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Thread: Nutrition

  1. #1
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    Nutrition

    Hello folks,

    Did my first 30 miler last weekend (don't laugh, I'm trying my best), got home and felt absolutely empty. Had no energy in my legs at all. I know I need to work on my fitness and I go cycling every weekend so hopefully this will come in time. I love cycling and want to enter a few sportives later on in the year. Can anyone suggest any drinks or energy bars that can help and provide a boost whilst cycling. I currently just take water and bought some fruit flavoured jelly cubes from my LBS but these didn't seem to do much and quite frankly tasted awful. I have limited space to carry stuff but would welcome any advice.

    Jules.

  2. #2
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    30 miles, well done!

    It's really important to eat and drink the right stuff before, during and after any ride. Even eating a decent meal the night before with lots of carbs will really help.

    Plain water won't be enough after an hour, as you will need to replace carbs and salts amongst other things. I use High 5 Zero tablets in my water bottle, and they work really well. I have a good breakfast too, something slow-release such as porridge, with dried fruit for an extra energy boost.

    During the ride, bananas and flap jacks work well. Energy gels are good too, I have one every hour on my MTB rides if they're heavy going. Coffee and cake go hand in hand with any decent ride, during or at the end of a ride. Post-ride you could have a recovery bar, banana, even one of those Friji milkshakes, they work well for me!

    Eating and drinking well before, during and after any long ride will really help, good luck!

  3. #3
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    Be aware of the calorie intake though and make sure it is balanced against those you expend, most of these products are high in calories for a reason and are expensive when the appropriate 'normal' foods will often do just as well. The GB Youth talent team coaches recommend a bottle every hour (500ml) + cereal bar of some sort plus a high carb and high protein pasta meal or banana and pint of milk does equally well for immediately after a high intensity 2-3 hr training session. One of the most important points is the 20 minute window post ride i.e. ensure that you refuel within 20 mins of any hard exercise to get the full effect.

    Your body will become more efficient as you get fitter so don't panic but do try things out and see what works before an important ride, Smiffy has it right that eating and drinking appropriately before and after the ride is equally important and be aware of the other activity you do that might increase your energy requirements.

    Lots of info on nutrition, training, riding skills etc from the GB team experts on the British Cycling website Insight zone http://www.britishcycling.org.uk/insightzone

    Also I assume that you are already working as efficiently as you can when riding by having the right correctly fitting bike and equipment for the purpose.

  4. #4
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    To introduce a skeptical note here, I mostly eat bananas, sandwiches and Snickers bars for general riding, and make sure I have a good breakfast. The only time I've ever used sports nutrition products was on the 100-mile-per-day London to Paris I did a couple of years ago. The schedule prevented decent pauses to eat real food, but even then I scarfed down a heck of a lot of bananas.

    I think selling over-priced processed food to recreational sportspeople is a triumph of marketing over need. Most of us
    are just as well served using bananas and chocolate for fuel - it's not like we're trying to win the Tour de France.

  5. #5
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    You definitely need to get some calories in you if you are riding more than an hour. Something to do with your glycogen running out I think. But I too am very skeptical of packaged stuff. I am told gels taste disgusting. I go for ordinary full sugar squash in my bottle and a pinch of salt as well if its hot or I am on the trainer. I am not sure you need anything fancier unless you are aiming for Elite level.

    Eating is trickier because I don't really like sugary things - fig rolls are all right, and nuts maybe. What I really like are mini sausage rolls, or even just cooked mini cocktail sausages. And I have to make myself eat because I don't get hungry and then I forget and then bonk. I look at the clock on my Garmin and shove a fig roll in every twenty minutes whether I want it or not. I keep meaning to try out the crazy bacon and egg rice cakes from the Feed Zone Cookbook (as eaten by the Garmin Sharp team) - has anyone tried them?

    I just add that I don't buy into 'recovery drinks' either - if Chocolate Nesquik is good enough for Jonathan Tiernan-Locke I think its probably fine for your average leisure rider..

  6. #6
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    I quite like some nutrition things, like Mule bars, but more for the taste than anything else! For longer MTB rides my energy food of choice is banana, peanut butter and nuttella wraps. I love them! (actually, I quite fancy one now...). I did a long ride over 3 days last year with about 8 hours a day cycling, and mostly ate Tracker bars, with the occasional pasty/tea+cake stop. However, that ride was more about distance than speed - we weren't really pushing it!
    *wanders off to kitchen to make nutella-based snack*

  7. #7
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    Well I'm definitely not laughing as I have yet to do a 30-miler myself! Way to go! I have gone over 20 miles, though.

    You'll get to learn when and how much you need to eat, it's trial and error.

