When it comes to longer rides, fueling right becomes especially important. You’re exerting yourself more—so you’ll need to give your body the chance to stay fit by providing it with nutritious food. The more you train, the more you’ll need to replenish vitamins and minerals. Here’s how to ensure you eat the right foods, with a few other guidelines for century-ride fueling:
Go for Nutritional Punch
First, remember the 100-miler is a bike ride and not the next ice age—so you don’t have to get carried away when it comes to your diet. But you do want to avoid fast food, processed items, junk food—anything that doesn’t provide nutritional value. We all know a cheap burger delivers enough energy to walk the dogs, but what about the quality of the bread and the meat? Does that burger provide the vitamins and minerals your muscles will need for a long ride?
Take stock of what you eat—especially during the last two weeks before your race, when you’re riding farther, and really fueling up. Go for fresh vegetables, and avoid saturated fats. Consume foods higher in Omega 3 fatty acids, and eat lean sources of protein, like fish, organic chicken or beef.
Balancing your carb and protein intake can help to keep your energy levels up. On active training days, eat 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per 1 kilogram of body weight (1 kilogram is equal to about 2.2 pounds). If it’s easier, think of it this way: Aim for a balanced diet containing 25% protein and 50% carbohydrates. Including protein will help refuel your muscles and help you sustain energy for longer periods of time.
Tweak Portions Before the Big Day
I prefer to eat lighter during the last few days before the big event, so my body isn’t expending too much energy digesting. For me, that means skipping French fries, and maybe nixing T-bone steak! Instead, I pay more attention to glycogen (sugar) storage in my muscles, and I refill that with carbohydrates.
Dinner the night before the race is actually just as important as breakfast the morning of—if not more so—because that brekky won’t be available to your muscles until a few hours after you eat it. You’ll actually be using energy you gained from the previous night’s meal when you first launch your race. That said, for dinner: Eat fish or chicken with rice, or if you prefer, you can eat your protein with traditional pasta to get those carbs.
For breakfast, I eat muesli (cereal). I let it get all soggy and soft, so it won’t absorb liquids from my body. Porridge is another great breakfast option, as is whole-grain bread, which lasts longer as an energy source. Personally, I could never get used to peanut butter, but a lot of riders eat it on race day. The bottom line is you don’t want to eat anything that will leave you feeling bloated. Only consume what you know works for you; race morning is NOT the time for experimentation.
Fuel During Your Ride
The golden rule of fueling comes down to this old saying: If you eat when you feel hungry, it’s already too late. Once you’re out there, give your body a minimum of 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour, starting with your first hour on the bike. You can break it up into two servings of 30 grams, or eat the 60 grams at once. (You can try energy gels, sports bars, even a banana. Experiment to find something that works for you during training.)
Remember, too, that your body needs water to break carbohydrates down into energy, so hydrating is an absolute must. Make sure your bike has two bottle cages, and plan to drink one bottle per hour. In hot weather, you should drink one bottle every 30 to 45 minutes while on the road.
Relax with Joe Mid-Way
If you’re just out for fun, or going for your first century ride, enjoy it! This means, if after 50 miles you want to stop for coffee, that’s absolutely OK. After all, in my eyes: Coffee is the black gold that makes the world go around, right?
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.