Thriving on long cycling tours: Nutrition rules

Enjoying a long ride has a lot to do with proper nutrition. When you have enough energy and water you can push yourself, keep a good pace and climb well. Our ultra long cycling tour was a great experience, and everyone rode well.
Also, you can prepare for your first long ride with the Five rules for preparing your first long distance ride

Here's how we kept in good shape over 260km of cycling:
Chocolate chip cookies by by Adrián Cerón
via Wikimedia Commons

There are two simple rules to follow on any ride longer than 4 hours:

  • Eat before you are hungry - food takes time to digest. If you wait until you get hungry while you ride for hundreds of kilometres, you'll deplete the glycogen stores in your muscles and suffer a bonk
  • Drink before you are thirsty - much like food, waiting to drink when you get thirsty is a good way to risk dehydration, especially on a hot day
The simple rules need a practical application in long distance cycling. In order to keep things simple, apply the following rules: 
  • Have breakfast - you should eat breakfast at least 1 hour before your ride starts. If you have 2 hours before the ride scrambled eggs, cheese and toast is a good choice. If you have less time, eat whole grain cookies and cheese. Drink lots of water.
  • Eat around 300 calories every hour - you need carbohydrates and protein in your food. Your meals can vary from energy bars to sandwiches with peanut butter, jelly and cheese. Make sure you vary your food throughout the day. If you keep to the same taste, by the end of the day you won't be able to have another bite.
  • Have lunch - If you are out on a whole day ride, make sure that you eat a good lunch - pizza, chicken or a well prepared burger is always a good choice. Rest for an hour after lunch, let the food travel towards your stomach before continuing with the ride.
  • Drink more than 1/2 litre of fluids every hour - water and sports drinks should be mixed in a 2 to 1 ratio during the whole ride. Drink small amounts often. Don't try to full up for the whole hour in one go. 
  • Eat something salty every 2 hours - most of high energy food for sports is sweet, and very soon you'll be fed up with the sweet taste. Also, your body loses salt through sweating that you must replenish - especially on a hot day. You should eat something salty at least every couple of hours. You can have a bag of salted peanuts, or some salty crackers.
You can use these simple rules to plan your long ride nutrition, buy the food ahead of time and keep a good eating pace to match your good cycling pace. 

What are your cycling nutrition rules? Tell us in the comments

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About Bozidar Spirovski

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  1. Eating well has been one of my biggest struggles getting back on the bike. I developed some habits to help me with weight loss.

    But those same habits are not effective to help me increase my fitness on the bike. Being 20lbs lighter in and of itself certainly helps my cycling. As I get closer and closer to my goal weight, I find that I am more and more sensitive to how different foods (or lack there of) affect my performance.

    This post gives some great advice to keep you filed throughout the day so you can be your best on the bike.

    Thanks for the post


  2. I am new to cycling. As I am thinking of graduating to long rides, lots and lots of questions come to mind. You have answered almost all questions around food intake type and scheduling in quite deydeta. Thanks.

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