In my entire history of running, I’ve never been on the road for more than 2.5 hours at a time. So nutrition considerations have been minimal as I’ve only needed a little something to give me a kick to get to the end.
Last year when I completed my first sportive was the first time I passed the 2.5 hour mark of exercising and I realised the difference a nutritional strategy can have. Never have salty roasted new potatoes tasted so good!
Since I started training for my ride to Paris, I’ve been playing around with kit as well as testing different supplements to have on the bike as fuel for long rides and I think I’ve found a winning formula. Well, more a survival formula!
My Pre-Ride Fuel Routine
First of all a good nights sleep goes a long way towards feeling fresh in the morning along with hydrating and eating well the day before. But if there’s anything I can do in the morning to help… I will!
I’ve been starting my ride mornings (and other mornings when I remember) with a glass of water and a scoop of L-glutamine. I mostly take it to help me curb my insatiable appetite that’s created from riding (…oh and swimming). I learnt about L-glutamine when I did the FitnessGenes DNA test back in September 2016.
I then pop 300ml of cold water into a smartshake along with a scoop of Vega Clean Energy; it’s their pre-workout which I love as it doesn’t contain caffeine therefore I don’t hit a wall after an epic high. It’s a mix of carbohydrates, electrolytes and extracts from green and black tea. I only have it in a tub so for Paris I had to scoop it into a small tupperware so I could easily transport it for the actual ride.
How I Fuel During My Rides
Now this is where I had a little to learn but I think I’m pretty close to the winning formula. My main issue is always remembering to “eat” before I feel a dip in my energy. I’ve been packing my jersey pockets with banana soreen mini loaves as they’re individually wrapped and the perfect size for a snack. I also take along 2 SiS energy gels and one of their energy bars. The energy bars are a mix of oats, fruit and cereals so basically the pre-made equivalent of flapjack which is great for slow released energy over a period of time.
I made it my goal to have my first gel after 30 – 60 minutes of riding to allow time for digestion so it hits my system when I need it. The gels pack in 22g of carbohydrate in each serving and are pretty inoffensive in that although they come in fairly distinct flavours (I currently have apple, pink grapefruit, pineapple and blackcurrant) they are actually pretty mild tasting in a consistency of really thick cough medicine. I aim to keep drinking little and often too to reduce dehydration which limits performance. With two bottles on my bike at all times, I have one filled with nuun hydration tablets dissolved in the water and the other filled with plain water.
I normally get really hungry, like really really hungry, need real food hungry after 3-4 hours so the soreen loaves are perfect as a snack to get me to the lunch / dinner table. Previously I would slice up a full soreen loaf and wrap in cling film and although this is cheaper it just isn’t as convenient. Okay what life is this when I’m discussing the benefits of individually wrapped mini soreen loaves over a full soreen loaf?! …does this officially make me a cyclist?!
When I do sit down to eat my meal, if I need to get back on the bike I try to ensure I don’t overeat to the point that cycling will be uncomfortable or that I’ll feel tired. It’s all well and good when you can roll straight home onto the sofa but if you still have another 30 miles to go then you should think twice.
How I Fuel Post Ride
If I’m hungry and don’t have food readily available my go to is a protein smoothie. A simple recipe is 250ml almond milk, 1 scoop Vega Clean Protein (vanilla or chocolate), 1/2 a frozen banana, 1tbsp almond butter and a teaspoon of cinnamon.
I’ve still got some turmeric capsules knocking around so I pop a couple of those the evening of my long ride as it’s a natural anti-inflammatory and use a magnesium oil spray before bedtime to help relax my muscles and reduce muscle soreness (and it also makes for a good nights sleep). I also used the NutriAdvanced MegaMag Muscleze; which is a high strength magnesium powder designed to support muscle function and recovery. It comes in an orange flavour – just add a scoop to water (or any drink) and mix. In addition to magnesium, it also contains malic acid, amino acids – l-carnitine, creatine, glutamine and taurine – and B vitamins including the body-ready, active forms of vitamin B12 and folate(vitamin B9) so it was perfect for my actual ride to Paris as well as during all my training. Post Paris, I still use it on intense training days to help me feel as fresh as possible the following day!
It all sounds so straight forward when I write it down…
How do you fuel for long rides and your endurance activities?!