THE BASICS - What should I eat and drink?
When it comes to nutrition and hydration around cycling, a great nutrition approach is the foundation to staying strong, healthy and helping you recover quickly and become a stronger cyclist. We’ve all been there and experienced the infamous and dreaded “bonk”. There’s nothing worse than when you run out of energy and your tank feels empty, yet you still have a ways to go on your ride. What and when to eat before, during and after your ride can be confusing.
Everyone is different. What works for others might not necessarily work for you. Use trial and error to experiment and try different things to find out what works best for your unique needs. We are all individuals, and personal preference ultimately plays a big part in your nutrition and hydration strategy. Having a strategy is one part of the equation, and following through with that strategy is just as important.
A combination of proper fueling, with a focus on carbohydrates in particular, to help quickly replenish glycogen and energy lost to output activity. Always ensuring you bring enough fuel on your rides is an essential part to staying fueled.
Hydration is another equally important aspect. Of all electrolytes we lose to sweat, sodium is among the most crucial to replace. In general, we’re mostly concerned with water and salt lost to sweat. Staying hydrated with fluid before, during and after your ride will help your body’s recovery process and avoid cramping.
PRE RIDE NUTRITION - What should I eat before I ride?
Depending on what time of day your ride is, and how long you’re planning to go out for, and the expected intensity of your ride, pre-ride nutrition can vary from ride to ride.
Aim to eat at least 1-2 hours before your ride, to allow your body time to digest before jumping on the bike. You want to be eating enough to feel satisfied and fueled before the start of your ride. Drinking enough water before your ride to quench any thirst. Carbohydrates are especially important as they provide a quick source of energy for the body, as opposed to fat and protein which require more time to become an efficient source of fuel.
ON THE BIKE - What should I eat while I ride?
FOOD - For rides that last over an hour, it’s important to start refueling your body every hour. Carbohydrate rich foods such as bananas, gels, chews, energy bars, and other quick digesting foods can be stored in the back pocket of your jersey for quick access during your rides. A mistake many cyclists make is waiting until they’re hungry or thirsty to drink or eat. When you’re riding over an hour, even a few small bites of something quick such as a gel or an energy bar can help keep your energy levels up.
HYDRATION - just as important as nutrition is hydration. When we sweat, we not only lose fluids but also essential minerals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, etc. that are important to be replenished. Hydrating with more than just water will help avoid cramping and help to keep you energized for your ride. Add a scoop of Skratch Labs Sports Hydration to your water bottle, and drink 1-2 servings for each hour of exercise. In addition to water, sodium is definitely the most crucial thing to replace from sweat. Be sure to follow up with water to help you digest foods like gels that can upset some riders digestive system since they are high in carbohydrates.
POST RIDE REFUELING & REHYDRATING - What should I eat after I ride?
After you’ve finished your ride, replenishing your nutritional stores is key to ensuring a restorative recovery. It’s important that you try to refuel and rehydrate as soon as you can after your ride. Ideally consume a balanced meal of carbohydrates, fats and protein. All 3 macronutrients are essential to aid in recovery, specifically focusing on protein and carbohydrates. A high quality source of protein helps to aid and repair damage to the muscles, not consuming enough protein after your ride can impede your muscles recovery process. Equally important is replenishing glycogen from carbs. Not adequately replacing carbs used on your ride can cause feelings of weakness, soreness and low energy levels that can last into your next ride.
Planning ahead to ensure you have a nutritious meal ready to go quickly after you’ve finished your ride makes post-ride refueling much easier and more convenient.
Also important is getting in water after a ride. A combination of water and/or replenishing with electrolytes will help your body rehydrate with fluids and minerals lost while sweating. Getting in enough liquid helps you avoid any possible cramping that can be associated with loss in electrolytes.
At the end of the day, nutrition and hydration plays a crucial role in terms of keeping up consistent energy on the bike. Underfuelling is a common occurrence in cyclists, and puts more unnecessary stress on your body. Lack of energy can directly correlate to lack of fuel, affecting your performance during your ride. Give your body the proper nutrition it needs to recover adequately. Depending on the length and intensity of your rides, your nutrition and hydration needs may differ from ride to ride. Not only differ from ride to ride, but also differ from other riders. Don’t compare yourself to others as their unique needs will be different than yours. Remember that nutrition isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach.
Finding the right nutrition approach that works for you to help optimize your training and riding can help with performance and endurance.
Getting your body to respond faster so you can get ready for your next ride without any feelings of soreness and weakness.