In our first article from our series on fueling for cycling we focused on the period of time before your ride or race begins. In today’s article we’re zeroing in on how to fuel better during your ride.

As we covered earlier, when ride intensity goes up, so to does your reliance on carbohydrate [1].

Higher intensity demands more carbohydrate
As exercise intensity goes up (expressed in % of VO2max), so does your body’s reliance on carbohydrate as a fuel source.
Adapted from Brooks, 1997

In a practical sense, this means the longer and harder a ride is, the more crucial it becomes to increase your hourly intake of carbohydrate while on the bike [2].

Carb intake should scale to the intensity and duration of your ride

Here’s what a scaled approach to carbohydrate intake looks like stretched over a timeline of possible ride durations [2].

Estimates listed are for hourly carb intakes beginning at the start of your ride.

Example: If your ride is three hours, shoot for about 75 g/hr of carbs in the first, second, and third hours of your ride.

Knowing you need to eat more carbs on the bike is one thing, getting it done consistently is another.

We’re going to outline four training skills to help you nail the basics of fueling every time you clip in.

1. Density

Understanding carbohydrate density is key for choosing the best ride food.

2. Preference

Experiment with a variety of options to find the most palatable combinations.

3. Access

Develop a plan for how and when you’ll access food in your pockets.

4. Gut

Eating a lot on the bike takes practice. Make a plan to train your gut

We’ll kick things off by getting more familiar with the concept of carbohydrate density.

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References

  1. Brooks, G.A., IMPORTANCE OF THE ‘CROSSOVER’ CONCEPT IN EXERCISE METABOLISM. Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology, 1997. 24: p. 889-895.
  2. Jeukendrup, A.E. and M. Gleeson, Sport Nutrition. 2019.
  3. Miall, A., et al., Two weeks of repetitive gut-challenge reduce exercise-associated gastrointestinal symptoms and malabsorption. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports, 2018. 28: p. 630-640.