Picking up good eating habits around cycling is vital to a successful enjoyable ride. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all of the advice out there for cyclists, we’ve compiled five simple tips that will prepare you for any event.
Get into the habit of taking on fluid regularly, whether you are out on the road or not. It's a good way to ensure when you get out on the bike you're not already dehydrated, as once your body is in a deficit it will most likely stay that way during the ride.
Being dehydrated can lead to a significant drop in performance, so make sure you get enough water on board before and during the ride. When the weather is really hot consider using a sports drinks like Torq or Gu that will help replenish essential electrolytes that are lost through sweat.
Everyone would have heard the term carb loading, but the trick here is to work out the best method for you body. Taking on food before a ride is crucial to your performance, and the key is taking in enough while getting the time right. For some eating a big dinner before the morning ride is enough, for others they'll need to eat one or two hours prior to the ride. Having a gel or bar just prior isn't a bad idea either, just to kick in a few extra carbs. Just be careful not to over eat for an event, work out a system prior to an event and use it in training and on race day. Surprisingly, overeating is one of the most common mistakes of endurance cyclists before big events.
Your body can store enough energy for 90 minutes of strenuous exercise, and then you’ll be running on empty. It’s far better not to let yourself get to that – so don’t risk bonking.
Try to get into the habit of eating and drinking regularly in order to ensure you maintain performance and avoid getting jelly legs; The general rule of thumb is to take in between 60-90g of carbohydrate per hour, but again it is worth working out for yourself what your body needs as everyone's carbohydrate needs and digestive systems are different. A great way to get the carbs is through gels, bars or easily digested foods like white bread sandwiches or banana's. One little tip is setting a timer on your computer to go off at intervals appropriate to your needs, taking the conditions into account, this way you wont forget to eat and drink!
The key to event day performance is to train your body to take in the needed nutrition. Race day is not the day to try something new. Make sure you body can cope with gels or bars on the ride, make sure you are happy with the taste because if you don't like it you are less likely to take it as often as you need. Get into the habit of practising you ride diet in training on a regular basis, so when you get to your event there are no nasty surprises for your body. You wouldn’t do an event without the necessary training so don’t eat during an event without practising your strategy first.
When you train or compete your body uses up so much more energy than normal and it is vital that these stores get replenished. Without replacing energy, nutrient and protein stores your body just will not recover from the stresses and strains of training.
Taking on proteins and carbohydrates within an hour of your training will increase your recovery due to the body’s unique ability to absorb nutrients within this time.
Good recovery should include protein, carbohydrate and electrolytes for total recovery. Try to avoid milk-based recovery as the Casein protein within it is very slow to get to action – ideally, you want to recover as quickly as possible.
If you are interested, the following video goes into greater depth on the subject of cycling nutrition. It has some useful guides to working out what your potential needs might be, as well as some really useful tips for getting most out of your cycling experience.