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.