Top Nutrition Tips

By Accredited Practicing Dietitian, Glenn Cardwell

The ride has four different distances: 10km, 25km, 50km and 100km. The longer the distance, the more important is good nutrition and wise hydration. Foods naturally high in carbohydrates are crucial for topping up the muscle fuel, known as glycogen, which is your muscle ‘petrol tank’. When a muscle contracts and works hard during a ride, especially during hill climbing or sprint work, it burns the glucose that has been released from the glycogen stored in muscles.

Tips for long distance riders

  1. Eat something before the ride. It may be as simple as a yoghurt or a banana for the shorter distances, but you need a little more for the longer distances, such as beans on toast, breakfast cereal and milk, with a banana, or a banana smoothie. These are examples of carbohydrate-based foods necessary to fuel your muscles. Try and have breakfast 90 minutes before the start of your ride.
  2. Drink water to replace your sweat losses. If it is warm, then drink early in the ride. It takes about 20 minutes for each cup of water to get from the stomach to the small intestine where it is absorbed and replaces sweat lost. During this time you will have lost more sweat, so it is smarter to drink early in the ride and small amounts frequently to minimise your risk of a stitch. Allow for one 600-750 mL bidon per hour, more if it is warm.
  3. You will only need a sports drink if you are cycling for more than 90 minutes. You can drink them just before, during and in the recovery period after the event. The sugar in the drink will help replace glucose burned by the muscles and the sodium in the drink will help replace sodium lost in sweat.
  4. Snacking during the ride. We don’t have to tell you that the banana is the bike riders’ favourite snack. Published research shows that a banana is excellent during cycling 50-100 km. Eating two bananas an hour (washed down with water) on the bike helped maintain energy levels just as well as a sport drink. It is those beautiful carbohydrates in the banana that are fuelling the muscles so they can keep cranking out the pedal power.
  5. Make every effort to hydrate soon after a training ride and the event. Tea and coffee can be part of your rehydration program, as it is not true they are dehydrating. You do need to pee out the metabolites of caffeine but that is only around 50 mL of pee per cup of tea or coffee. That means that the other 200 mLs in the average cuppa is part of your fluid intake.

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