Information about Cycling Nutrition Best Practices
Cycling nutrition is a topic that is heavily debated and analysed by sports scientists around the globe. Consumption of additional carbohydrates while riding using energy drinks, gels, power bars and the like can be essential to ensuring that you are able to make the distance and perform optimally, especially on rides longer than 1 hour. The Australian Institute of Sport recommends consuming 30-60g of carbohydrates for every hour of cycling, but few people understand the reason for this amount. The average person can only process about 1 gram of carbohydrates per minute, no matter how much is consumed. Eating more than this can cause stomach problems as the intestines may become ‘overloaded’ with carbs.
A Basic Guide to Bike Riding Nutritional Requirements
Shorter Duration Bike rides
- Cycling Duration: 1 hr or less.
- Main concern: Hydration.
- Drink: Just water or a low-carb, electrolyte hydration drink.
- Eat: The average person will have enough stored energy for a 1 hour bike ride, but you can always carry a banana or other piece of fruit for if you start to fade...
Medium-Length Bike Rides
- Cycling Duration: 2-3 hrs
- Main concern: Carbohydrate replenishment
- Drink: 2 bottles of low-carb, electrolyte hydration drinks
- Eat: 30-60g of carb per hour from food.
- Hot tip: Take little bites and small sips from the get-go rather than waiting until you are hungry.
Longer Duration Bike Rides
- Cycling Duration: 3 hrs+
- Main concern: Electrolyte and Carbohydrate replenishment.
- Drink: At least 2 bottles low-carb, electrolyte hydration drinks.
- Eat: 30 to 60g of carbs per hour, total. Try to eat the more solid foods earlier in the ride as digestion can become more difficult at the latter stages.
- Hot tip: Supplements high in carbohydrates and low in protein and fats that are as natural as possible are recommended.
Potential Mistakes in Energy Consumption
Air temperature can play a big part in how much hydration is required and also how you take in energy. For example if you plan to get extra carbs from drinking energy drinks but it is colder than expected you may sweat less and spend more time than you wanted stopping in the bushes by the side of the road.
Varying Energy Sources
Over the course of longer rides it may be valuable to mix different foods as energy sources to both keep things interesting for your taste buds. Furthermore the stomach may tolerate one source of energy for a certain amount of time but may require some variation in order to function well. Some like to carry variety of energy drinks, power bars, raw seed and fruit bars and riding gel packs. This is probably a good way to go for those longer rides but really it is important to see what works specifically for you, because all of our bodies process food differently.