It does not matter if you are bicycle training with specific goals in mind or just out for a long ride, nutrition plays an extremely important role on how you will perform and how your body will recover.
Before we discuss nutrition, let’s talk about…
You should hydrate yourself before your ride, during your ride and after your ride!
The best tip I’ve read is to take in fluid consistently, say every 10 to 15 minutes, through the whole ride. Plan ahead. Do not get caught out there with no fluids and nowhere near a store.
Bottom line… If you feel thirsty and dehydrated, then you are already in trouble. Don’t wait until you are thirsty, drink to avoid feeling thirsty.
Proper nutrition is of extreme importance, and should be taken very seriously. It really makes a huge difference in how you perform, and more importantly, how your body recovers for the next ride.
If you plan on riding more than one hour, then you most likely will deplete your stored glycogen. Think of glycogen as the fuel your body needs to maintain at a high energy, high performance level. You must keep the tank full.
Also, PLEASE do not think you will lose more weight by riding long periods of time without food. You will only damage your body!!
Your nutritional needs depend a lot on the type and length of ride you will be doing.
The best way to maintain high levels of stored glycogen (energy) is to eat complex carbohydrates such as oatmeal, muesli, pasta and rice, mixed with small portions of protein. This is normally done the day before training rides and hours prior to the ride.
Within an hour of riding, and throughout the ride, cyclists will fuel their bodies with bananas, energy bars, gels and sports drinks. These foods are high in carbohydrates and help you maintain your energy.
In general, they provide a quick boost of energy, as compared to the slower release of complex carbohydrates. You will want to try many different combinations of foods and drinks to see how your body reacts. Everbody is different.
There is one thing guaranteed! If you take a very long ride, say 4 to 6 hours, with no food, then you will “hit the wall” or in cycling terms, you will “bonk”. Not fun!!
Dizziness.. headache.. heavy legs.. difficulty pedaling.. and all sorts of other fun stuff. How do you recover? Eat! Eat! Eat! Should take about 10 minutes to begin getting some energy back.
Obviously, your goal should be to avoid this. So, eat before you ride. Keep a couple of energy bars and gels in your pocket and a few bucks handy in case you need to stop at the store. Make sure you have some sports drink, not just water. Water is great but it does not provide you with the benefits that a sports drink does.
Your post-ride meal is equally important. There is a 30 minute window of opportunity, known as the Glycogen Window, where it is optimal to feed your muscles and replenish your stored glycogen levels. It is recommended that you take in a 4 to 1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. Some cyclists eat peanut butter sandwiches, turkey/cheese sandwiches or a recovery drink. We recommend Endurox R4 as a high quality recovery drink, with the exact 4 to 1 ratio needed.
This does not mean you still won’t chow down some good food, but if you have the drink ready in your car, or at home, then you can quickly get the nutrients needed to your body.