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Nutrition for MTB Adventures – Fuelling on the Bike

By Jiri Kaloc

Fuelling on the bike is essential during races or long rides. It’s what allows you to maintain energy levels, motivation, and the ability to recover well the next day. Let’s go over how much you should be eating, when, and what type of snacks.

Aim for 40-60 g of carbs per hour

Normally, the most you can absorb is 1 g of carbohydrates per minute or 60 g per hour. If you train your gut and use a mixed-sugar drink with fructose and glucose, then you can get up to 90 g per hour but that’s a special scenario most cyclists will never use. Working with a range from 40 to 60 g is important because you don’t always need to eat the max amount of carbs.

Mountain Bike
Push your intake higher only when a hard climb or a demanding part of your route is coming up.

If you are riding an easy, non-technical section, you might be absolutely fine with 40 g per hour. Push your intake higher only when a hard climb or a demanding part of your route is coming up. The more carbs you eat the higher the chance you will experience digestive issues, especially if you’re starting to be dehydrated. That’s another reason to be conservative with your intake and adjust it based on the intensity of riding.

Take a variety of snacks

It might not seem like much at first but if you eat 40-60 g of carbs per hour for many hours on the bike day after day, you’re going to get sick of eating. It’s especially hard when you only have one type of energy gel, for example. You will quickly get sick of it and it will become really hard to get enough carbs in. The key is to have a variety of different snacks to keep eating interesting. Try to have as many different flavours and textures as you can. Here is a list of popular cycling snacks.

• Sandwiches – prepare several different kinds like peanut butter and jelly, ham, cheese…
• Fruits – if you have extra space in your backpack, take a few bananas or your favourite fruits
• Rice cakes – these are very popular among road cyclists, check out our recipe
Energy bars – test various brands and flavours or make your own with the help of our recipe

• Energy gels – have a few gels ready for intense part of your ride when you need easy fuel

Keep eating until the end of your ride

Timing of your snacks is important too. Don’t wait till you get very hungry – that’s usually too late to start fuelling. Ideally, eat a few times every hour on the bike to maintain high intensity. And don’t stop even when a stage or your ride is getting close to the end. If you totally deplete yourself, you will have a much harder time recovering and replenishing your reserves for the next day. Stay on top of hydration and nutrition all the way. You will be happy you did on the 5th day.

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