How To Fuel And Hydrate For Long Bike Rides

How To Fuel & Hydrate For Long Bike Rides

Balanced meal - nutrition

Fueling your body for long cycle rides is important for maintaining your energy levels throughout the ride and performing at your best. For longer more challenging rides we don’t just need to have a good meal before and after the ride, but we need to eat during the ride as well. If you don’t eat properly during your bike ride, your body may not have enough energy to sustain the physical activity. This can lead to a decrease in performance, fatigue, and even bonking (a sudden loss of energy or hitting a wall).

Fluid consumption is just as important as what you eat as dehydration also reduces performance on the bike. Even minor dehydration can make you feel more tired and your muscles fatigue quicker. Our bodies are made up of 60% water so its crucial to replace the fluid lost from sweat during the ride.

Read on for some top tips to help you plan your food and fluid consumption before, during and after your ride

drink more water

Before the ride

  • Hydrate: Drink plenty of water in the hours leading up to your ride to ensure you’re well-hydrated. Aim to drink at least 500 ml of water 2 hours before your ride as well as your regular tea and coffee. If your ride is early morning make sure you drink some water as soon as you wake up. 

  • Eat a balanced meal: Eat a balanced meal 1-2 hours before your ride that includes complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. Good options include a whole-grain bagel with peanut butter, scrambled eggs with whole-grain toast, or oatmeal with fruit and nuts. Try to eat as early as possible before a morning ride as digestion decreases blood flow to the muscles which can impair performance during exercise.

During the ride

  • Hydrate: Drink water regularly during your ride, aiming for at least 250 -500 ml per hour. In warmer weather you will sweat more and therefore need to drink more. Your body size and sweat levels will also determine how much you need to drink. Drink before you feel thirsty, use traffic lights as times to drink or make specific stops to rehydrate during the ride.

  • Eat small snacks: Eat small, easily digestible snacks every hour to keep your energy levels up. Good options include energy bars, gels, fruit, or nuts. Keep these in easy to reach places such as a back pocket, frame or saddle bag. Eat every hour or more regardless of whether you feel hungry or not.

After the ride

  • Rehydrate: Drink plenty of water after your ride to replace any fluids lost during your ride. You also need to replace the electrolytes lost from sweating. You can do this through an electrolyte tablet or make your own electrolyte drink. See our recipe here for a homemade electrolyte drink.

  • Eat a recovery meal: Eat a meal that includes complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats within 60 minutes of finishing your ride to help your body recover. Examples of  balanced meals include salmon with quinoa and roasted vegetables or grilled chicken breast with broccoli and brown rice. Personally I prefer to treat myself to a pizza or a burger after a long ride. After all, who has energy left to cook after riding 30+ miles?

Handful of nuts - cycling snacks
girl drinking

Your menstrual cycle

It’s important to know that where you are in your monthly cycle can have a huge impact on your performance on the bike. After ovulation, in the second half of your menstrual cycle known as the luteal phase, we can feel more tired and struggle to perform our best on the bike. This is caused by an increase in the levels of progesterone in the body which increases your body temperature and your metabolic rate making your more hungry and burn more calories. At the same time we have a drop in oestrogen that makes us feel more tired. It’s during this phase where you can listen to your bodys cravings for extra carbs and chocolate!

Calories burned cycling

Female cyclists can burn anywhere between 350 and 750 calories per hour, depending on their weight and cycling speed or effort. Using a heart rate monitor while cycling can provide a more accurate estimate of the calories burned during a ride.

When planning the snacks for your ride, consider how many hours you will be cycling and estimate the number of calories you will burn. Be sure to bring enough snacks to refuel your body adequately. As a petite female, I typically consume one Trek bar per hour on my rides, but this will vary depending on your individual calorie needs.

If your goal is weight loss, it is important to ensure that you are in a calorie deficit after your ride. Keep this in mind when planning your post-ride meals.

By following these tips, you can fuel your body properly for cycle rides and enjoy longer, more successful rides. Remember to listen to your body and adjust your fueling strategy as needed to find what works best for you

Eating whilst cycling

Eating whilst cycling is a skill that needs practice, patience and concentration. I have lost many a snack not holding onto it tight enough or having it fall out of my pocket. I’ve even had my snacks stolen by a magpie from the table!

To eat whilst cycling you can use energy gels or bars that are designed to be consumed on the go. Just make sure you slow down and are in a quiet stretch of road if you plan to multitask your cycling and eating. It’s often easier to just stop by the side of the road to enjoy your snack safely.

You also want to consider how to store your food for easy access whilst cycling. The back pocket of your cycling jersey is a convenient place to keep a couple of snacks. Extra snacks can be stored in a handlebar or frame bag attached to the bike. 

Properly fueling your body for your rides can make your rides so much more enjoyable and provide you with the strength to keep hitting those milestones on Strava. Remember to listen to your body during the ride but also assess how you feel after each ride and adjust your fueling strategy as you needed.

Salted Caramel Trek Bars