Rubber Side Down: How to Eat During A Ride

This is the second article in a three part series reviewing how to properly eat before, during, and after a race, or training ride, for the best possible results. Art’s Cyclery sat down with Cherie Moore, a local nutritionist and avid cyclist, to help us in this endeavor. Cherie Moore has her Bachelors in Exercise Physiology & Nutrition, her Masters in Wellness and Nutrition, and she is also a past record holder of the Race Across America. 

(Ride Nutrition: Part 2 of 3)

My name is [INSERT YOUR NAME HERE] and I am stronger than the bonk.

You can beat the dreaded bonk and we can help. All you need to do is take a few simple steps towards proper nutrition and you can wave goodbye to this frustrating phenomenon forever. The preliminary steps are maintaining a healthy diet and adequately fueling up before your ride. You can read about how to accomplish both of these and more in the first article in this series, How to Eat Before You Ride. When you’re all done hammering be sure to check out our third article in this series, How To Eat After Your Ride, to learn the best steps to proper recovery.

Step 1: Determine what type of ride you will be going on.  

Are you going on a leisurely training ride or a multi-hour road race? How much you need to eat during your ride depends on the duration and intensity of the ride you will be going on. Reference the Punnett Square of Cycling below to determine where your chosen ride falls into the grand scheme of cycling intensity.

Punnett Square of Cycling Moderate Duration (<90 min) Prolonged Duration (>90 min)
Low Intensity Ride
  • Commuting
  • Leisure Ride
  • Recovery Spin
  • Off Season Training
  • Long Slow Distance Miles
  • Century Ride
High Intensity Ride
  • Hammer Ride
  • Criterium
  • Circuit Race
  • Time Trial
  • Road Race
  • Stage Race
  • Cross Country
  • Marathon

Step 2: Calculate how many carbohydrates you will need to consume to have a successful ride or race.

Athletes draw on stored carbohydrates (glycogen) for energy use during exercise. Glycogen can sustain work to about one and a half to two hours and once it is depleted, you bonk! Unlike glycogen, levels of glucose (energy stored in your bloodstream) can only be sustained for about thirty minutes. However, ingesting 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour of strenuous exercise can delay fatigue. For fast-paced rides choose nutrition that includes easy-to-digest carbohydrates. For longer rides choose nutrition that includes fat and protein to sustain your body for longer, slower-paced efforts. And remember, these are not hard and fast numbers, some experimentation and adaptation may be required to fit your dietary needs.

Punnett Square of Cycling Moderate Duration (<60 min) Prolonged Duration (>60 min)
Low Intensity Ride
  • No Carbs required
  • Up to 60 grams per hour
High Intensity Ride
  • Less than 30 grams of carbs
  • 60 to 90 grams per hour depending on the duration
  • Think about adding fat and protein for longer endurance efforts

Cavendish knows how to pack a jersey pocket.

Step 3: Bring enough fuel with you to meet the demands of your calculated carbohydrate intake. 

nutrition-blogads-honeyInstead of eating a large amount of food half way through your ride, ingest your carbohydrate sources in smaller quantities throughout the course of the workout. Your goal is to keep your glucose levels, the blood sugar levels we talked about earlier, steady and constant through the entire ride so you can keep putting out the same effort. Whole Fruit (i.e. bananas), energy bars, and gels/chews are excellent carbohydrate choices that help cyclists maintain this steady glucose level while riding. The Feed Zone Portables Cookbook also has a multitude of recipes that are perfect for prolonged rides of any intensity. Remember to stay hydrated as well to ensure that these energy sources enter and disperse throughout your body smoothly. Electrolyte Drinks are also a fantastic source of carbohydrates during competition but pay attention to the carbohydrate concentration. A 4-6% carb concentration is ideal (Less than 15 grams of carbs per 8 oz.), some studies have shown that higher concentrations causes difficulties with absorption. An example of an electrolyte drink with this ideal concentration is Osmo Active Hydration.

During a Race

Every 15-20 Minutes 5 to 8 oz. of a 6% carb electrolyte drink or water
Every Hour 50 to 70 grams of carbohydrates (Gel, chew, or bar)

Carbohydrate Gram Amounts in High Energy Foods

Osmo Active Hydration, 8 oz.


Clif Shot Electrolyte Hydration Mix, 8 oz.

Bonk Breaker Bites (Includes fat and protein) 17 Powerbar Ironman Perform, 8 oz. 17
Clif Shot, 1 21 Hammer Gel 21

Honey Stinger Waffle


Gu Chomps, 4 Pieces


Clif Shot Blocks, 3 pieces


Gu Energy Gel


Banana, 1 medium


Bonk Breakers, 1 (Includes fat and protein)


Honey Stinger Chews 39

Clif bars, 1 choc chip (Includes fat and protein)


Be sure to check out our other nutrition articles on How to Eat Before You Ride and How To Eat After Your Ride for the best possible performance.