Firstly, when prepping for longer endurance rides the first question I get asked a lot is how do you train? Distance or Time? I reply…Time, every day of the week!
By that I mean it’s much better to think “I’m heading out today for 3 hours” as opposed to “right, I’m going to do 100 km today”. That way you can measurably increase your “time” in the saddle, it allows the body to adapt and allows you to endure sitting in the saddle for longer periods, providing both mental and physical conditioning.
When do I need to think about fueling on the bike?
Generally, the rule of thumb I have gone by (and it has served me well!) is that you have around 2 hours worth of energy (Glycogen) stored within your body, if you are planning to train longer than that, you will need to be looking at refueling, unless you are entering the realms of fasted rides etc but that is a different topic all together!
The longer slower stuff is at a much lower-to-moderate intensity which in turn, trains our bodies to burn fat stored as fuel allowing longer training duration, There will ultimately be an energy deficit, especially once you get over the two-hour mark!
Where do I start?
It can take up to 48 hours for the body to convert carbohydrate consumed by the body into glycogen stores. Forward planning and mindful eating is key to keep those levels topped up with quality fuel sources… Junk in = Junk out. Without getting into the vast topic area of sports nutrition, Mr Joe Average just eats a healthy balanced diet and doesn’t get too hung up on it all. I’m a big fan of chicken, oily fish, pulses and sweet potatoes.
How much do I need to eat?
One problem is, and this is something I have witnessed, people are getting distressed on longer distance events because they have eaten too much rather than too little! The body cannot process the quantity of carbs; in particular when in the form of gels. This leads to an impromptu dash for the portaloos!
Generally speaking 60g of carbs an hour is what you need to keep those pedals turning!
To give you an idea of what that might look like: –
- 750ml energy drink
- 3 No Gels (generally 1 gel is 20g)
- 3 bananas
- 100g dried apricots (I’m not suggesting you eat a full 100g ?)
- 2 energy bars (I make my own dead easy to do and cheaper)
I tend to split the hour of fueling up into 20 mins sections, set an alarm on your Garmin if you must, but drip feeding the body regularly and consistently is much better than swamping your digestive system all in one go “BOOM have that Gut”…and your off to the portaloo!!
It’s a personal choice but I prefer where I can to use solid food rather than the Gels. When I’m on the bike and when racing I use a mixture of both until the last 2 hrs when I switch to gels especially if I’m having to run off the bike.
A typical routine for me when out on a ride (not Racing) and consumed every half hour is:-
- Energy drink and bar ever hour (this does not include water for hydration)
- 1 banana, 1 Bar with a few nuts and dried fruit.
Have a play with what works and don’t forget hydration, you’ll be surprised by the impact of dehydration on the bike. Keep drinking every 10 minutes or so and don’t wait until you are thirsty. If you stick to 60g of carbs an hour and you won’t go far wrong. Be aware that many of the gels need to be taken with water to dilute them, this allows your body to absorb them when they hit your stomach, otherwise the concentration can be too strong, and it just sits there sloshing around in your stomach – an awful feeling! Look for gels made with coconut water or pre-mix all your gels in a marked bottle topped up with water.
So, you’ve done your ride done and you want to kick back and bask in the glory of your accomplishments, well, don’t just yet! Stow your kit, it’s…
You have a 30-minute window… this is critical to your recovery!
This is the key time to get some much-needed fuel back into your system.
Protein is king here! A few options for you:-
- I like a tin of tuna mashed up with half an avocado and a squirt of fresh lime juice.
- Tuna sandwich on granary bread also works.
- There are a multitude of convenient recovery shakes OTE is my preferred go to.
- 500ml of milk with a banana or flavoured milk is also a good option.
This can then be followed with a balanced meal within 2 hours and you are on your way to topping up those depleted stores ready for your next ride!