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Should Cyclists Fuel With Candy?

By Jiri Kaloc

Be honest, how often do you ride your bike just to feel less guilty about indulging in your favourite junk food? Good news, there might be a way to make candy a part of your nutrition plan! Remember when Peter Sagan opted for handfuls of Haribo gummy bears after his win at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne? Most of us probably don’t have much in common with the Road World Champion, but it’s worth investigating whether candy is a good option for the average cycling enthusiast too.

What if you’re not Peter Sagan?

Most people consider protein the main recovery nutrient. But for seasoned and well-conditioned endurance athletes like Sagan, it’s actually calories that are much more important, regardless of their source. In cycling, you’re not breaking down muscle – you’re mainly depleting fuel sources. So if you’re riding regularly, chances are you could also benefit from quick calories after a long ride.


Are gummy bears that different from energy gels?

Energy gels, bars, and drinks are the most popular ways to ingest calories quickly when riding a bike. Their main purpose is to rapidly bring up blood sugar without causing stomach or intestinal issues. The high glycaemic index is actually helpful in this case. A serving of gummy bears has almost the same number of calories, the same carbohydrate mix, and glycaemic index as common energy drinks. So, in Sagan’s case, they were a great way to immediately replenish depleted glycogen stores after the massive effort he put out that day.

When is a good time to fuel with candy?

Firstly, you should be well-adapted to cycling. If you’re someone who goes for a light hour-long ride around the neighbourhood from time to time, then don’t even think about candy. But if you’re a passionate amateur cyclist or an aspiring pro, you might find a good use for it.

You can use candy after finishing a stage of a multi-day race or, for us amateurs, on a cycling vacation, where you want to take long rides for several days in a row. Alternatively, you can use them to give yourself a boost during a long three-plus-hour races. Finally, in six-plus-hour long endurance building training sessions, there’s virtually no downside to candy, it can literally save the day.

Be smart about it

If you decide to experiment with candy as a fuelling option, make sure you keep plain water or a light electrolyte mix in your bottle only. That way you don’t end up overloading yourself with carbs and upsetting your digestion. And especially during long rides, it’s not a good idea to rely solely on candy as a fuel, take some rice-cakes, sandwiches, or high-quality bars to get other nutrients into your system along with sugar.