Nutrition for long rides

As long ride enthusiasts, your supplies must be as well prepared as your bike to prevent an accumulation of excess fatigue.

It is hard to define what a long ride is - indeed, experienced cyclists will refer to long rides when it is at least 4hrs long, while a less experienced cyclist will consider a 2hr ride is a long one. However, the food strategy to reduce fatigue and challenge one's limits cannot be improvised, whatever the duration of the ride.

Before a long ride

The cyclist performance is related to a variety of factors, including diet that plays an important part.

First, to be able to complete your ride, you must ensure that you have the basics, ie. a balanced diet including the right proportion of proteins, lipids and carbohydrates.

What is a balanced diet?

1 – Do not skip meals and eat at regular times,

2 – Meat, fish, eggs, etc.: 1 to 2 per day

3 – Carbohydrates with every meal

4 – Dairy products: 2 to 3 per day

5 – Fruit and vegetables: at least 5 per day

6 – Fats: vegetable fats are preferable in reduced quantities

7 – Sugar: limit consumption.

8 – Drinking plenty of water

9 – Limiting alcohol as much as possible. Alcohol produces acidity in the muscles and therefore increases the risk of injury and does not promote recovery.

On ride day: Breakfast

Breakfast must ideally be eaten 3hrs before you set off for optimal gastric comfort. The aim of this meal is to top up your water reserves and to ensure you have plenty of energy while avoiding hypoglycaemia.

Breakfast idea:

  • A hot drink
  • Ultra cake: It is an energy cake that is rich in carbohydrates and above all easy to digest.
  • Fruit juice (if well tolerated)

During: supplies

First item: water

Water is essential to your body and performance. During a workout, the body can lose up to one litre and a half of sweat, sometimes more depending on the exercise conditions. It is therefore essential to compensate for this loss to prevent dehydration.

Second item: Energy

During a ride, the muscles use a mix of carbohydrates and lipids, the proportion of which varies depending on the type, intensity and duration of training, and the diet. Regular carbohydrate intake during workout has a beneficial impact on performance:

  • The carbohydrates provided are used first by the muscles, thus limiting the depletion of reserves
  • The carbohydrate intake helps you sustain effort longer
  • The carbohydrate intake helps keep your blood sugar to an adequate level for optimal brain function, and therefore reduce the feeling of tiredness, errors in judgement and lack of coordination induced by fatigue
  • The carbohydrate intake can also reduce exercise-related muscle damage

Third item: Sodium

Sweat contains minerals, mostly sodium, and also a bit of chlorine, potassium and magnesium. Body hydration can only be achieved through water and sodium intake. What's more, sodium facilitates the absorption of water and carbohydrates. Sodium is thus specifically recommended for long rides.

In practice:

First, you need to drink on a regular basis (1 sip every 10-15 minutes).

Then, you need to plan a 30 to 60g carbohydrate intake / workout hour.

As for the food used, everyone should develop and test their own strategy.

Isotonic drinks offer the best solution because they provide water, sodium and carbohydrates at once, in proportions tailored to meet athletic needs. They're all in one solutions...

If the isotonic drink is not enough, it can be associated with or replaced by energy gels , which are convenient to transport and easy to use.

And remember to put energy bars in your pockets: ultrabar, nougats, fruit jellies ... to replace the gels and satisfy the need to chew you may feel. And they provide carbohydrates and significant psychological comfort.

Take one gel or bar per hour of workout, in addition to the isotonic drink. If you don't use isotonic drinks, take 2 gels or 2 bars per hour of workout, in addition to water.

Pack for a long ride:

Recovery

Because long rides cause both general fatigue and muscular fatigue, the recovery phase should not be overlooked:

  • It helps maintain an efficient training and competition flow
  • It helps improve performance
  • It helps prevent injuries

This recovery phase will let your body return to a balanced state. It starts right after workout.

First, you must hydrate right after the completion of your ride. They you must provide carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals to make up for exercise-related loss. It is also interesting to provide proteins to promote muscle recovery.

In practice:

 

Marie Fauchille
Dietician | Nutritionist
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Advice

Any physical exercise requires an energy expenditure that needs to be compensated for. Energy gels contain nutrients and micronutrients to meet the needs induced by exercise. The objective is to delay the depletion of energy reserves and therefore delay fatigue during workout. The gel should be chosen based on the type of workout and/or the time of use.

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