If you’re cycling over 50 miles and taking in some hills, you need to start thinking about fuelling your ride.
The night before
When you see professional tour cyclists eating on their bike, they’re fuelling for the next day. The pros need about 8000 calories a day, but they need to average 25 mph including mountain climbs. You can’t sustain that kind of effort without stocking up in advance. Have a meal with lots of carbs and your body will start burning them the next day – heap your plate with pasta, with a little protein and a rainbow salad.
The pro peloton cycle over 100 miles a day for weeks on end, so they use gels with a rich balance of slow-release carbs and quick-release sugar. Sugar packs a lot of energy into a small space, and our evolution means we favour the taste – it’s easy to eat. Eating 8k calories a day isn’t easy or fun, so if you’re on a high-energy ride, the taste of sugar motivates you to keep reaching for your fuel. The downside to gels? Not everyone likes the oyster-slime texture…
The Bendy Yellow
Bananas fit easily in jersey pockets, they’re cheap, and a medium-sized banana is about 110 calories. They’re packed full of tasty sugar, which motivates your body to eat them, and provide a sizeable chunk of your recommended daily allowance of potassium, magnesium, and vitamin B & C. A study at The Appalachian State University’s Human Performance Lab equated eating half a banana every 15 minutes to drinking a premium branded sports drink every 15 minutes. Energy, naturally.
I met a veteran cyclist on a century, and during the few miles we were together he tucked into a McVities Jamaican Ginger Cake. It’s sugary, high in calories, easy to store, and this tasty alternative to gels really motivates you to keep refuelling throughout your ride. You don’t have to spend big bucks on “performance” foods, so have fun experimenting with different flavours and textures.
Keep yourself hydrated, but you probably don’t need as much water as you think. If you’re cycling in hot conditions, make sure you have a couple of bidons to hand, and remember it’s about replacing what you sweat. Adding a teaspoon of sugar and a pinch of salt to a litre of water is just as effective as splashing out on expensive “sports energy” drinks – the salt will help balance your electrolytes.
The convenience of Jelly Babies
Jelly Babies, or Jelly Beans are portable, small, sweet, and easy to get from pocket to mouth. They have a good tolerance to temperature and don’t spoil easily – they’re less likely than bananas to turn into a load of mush in your pocket.
Mix it up and keep on eating
Unless you’re riding professionally, a combination of the above foods will be more than enough to keep you going on your ride. The trick is to start eating early so that your body is taking up the carbs for later in your ride. Practice opening food using one hand and your mouth – the last thing you want to do is fall off your bike. Eat sensibly and safely.