The warm weather poises more and more of us to jump on our bikes and make the most of the long evenings and hot weekends.
Food and drink products are divided into two main groups: pre/during ride and post-ride products. The reason for this division is that your body has different needs before, during and after the activity. Before and during the ride you need carbohydrates to prepare and then replenish the storages. Once you finished your ride, you need to start recovering and you need proteins to help to repair muscle tissue.
Pre and during ride bars, gels and drinks
It varies how much energy one needs for a ride, but the longer the ride the more you need to prepare to keep your energy levels up. There is a wide variety of energy bars and gels. Energy bars often resemble to cereal bars but they are specifically aimed at cyclists and other endurance sports. They contain a lot of carbs and they are easy to digest to minimize the strain it puts on your digestive system. Energy bars are more nutritious than gels but gels have a big advantage over bars: they can be consumed much faster.
Munching through a bar can be a tricky business if you are pedalling fast and breathing heavily, while having a gel doesn’t take much longer than taking a sip from your water bottle. However, gels tend to have a very strong taste and it’s mostly up to personal preference whether you like gels or not.
Gels offer a quick boost while bars work slower but their effect last longer. The important thing is to start eating something BEFORE you get hungry – when your body signals that it’s hungry, you are already in need of energy and it will take some time for the food to be digested. Gels come in all sorts of flavours, some are fairly traditional, like the SiS Go chocolate or banana, others brand have interesting flavours, like the ever-popular apple-strudel Mulebar Kicks gel.
Mulebar champions natural ingredients and their entire range is natural but most other brands offer natural bars, like the Clif Energy Bar or the Powerbar Natural Energy bar. I often feel on longer rides that I really crave for something salty – Powerbar offers a salty flavoured bar just for that craving. In case you don’t want to mess around with half-eaten energy bars, you can find bite-sized bars, like the Mulebar Megabites. Whichever bar or gel you decide to try out, it’s important to don’t try out something new before an important race or ride: new flavours or brands might not fit your digestive system as well as the ones you have always used, so if you fancy anything new, always try it out during a training ride.
Energy is important but you need to keep an eye on staying hydrated. This is where drinks with electrolytes come in. They help you to keep your body working, stop dehydration and help to prevent cramps. These drinks don’t contain much energy, they only help you to replenish the electrolytes you have lost during the ride.
Keeping yourself hydrated is especially important on hot, summer days, the same rule is true here: if you feel thirsty, it’s too late, therefore aim to drink a little in every 20-30 minutes to keep yourself hydrated.
It is an often overlooked aspect of riding but it is very important for optimal recovery. Once you have finished riding, you have a roughly 30-60 minute window to ingest something to help your body to recover: within this period your body is still metabolizing. Especially longer rides or a lot of interval work can do a lot of damage to your muscle tissues and they need help to recover from that. You can have a quick protein bar, like the High5 Protein bars or the Zipvit ZV9 Protein bars. You can also have a recovery drink – they help you with the protein intake but they also help you to rehydrate. For Goodness Shakes are very popular post-ride drinks as they are not only plenty of protein and some carbs but they have nice, palatable taste as well.