Understanding Carbohydrates in Relation to Cycle Training
If you are cycling for over an hour and a half on a training ride or sportive, you will need to take food and fluids to avoid the dreaded “bonking”. Your fluid intake will be water possibly mixed with electrolytes; food will be carbohydrate focused and low in fat.
As part of your cycle training, it is advised that you learn when you need to eat food to keep your energy levels topped up. This will help you avoid “bonking.” In this post, we give figures and advice which are considered to be accurate by professionals and sports scientists on how much food you need to keep the pedals turning. It should be noted that the figures are a guide and the quantity of carbohydrate needed is unique to every rider.
Trialling different amounts of food will be necessary for you to determine what works best for you.
Carbohydrate your Source of Energy while Cycle Training
Your body stores carbohydrate in the form of glycogen in your liver and muscles. As you ride this supply is used up to the point where you hit the wall, or “bonk”. The way to avoid this is to top up your carbohydrate level with food.
At the start of a ride we have around 90g of carbohydrate in our body. This will keep us going for around an hour and a half. Sports science has determined that we can process 60g of carbohydrate per hour on average. As such you should aim to take 60g of carbohydrate per hour. Remember, that the amount you can actually process will vary and be individual to you.
If you take too much you will become sluggish and tired. Too little and the dreaded “bonk” will hit. The trick is to learn how much your body can process and when to take food when out on a training ride or sportive.
General Rules for Refuelling on the Bike
- Safety first – Minimise the chances of coming off the bike by ensuring the road is straight. Try and ensure there are no other cyclists around you especially if you are unfamiliar with their riding style. You should also aim for a straight road with a clear view ahead
- Eat before you need to - As a general rule aim to eat half an hour before you need to, and take water too. Waiting until you feel tired or hungry will probably result in eating and drinking too late for it to have a positive effect
- Hydrated - Keeping hydrated is vital, important, and necessary. Ensure your fluid intake is consistent. Like eating ensure you can determine how much you need and when to take it. Pros believe you should drink between 500 ml to 1 litre per hour. Again this will be individual to you. We will cover this in more detail in a future blog
- Practice! – Ensure you can eat and drink without taking your eyes off the road. You can always stop to eat and drink. Always put safety first
- Too sluggish – If you feel sluggish after taking on food you are probably eating too many carbohydrates per hour. Try reducing how much you eat per hour
- Hitting the wall – If you find you hit the wall or “bonk” then try increasing your carbohydrate intake as you ride per hour. The secret is to experiment to find what works for you
Once you master carbohydrate intake you will keep the pedals turning for longer. For more information on cycling nutrition click here.