    Last summer I ate mostly Clif bars. I like them because they use a lot of natural or organic ingredients. Also, they make Kit bars which are few ingredients and relatively little processing. I would try to eat a decent/regular meal about 1 hour before a ride. I found that it hurt my stomach, no matter what the meal was, to do that and I would have to stop riding. I started to eat one or a half of some type of energy bar (or, a Snickers!!) right before riding, and just had to eat while on the bike after about 30-45 minutes. Usually another bar of some sort. I liked them because they weren't very heavy, small, and could easily fit in my pack.

    Also made sure to drink a lot of water. For longer rides, I have one water bottle of water, and another with 1/2 water and 1/2 gatorade. Although, I don't think I'll use gatorade this summer--I will look for a more natural replacement as I think gatorade has chemicals and/or high fructose corn syrup, or something of the sort.

    I will also need to find a new food because the thought of eating another Clif or Kit bar makes me want to puke. They were delicious at first, but no matter what I get sick of foods when I eat them over and over again.

    I like the idea of banana, PB, and nutella wraps -- Aoife, you may have just changed my life! Do they not get messy? How do you deal with the mess?

    Oh, and I also really like gummies! I find those to be yummy, even though I don't like sugary things much. They do a lot for a quick energy boost when I need it. I tried a gel once and thought it was disgusting. And it was supposed to be one of the better tasting ones. Yuck!
    ~
    peace. love. cycling.
    http://womencyclists.wordpress.com

  8. #8
    Super Moderator Nat@JoyrideCycles's Avatar
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    Here's my take on nutrition:

    Most importantly eat a nice, healthy-carbs meal the night before like fish with brown rice or pasta.

    Have a hearty breakfast - porridge with banana and dried fruit or bircher muesli (see my recipes thread!) does an awesome job.

    If it's a longer ride (over 50km) I eat something every hour. It is important to eat BEFORE you feel hungry as hunger indicates your body is running on empty. Once you have reached this stage it is very hard to come back from no matter what you eat.

    I am a big fan of eating natural stuff, and hate putting things in my body that have ingredients on the back that I don't understand! I would love to eat only bananas or homemade flapjack etc on the ride, but the truth is I can't be bothered squeezing 3-4 bananas in the back of my jersey and struggle with cling film wrapped home baked goods on the bike. For this reason I eat High5 energy or training bars on the bike. They are packed with natural goodness and made from stuff like brown rice and real fruit. I can actually understand all the ingredient names on the packet. They are easy on the stomach too, and I have a very sensitive gut! I've tried other brands - Powerbar (tummy ache central), Clif (pretty good, super tasty), but find High5 the most natural and easy on the stomach.

    Another thing to consider is eating whilst riding. I find energy bars are soft and easy to swallow,and homemade flapjack chewy and tough and a major choking hazard!

    To stay hydrated I take about 500ml liquid per 50km on cold days when I'm not sweating, more in summer. Always keep sipping even if you don't feel thirsty. I will use either electrolyte on shorter rides (High5 Zero tabs are good), or a mix of electrolyte and carbs on longer rides. The carb drink gives me a quick boost while I'm waiting for the slow release energy from the cereal bars.

    If you don't like the processed powders etc some squash with any electrolyte sachet thrown in does the job.

    Energy gels are good if you're really blowing out your backside in an emergency as they give you a quick super boost. The downside is you then crash pretty epically, like after a sugar high. They don't provide you with any slow release energy to sustain you. For this reason I avoid them and would only take them in emergency situations to get me home! Other people rely on gels and take them pre-ride and every 30 mins or so, so they might work for you. Another downside is too many gels = very unhappy gut!!


    The best thing to do is to try lots of different products and see what works for you. Maybe a structured approach of taking bars, gels and drinks will keep your legs going for hours, or maybe you'll feel super full and bloated and wish you'd stuck to the bananas! You may find the simple jam sandwich is your secret weapon. It works for Graham O'Bree!

    You will also find the further you ride, the further your body will go on its own as it learns to use energy sources already stored in your body rather than what you're topping it up with.

    And remember 30 miles is nothing to be sniffed at! When I finish 80kms or so I always remember struggling to do 30km when I first started riding.
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  9. #9
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    Jam sandwiches also have the advantage of having the best Calories-to-money ratio ever!

  10. #10
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    Mmm jam sandwiches. tasty!

    VeloWoman - the secret to preventing leaks in the peanut butter/banana/nuttella wrap is a combination of two things; 1) wrap folding technique (not quite sure how to explain this - maybe trial and error? Make sure there are no open ends, basically) and 2) wrapping in clingfilm or foil. Usually folds up pretty small and fits in my bag or pocket no probs. Its fine unless you land on it

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