A couple of weeks ago I tackled the question – what is the best pre-ride food for cycling and this week I’m focusing on the best food to eat during a bike ride. Like the previous post, this one is a contribution from sports dietician Rebecca Hay from The Athlete’s Kitchen. Over to you Rebecca….
The length and intensity of a ride dictate how much and what you might decide to take with you on a bike ride. There is a lot of information in magazines and the internet about how to meet needs. Many cyclists choose to consume water only on their rides. For a short, moderate-paced ride this may be enough. When the intensity kicks up though it is time to start thinking about adding some carbohydrate to top up muscle fuel.
Basics – muscles will use glycogen for fuel. Glycogen is stored in our muscles and liver. We have enough stored in our muscles for about 90 minutes of moderate-intensity activity.
What does protein do? Protein is what your muscles are made of – so we do not want to use protein as a fuel as it means we’re dipping into our muscle tissue for fuel. Taking on a small amount of protein while exercising may help extend the length of time to exhaustion…but won’t necessarily make you go faster. It can slow down the movement of food from your gut as well which means you get the energy from that food more gradually. A great tip for day to day eating but not so efficient while exercising at a high intensity.
How much? Recommendations of 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour will meet most ride needs. For those going at a high intensity, for over 2½ hours, up to 90 grams per hour can be beneficial – at the level the sources of carbohydrates need to be considered as our gut can really only comfortably take on board ~60 to 70 grams of glucose each hour.
Commercial gels, bars, and sports drinks are easy options for ride fuel due to portability and convenience. If you have the inclination you may choose to make your own foods to take with you. Nothing wrong with a vegemite/jam/honey or peanut butter sandwich. You can make your own ‘portable fuels’ with you as well. I often recommend a book called The Feed Zone Portables by Allen Lim and Bijou Thomas. The benefit here is they are tried and tested and have a nutritional break down available.
Rebecca Hay can be contacted via her website at The Athlete’s Kitchen.