This weekend, a group of Evans Cycles riders are planning a 205 mile ride.
205 miles in a day is a fair old ride, and we wanted to make sure they were adequately fueled for the journey, so we spoke to the know-it-alls at High5 to get the low down on what they should eat, and when.
Planning a long ride yourself?
If you’re planning some long rides this summer, all this information will apply to you, too. The advice from High5 tells you how much you need to consume per hour, so you can follow this guide when completing any ride you anticipate to take over 3 hours.
If you’re planning multiple back to back days of riding, you should definitely check out our training camp nutrition guide.
Breakfast before a long ride
Raph from High5 told us to keep it simple at breakfast – you want nothing new or out of the ordinary, and something high in carbs:
“Breakfast should be something you would eat normally, light and high in carbohydrate; good examples would be cereals, toast and porridge. We wouldn’t suggest a full English or anything similar, as you don’t need the fat content and it will interfere with the carbohydrate absorption.”
He added: “You can include an EnergyBar as part of the breakfast if you wish or nibble on one in the period after breakfast and before you start. This will provide you with a good source of simple and complex carbohydrates.”
Long ride fuel is all about carbs
Once you know you’re hungry – it’s usually too late. You need to keep your energy tanks full from the beginning. Getting enough hydration and energy (carbohydrates) early on in the ride will pay dividends later on.
Carbohydrates provide energy, so it’s most important that you consume enough to fuel your riding. However, consuming too much could cause gastric upset. The key is in getting the balance just right.
Drinks are the most efficient form – the carbohydrates are absorbed quickly and you get electrolytes and fluid, too. However, unless it’s very hot, it’s hard to get all the carbs you need from drinks, which is why people usually supplement with gels or bars. Gels are absorbed more quickly than bars, and though they have fewer electrolytes than a drink they have more than an energy bar, so they are the better of the two.
On a hot day, you should aim to drink up to 1000ml per hour. If this 1000ml comes from a solution of water and High5’s 2:1 fructose formulation, this will provide 90 grams of carbohydrate energy as well as electrolytes and fluid – enough for the average rider.
In cooler conditions, or if for any reason you struggle to consume this much liquid, then you can make up the extra energy from gels – High5 offer both the EnergyGel and the IsoGel. Both gels provide the same amount of carbs, but the EnergyGel is thicker, whilst the IsoGel is more diluted – it’s entirely up to personal preference which you prefer.
The average rider should aim to adopt one of the plans below, the first option being the ideal:
- 800ml+ of Energy Source Drunk per hour + no additional gels
- 750ml of Energy Source per hour + one gel per hour (or half an energy bar)
- 400ml of Energy Source per hour + two gels per hour (or an energy bar)
This is of course quite a lot of energy drink
Brian, who works with Raph at High5 has completed the ‘Race Across America’ a few times and gave his advice:
“After about 3 hours plus of consuming carbohydrate drinks some riders feel like they have a bit of a sticky “cotton mouth” (it’s a little hard to describe). To stop this immediately simply wash out your mouth with a little mouthwash like Listerine and spit it out. Brian says this also stops any acid reflux, which you sometimes get from consuming a lot of acid drinks over hours of exercising.
“If it’s hot after about 4-6 hours you will start to feel more and more thirsty and want to switch to drinking water, If you can, resist this urge and continue with EnergySource. If you still feel the need to switch to water than switch to Zero (electrolytes with no carbs) for a few bottles with some added gels before going back to EnergySource. again if possible. When taking Zero you can take up to 3 gels or bar equivalent per hour.”
Should you eat non-energy food, too?
Of course, everyone likes a good lunch stop. However, Raph told us: “Though 200 miles is a long way, it can be done on drinks and gels alone. If you get your drink and gel intake right you shouldn’t get hungry.”
For those who like to stop for a proper lunch, he added some advice on what to pick from the menu (or what to pack in your tin foil!): “If you feel you need to eat, keep it light (small portions), and high in carbohydrate. White bread sandwiches are good with minimal filling, like a single slice of ham or turkey. Alternatively you can consume some Energy Bars.”
Hitting the caffeine
As you begin to get a little more tired, you might benefit from a dose of caffeine. On a very long ride, it’s best to save this for when you’ve got about 4 or 5 hours of riding left – you don’t want the caffeine to start wearing off, leaving you lacking in energy.
If you’re using caffeinated energy products, you should avoid tea, coffee, coca cola and other drinks that contain caffeine – you don’t want to double dose.
If you want to add in caffeine, a good way to do it is using High5’s EnergySource X’treme - this includes caffeine as well as carbohydrates and electrolytes – and the amount you should have is based on body weight:
- 40kg: 425ml
- 50kg: 550ml
- 60kg: 650ml
- 70kg: 750ml
- 80kg: 750ml + 1 EnergyGel Plus
- 90kg: 750ml + 2 EnergyGel Plus
This will provide you with an effective dose of caffeine (approx. 3mg per kg bodyweight).
Once you’ve finished the EnergySounce X’treme, you can return to drinking normal Energy Source. However, your body removes caffeine from your bloodstream over time, so you can keep your energy levels topped up by swapping one of your hourly gels for an EnergyGel Plus. These contain about 30mg of caffeine, so only have one an hour.
Cancelling out cramp
Muscle cramps are associated with dehydration and electrolyte deficits and muscle fatigue. (The American College of Sports Nutrition)
Cramps are not uncommon on a long ride, but some people seem to suffer from them more than others. If you struggle with cramps, you should try to increase your electrolyte intake. High5’s Zero tablets dissolve in a drink and can be added to Energy Source without affecting the case, adding extra electrolyte’s which are useful in hot conditions.
What about Protein?
Protein helps your muscles recover. High5 have created 4:1, which uses 1 part Protein to 4 parts of carbohydrate, and this is particularly useful if you’re planning back-to-back days riding, because you can start the recovery process early.
For a day long ride, it’s best to concentrate on a carb only drink during your ride, to avoid sacrificing calories which could provide carbohydrates for protein consumption.
After your ride, it’s a good idea to have a protein recovery drink, to help rebuild your muscles. High5 suggest 400ml to 800ml of High5 Protein Recovery when you finish, followed by a balanced meal one to two hours later.
Still got questions?
We know that people always have lots of questions about nutrition, so we hosted a Q+A session with one of High5′s directors, Tim Atkinson. Here’s a look at some of the key questions that came up, plus his replies.
If you’ve got more questions, pop them in the comments below, and we’ll do our best to find you the answers.
Enjoy your summer riding!
A note from High5 on using caffeine
If you have any medical condition including high blood pressure, if you are pregnant, breast feeding or under 18 years of age, do not use caffeine. If you are sensitive to caffeine and suffer any side effects when using caffeine such as muscle tremors, cramp, anxiety or a higher than expected heart rate discontinue use immediately. If you do not wish to use caffeine for any reason, then simply switch the caffeine products detailed with the non-caffeine equivalent from High5.