1. Drink water. Every day. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself.
As a cyclist, your day probably revolves around one of two things: will you ride your bike or not? Whether or not you are riding, hydration should be a focus of your daily nutrition. We like to choose low calorie hydration options that contain electrolytes for the days when we’re not riding. Remember not to go overboard either, drinking too many fluids can have negative consequences as well. We recommend 80-120 ounces each day, weather and training dependent.
2. Everyday eating tip: Have your ride in mind. When riding immediately after you wake up, we recommend eating a very small (200-300 calorie) breakfast. If you’re riding later in the day, eat a healthy whole grain medium sized breakfast (400-600 calories). If you’re doing really long rides or races having a bigger, more filling carbohydrate-rich breakfast 3-4 hours before is very important.
3. Before you workout, put some fuel in that body. 60 minutes prior to your workout, take inventory of what you’ve eaten in the past 24 hours. If you ate a large meal more than 3 hours ago, it’s likely that you need to top off your energy stores with solid, easily digestible food in the range of 150-200 calories.
4. If you’ve eaten more than 4 hours ago, you can still workout. If you haven’t eaten a large meal in 4+ hours, we don’t recommend cramming a big meal in before your ride. Eat something substantial 60 minutes before your ride, like a Probar Meal or Kate’s Bar. We’ve recommended a higher calorie bar that will digest throughout your ride, giving you consistent energy to avoid a bonk or drop in performance. If your workout is greater than 2 hours, bring along a pack of chews or gel to use as needed.
5. Eating and Drinking during your ride is essential. Plan your nutrition ahead of time based on how long and how intense your workout is. Duration: 1 hour or less: Your primary focus will be on hydration. If it is 75 degrees, carry two bottles, one of which can have an exercise hydration mix if you want. For this duration hydration is more important than food. We recommend that you carry some food just in case. Have a small bar or pack of chews ready as a backup. 2 hour ride: Hydration is still your primary focus, but you’ll also need to consider food at this ride length. For hydration, we recommend at least 2 x 21 ounce bottles. If you have the chance to stop, drink 3. 1-2 full bottles of exercise hydration is key if it’s hot outside. Food choice for a 1-2 hour ride should include 1 bar and 1 gel or chew depending on your preference. 3+ hour ride: As a general rule of thumb, you should be eating 1 bar per hour, and 1-2 gels or chews near the end of the ride. Aim for drinking at least 2 x 21 ounce bottles per hour. If you have the chance to stop and drink more, go for it. We recommend carrying single serve hydration mixes, like Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration, along with you to fill bottles with. Intensity: Intensity can play a key role in determining the nutrition you need during your ride. When you’re riding hard, regardless of duration, you should add electrolyte hydration mixes to all of your bottles. In general, we recommend that you eat half the calories you’re burning per hour. At the high end, you might burn 800 calories per hour, and should work to replace 300-400 during an hour. During intense exercise, it will also be harder for you to ingest solid foods, you may want to consider a shift towards easily digestible bars (Bearded Brothers, Amrita Endurance Bar, Enduro Bites), and gels or chews.
6. After You Ride: Your primary focus when you finish riding should be recovery. In large part this will be determined by how long and how intense your ride was. Following an intense ride of any length, you should consider a quick acting recovery product that will replenish glycogen stores quickly. As a general rule of thumb, products with a 4 to 1 carbohydrate to protein ratio are the most effective. For rides that are 3+ hours in duration, regardless of intensity, it is still important to replenish glycogen immediately following your ride. We cannot stress how important it is to take advantage of the 30-45 minutes after you exercise to mainline recovery to your system. This is when your body can most effectively replenish glycogen stores, absorb nutrient to repair muscles and rehydrate. About two hours after you have your recovery meal focus on get a more balanced, nutrient dense meal. While you’re recovering, don’t forget to drink a lot of water.