Properly Fueling Your Body Part One: Pre-Ride and On-Ride Nutrition

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Stephanie Nunes, Dietician and Founder of Rock Solid Nutrition.

I’m not good at eating. Not the physical act itself, but rather the science of knowing how to fuel properly before, during, and after a ride. Sometimes I over eat before a ride, other times I don’t eat at all and bonk. In my quest to maximize my riding experience, I reached out to Registered Dietician, founder of Rock Solid Nutrition, and local cyclist, Stephanie Nunes, with a few questions about how to feel great on the bike and recovery effectively after a ride.

Pre Ride:

Is it absolutely necessary to eat before a ride? If so, how much?

It really depends on the duration of the ride and when the last time you ate.  Your overall carbohydrate-rich daily training diet needs to be in place first, for a pre-ride snack to be most effective.  The purpose of a pre-ride snack is to top off your glycogen stores, maintain blood sugar levels, decrease hunger pains, and increase your speed, endurance, and recovery. So, if you ride early in the morning, you absolutely need to get some carbohydrate-rich source of food/fluid in your body due to the large fast during the night. The goal is go no longer than four hours without eating. If you ate lunch at 12:00 and plan on going for a ride at 4:30 after work, you would definitely benefit from a pre-ride snack an hour before your ride.

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Fluid, just one of the many options for hydration on a bike ride.

My general recommendation would be this: 1.0 grams of carbohydrate/kg body weight an hour before a ride OR 100-300 calories Carbohydrate-rich food/fluid an hour before your ride

Consider something easy to digest like toast, juice, fruit, cereal, bagel, animal crackers, carbohydrate/electrolyte drink, or gel. The pre-ride snack might not be “absolutely” necessary if you had fueled appropriately 2 hours before your ride AND you are going <1 hour easy!

During Ride:

Is there a standard rule for eating during a ride?

30-60 grams of carbohydrates/hour is a general standard for rides >1 hour.  Another way to calculate it and make it more individualized is 1g carbohydrate/kg body weight (divide your weight in pounds by 2.2).

What types of foods are best to eat during a ride?

The best foods are high carbohydrate; low-fat, low-fiber, low-protein (bars, bagels, gels, blocks, Sports beans, Bananas etc). The type of high-carbohydrate food will depend on personal tolerance and intensity of the workout. Generally, the more intense the workout, the less solid food is tolerated (for example bar vs. gel). Another key to tolerance is hydration.  If a cyclist is focused on getting enough carbohydrate-rich foods, but is concurrently dehydrated and forgetting to drink fluids, this could cause stomach distress by delaying gastric emptying, so fueling with both food and liquids is critical. Carbohydrate /electrolyte drinks can contribute to your carbohydrate intake/hour.

Example:  One 24 oz bottle of FLUID sports drink has 48g carbohydrate + 1 gel has 25g carbohydrate.  This would equal 73g CHO/hour if the cyclist drank the WHOLE 24 oz bottle in 1 hour.

Stay tuned for the second part to Stephanie Nunes’ interview covering proper recovery.