What Your Body Needs at Different Phases of Your Ride
What kind of nutrition and hydration does your body need when you’re out cycling? This is a question that all of us have and today our nutritionist, Kelli is here to provide her answer.
We received a question from Amy that came in as part of our “Ask the Sports Nutritionist” assistance, but the answer was just so detailed and necessary for all of us cyclists, that we’re making it into a full out post.
Here’s Amy’s question:
“I’m hoping you can give me a bit of advice! I have just recently got into mountain biking, and have a quite a few sportives coming up, so I am putting in a lot of miles for training. I also just like to hit the trails for fun.
I am very confused about nutrition and what I should be taking during long, intense training and of course during the sportives themselves. Currently I am using High 5 tablets in my water to help with hydration; shot bloks during exercise (and the occasional Power Bar); but I don’t know what I should be taking for recovery? Also is there anything else I should be taking during exercise? Or any bars that you would recommend?
I’m really not too sure what are the essential things that my body needs at different phases of the exercise. A lot of my friends say it’s down to personal preference what products to choose, but I don’t even know what to begin looking for!”
And the response from Kelli:
Thanks for the question! I can be long-winded, so I hope this helps you without bogging your down in too many details! Here goes:
There are 3 main things to be concerned about during the ride (any ride that’s moderate to high intensity and >90 minutes):
1) Fluids: Aim for 16-24 oz. per hour (up to 32 oz. in summer heat). Or for an individualized fluid goal, weigh yourself immediately before and after training to estimate fluid losses (take into consideration the amount of fluid consumed during the ride). My preference is to use a sports drink (or my homebrew that can be found at www.apexnutritionllc.com/freetools.html) that provides fluid, carbs, and lytes. If you’re an athlete that prefers to drink water, at least some of the time, you’ll have to add more carbs and lytes through foods and supplements as described below.
2) Carbs: Your body can use 60+ grams of carbs per hour (depending on the sources of carbs). Again, I like to use a fluid that provides some of these carbohydrates (the High 5 Energy Drink or Endurance Drink are great for this!). If drinking 20 oz. per hour of a fluid that contains ~12-15 grams carbs per 8 oz., you’ll get ~30 grams per hour just from the fluids. Then, to get the rest of the carbs you need, add 1 small carb option such as 1 gel, 3 Shot Bloks, ½ most sports bars (or a Clif Bar Mini), 1 Honey Stinger Waffle, etc (look for ~20-30 grams carbs on the label) each hour.
3) Electrolytes: Most athletes need 400-700 mg sodium, 100-300 mg potassium, 80-120 mg calcium, and 40-60 mg magnesium PER HOUR of training. Usually, you can get some of the sodium and potassium in your sports drink and in your foods. So, begin by calculating the amount you’ll get per hour based on your fliud and food plan. Then, make up the difference with supplements such as Endurolytes, SCaps!, or another supplement. You’ll find a breakdown of many commercial electrolyte options at http://lovingthebike.com/nutrition-tips/6839 .
In summary, each hour of riding:
- Drink 16-24 oz. sports drink
- Eat 1 carb option (20-30 grams carbs)
- Add lytes with supplements as needed
If riding >5 hours: Stick with the same nutrient goals as above. Then, every 3rd hour, you can add a small portion of “real food” if you’d like. A half peanut butter and jelly sandwich, ½ rice burrito, ½ deli meat sandwich, ½ Snickers bar, etc. – these foods are used to add some fat, protein, and extra calories for long rides. They can also serve to add a salty food option to what often becomes an overload in sweet-tasting sports foods and drinks. What’s more, if you choose foods you’ll look forward to, they are a big morale booster!
Schedule: I’m a big believer in eating/drinking to a schedule rather than to thirst/hunger when riding – in fact, if I’m hungry or thirsty on a long ride, I know I’m in trouble. There’s too many variables and things to distract me to let anything other than my plan and schedule determine my fuel intake. So, determine what you need per hour based on the information above, pack it, and drink/eat it!
Recovery: Your recovery snack needs to contain 30-60 grams carbohydrates, 10-30 grams protein, and fluid. I also strongly recommend adding Medium Chain Triglycerides, from organic extra-virgin coconut oil, as they are an efficient energy source that’s used directly by the mitochondria (energy powerhouses) of the cells. As a bonus, antioxidants and probiotics are helpful in recovery – the probiotics increase the absorption of the antioxidants which fight the extra free radicals created by exercise. For a recipe, try: our Almond Butter Smoothie and use plain yogurt in place of milk. In my opinion, it’s a perfect recovery. Or, use a bar or another snack that meets these criteria. Try to consume your recovery snack within 30 minutes of finishing your ride.
I hope this helps! But, if you need more individual help and a specific plan, I can always be hired for custom nutrition packages and coaching. For more information on specific plans and coaching, visit Apex Nutrition.
Photo c/0 Performance Bike