles to have the maximum amount of stored energy for the ride — helping you avoid that zonked out feeling.

What to eat during the ride

Eating during the ride is vitally important, especially if you’re riding for more than an hour. Although you may have carb-loaded and eaten balanced meals to prepare for your ride, if you’re on your bike for more than an hour, then chances are you’ve depleted your accessible carb storage. So what can you do to avoid fatigue? EAT!

There are lots of products out there that are designed to be compact and provide accessible energy to your body while exercising. BLOKS and GU are some products you may have heard of, but there are also bars and wafers like Lara bars and Honey Stingers. There’s also the good old-fashioned banana. All of these products/foods are designed to help give you both immediate and longer lasting energy. Finding what you like best is trial and error but having at least one of these items on a two hour ride is vital.

How much food to carry

If you’re on an unsupported ride my basic guideline is to carry 100 calories for each hour you’ll be on the road after the first hour. So for a three hour ride, you should carry and consume approximately 200 calories; that’s typically the energy in one bar, two bananas or one banana and an energy drink.

When to  eat on a ride

The best time to eat on the ride is before you feel like you need to! Often times when you’re hungry, your body has used up all of its easily accessible stored energy. A good rule of thumb is to eat on the hour. That means for a 3-hour ride, eat half a bar or 1 banana after you’ve been riding for an hour and do the same again at hour 2. This will hopefully help you avoid feeling exhausted.

What to drink on a ride

Water is often times something people forget about, but it’s vitally important to your body’s metabolism, energy level and performance. The rule of thumb for water during exercise is to drink every 15 minutes. If it’s cold outside you can drink a little less. On a three-hour ride, you should carry a minimum of two 24-ounce water bottles. By the end of a three-hour ride in the summer they should be nearly empty.

There are many products out there in the form of powders or pre-mixed drinks that are designed to help you maintain important mineral levels. Sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade  are great ways to ensure that you don’t deplete mineral levels in your body. Carrying at least one water bottle on a long ride with one of these drinks is a great way to ensure you maintain your mineral levels.  However it’s also important to note that many of these drinks contain sugars (about 100 calories a serving) to help you maintain energy and should replace one serving of food that you carry.

So now you have some metaphorical tools to add to your saddle bag! Eat balanced meals leading up to the ride, drink lots of water, and take 100 calories worth of food for every hour after the first hour and you’ll be set for a energized and enjoyable ride. Pedal on.