Hydrating When Full
I’m at the stage where I’m trying to figure out the best ways to fuel and hydrate on a ride to avoid energy dips and mad cramps.
Does ones weight play a part in determining how many mg (40-60 you say) p/hr? How do I decide on source of energy, protein shake vs protein bar,
nutbutter sandwich vs fruit and nuts? How often do I fuel? How often do I Hydrate? I constantly hydrate and so hve NO room for food and I can’t drink and eat at the same time…HELP!
Thanks for the questions! Here goes…
One’s weight does not really play a role in the amount of carbohydrate grams recommended per hour of cycling – it’s surprising, I know. But remember, we’re talking about the amount of carbohydrates your body can actually digest and use in a specific amount of time, and NOT trying to replenish all your calories during the ride. The 40-60 grams of carbs per hour is based on the amount your brain and muscles can take in. I recommend this strategy for rides up to 3 hours. Longer than that, and it does become more important to give your body more total calories, including those from proteins and fats, as this time frame allows you to digest and use more protein and fat during the ride.
Less than 3 hours, I recommend fluid, carbs, and lytes. If you get other nutrients in sports “bars,” such as protein and some fat from a Clif bar, that’s okay as long as the grams of protein to carb ratio doesn’t exceed 1:4 (more protein to carbs can impede the speed of digestion, and during your ride, you want foods to hit your bloodstream fast and not “set” in your stomach). My recommendation for this time frame is a sports drink with 12-15 grams of carbs per 8 oz. (drink 20-32 oz. per hour) and a gel or other easy-to-eat-and-digest carb @ 15-30 grams of carbs every hour. Here’s some recommendations:
- 16-24 oz. sports drink
Plus 1 of the following:
- 1 packet Clif Shot, Hammer sports gel, Powerbar Gel, GU Energy Gel or other gels w/ >=25 gm carbs
- 1/2 Clif Bar or 1 mini-Clif bar
- 1/2 Power Bar
- 1 packet Sports Beans
- 1 Honey Stinger honey or 5 Honey Stinger Energy Chews
- 2 organic Fig Newtons
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 1 banana
- (45-60 gms carbs total w/ drink)
For rides longer than 3 hours, you’ll have time to digest and benefit from other nutrients. It can take 2-3 hours for some proteins and fats to hit your bloodstream. So, if you eat a nut butter sandwich, and I recommend 1 piece of bread, ~1 Tbsp nut butter, and 1 Tbsp honey or jelly, eaten at a time in the ride that allows it to be digested before you are done, when it can help you. I recommend only a ½ sandwich at one time b/c overloading your stomach with a solid food almost always diverts blood to your gut, and away from your muscles, which will cause you to drag. Another reason the easy-to-digest foods are a good bet.
I recommend hydrating in sips throughout your ride. You will benefit from a steady flow of fluid and lytes. Aim for 20-32 oz. fluid per hour, but drink it throughout the hour. For other fuel, once per hour is fine if you’re hydrating continuously. Keep foods in your jersey that are easy to grab and eat. I even break Clif bars into smaller pieces before my ride so I’m not gnawing on a solid bar while pedaling. And if you know there’s a “killer” climb or obstacle in your ride, and you can time some quick fuel, like a gel, ~15 minutes before it. It will hit your bloodstream at the right time. You can also use caffeinated gels in this manner on really tough rides as it takes ~15 minutes for the caffeine to get to your cells.
Lots to think about! Plan your fuel according to your anticipated intensity, difficulty, and duration of the ride. Then, stick to your plan – don’t let your brain talk your mouth out of what your cells need – it always backfires! All the best!
Please send us your questions for our Expert Sports Nutritionist, Kelli Jennings to “Ask the Sports Nutritionist“. Kelli Jennings is a Registered Dietitian with a passion for healthy eating, wellness, & sports nutrition. For more information go towww.apexnutritionllc.com.