The most debatable, controversial and misunderstood aspect of cycling is hydration and nutrition. Keeping your fluid levels topped up on the bike is important – around 60 percent of your body is composed of water – dehydration and a lack of nutrients can lead to mental as well as physical fatigue. It’s important to look at hydration and nutrition as important aspects of cycling rather than secondary measures that are only taken when you begin to feel the heat.
Cycling is a strenuous activity that expends calories and energy. After a long ride, you need to be able to replace those lost nutrients. Failing to do so can lead to fatigue and discomfort.
No matter how much riding you do, your body will not fire on all cylinders if you’re not adequately fueled and hydrated. Part of your training regimen should be practicing for what and when you’ll eat and drink on the road.
A very simple mantra to follow – Eat before you’re hungry; Drink before you’re thirsty.
Fuelling yourself can be split into three stages, pre, during and post-ride.
Eating prior to your ride helps top up your glycogen stores so that you start your ride with as near to a full tank of glycogen possible. What you eat and when you eat it will also play a crucial role in how quickly your body is able to convert it into energy.
- A balanced meal with fresh fruits and vegetables
- A bowl of oats before bed as a booster
- Peanut Butter
- At least 500ml of water before heading out
DURING THE RIDE
Sample various foods before your ride to see what works for you, to learn what makes you feel supercharged rather than just nourished.
Carbohydrates are the body’s primary energy source while cycling. Stored in the muscle, any excess intake above the body’s calorie needs will be stored as fat. Large servings of carbohydrates can lead to a peak and trough of energy – this can leave you feeling very lethargic after a short burst of energy is used. A good and practical way to eat during a ride is to eat a fist-sized portion of a low-glycaemic carbohydrate ‘slow-burn’ carbs such as whole grains and fruits.
You also lose a lot of water at an accelerated pace while cycling, from both, sweating and respiration. When you’re not drinking you should at least be thinking about when you will take the next drink. Don’t wait for yourself to feel dehydrated. Consciously take a sip of water every 15 minutes.
Consider hydration supplements as they keep you energized and replace all the lost salts and minerals during your ride.
Aim to take 2-3 good sized gulps from your bottle every 10-15 minutes right from the moment you roll-off. This will prevent hydration related issues later into the ride
- Average sized cereal bar, about 30g for every 45-60 minutes of riding
- Always remember to keep eating and hydrating every 10 to 15 minutes, water or water mixed with electrolytes.
Muscles need to restore glycogen reserves which are completely depleted during the ride. The first 20 minutes after a ride is known to be the optimal refueling period where nutrients are taken up more efficiently and transported to the muscle stores.
A considerable amount of protein intake (10-20g) after your ride will help heal muscles and aid recovery.
Keep in mind the 3 R’s of post ride nutrition – Refuel, Repair and Rehydrate.
- Fruit juice or recovery shake
- keep hydrating
- Have a full meal with a significant amount of protein within one hour of finishing the ride
Do not underestimate ride hydration and nutrition as not paying close enough attention to your body’s requirements before, during and after a ride can have serious and potentially long term implications.
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