So you’ve got a big century ride coming up, it might be a Gran Fondo, or charity ride, whatever the case may be here are some nutrition guidelines to help you go the distance and maximize your performance.
First things first. Leading up to your event, just as important as preparing your body by training smart week by week, training your GUT is equally as important. During your century ride training, it is important that you experiment with different foods and liquids to find what works best for you. Experimenting with new foods and/or nutrition strategies on event day is a recipe for disaster!
THE DAYS BEFORE – Stay hydrated. You can monitor this by checking your urine color or making sure your weight does not drop significantly. There’s no need for the outdated “carb-loading” strategy, provided you eat a healthy diet and are tapering your training leading up to your event your body’s energy stores should be primed. If you’re traveling to your event don’t rely on convenience foods found at gas stations or fast-food restaurants. If you need to, pack a lunch, and eat foods you are familiar with.
THE NIGHT BEFORE – Don’t eat dinner too late, and avoid hard to digest foods like red meat, overly spiced foods like curries, and fruits and veggies that are high in fiber. It’s smart to eat some carbs, but don’t overdo it, 0.5g per lb of body weight is a good rule of thumb. Rice, quinoa, sweet potato, or other whole food sources are good options. And if you’re meeting up with friends at a bar, one glass of wine or a beer is not going to do any damage, in fact it might help you relax and get a good night’s sleep!
THE MORNING OF – Ideally you want to eat about 2 hours before the start of your event. If you know the ride will start out a little easy with no big climb you can even push this to 1 hour. Don’t try anything new, stick to what you know your stomach likes. Experiment with your breakfast during your training, oatmeal is a good “solid” food option and smoothies are a great alternative. Check out the Fuelixir blog for some oatmeal and smoothie recipes. After breakfast sip on water up until the start, shoot for 12-16oz total.
THE START – Once you start, settle into your pace, and begin sipping on your bottle. For the first hour drinking plain water or a low carbohydrate electrolyte solution will be sufficient. This is important, if you tend to forget to drink set an alarm on your bike computer or watch to remind you to sip every 10-15 mins. Shoot for 16-32 oz per hour (smaller builds at the low end of this range, larger builds toward the top end).
THE 1 HOUR MARK – Time to start fueling for the hours ahead. Carbs are integral to maintain your performance. The key is to consume little and often, and you should practice this in training. 2-3 feeds per hour is ideal. About 60g of carbs per hour is a good rule of thumb for a century ride at a moderate intensity, you can dial this down to ~30 for lighter rides, and ramp it to as much as 90g for really intense rides. See below for how to meet your carb requirements during your event.
THE 2 HOUR MARK – At this point you should be having your second or third carb feed. You’ll also likely be done with at least one bottle. Keep feeding and drinking and pedaling! An aid station will likely be coming up soon. It’ll be smart to fill your bottles here, try and stick to water, you don’t want to be trying a new energy drink you’re not used to.
THE REST OF THE RIDE – Don’t lose focus and stick to the strategy for the rest of your ride. Stop at aid stations when you need to fill up, or when your ride buddies want to! And if you do want to eat at the aid station, just be mindful, don’t have an on-bike feed close to arriving at the aid station and try and choose something you’re familiar with. Work the aid station feed into your carb requirement for the hour. For example, the common aid station PB&J will have anywhere from 40-60g of carbs.
THE FINISH – You did it! If you stuck to the strategy, you should feel hungry but not starved. If this is your key event for the year, why not indulge in the post ride food provided by the event! But if you do want to try and be smart and not overindulge, a recovery drink soon after the finish can help you not overeat on pasta from the buffet.
EXAMPLES FOR HOW TO MEET YOUR 60g OF CARBS PER HOUR
- 1 hydration mix + 1 gel
- 1 gel + 4 chews
- 1 bar + ½ hydration mix
REMEMBER – Not everything can be planned for, and no matter how much you prepare you cannot guarantee everything will go smoothly come event day. If for some reason you cannot follow your plan, don’t panic. Try to be flexible and adapt to the situation. If you’re having GI problems during the ride, tone down your intake, a slightly lower intake will be smarter than forcing down more. If you forget your hydration mix, just up your solid food intake and make smart choices at the aid station. The key is to not let it stress you out, that’ll only make matters worse.
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GOOD LUCK AND STAY FUELED!
— THE FUELIXIR TEAM —