Fuelling for a long distance ride or sportive is single handedly the most important aspect of your preparation. It’s baffling how many people will spend hours fettling with their bike before completely neglecting their personal nutrition. The easiest way to break down this process is into three separate stages: pre-ride, during ride and post-ride nutrition. Failing to fuel properly could result in you bonking halfway through, suffering all day, and having an all-round rough time of things.
Pre-Ride: The Big Question…‘Real Food’ or ‘Supplements’
The chicken or the egg? If a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it, does it make a sound? Ant or Dec?! The question of fuelling based on ‘real foods’ or ‘nutritional supplements’ pre-dates time itself. The answer is totally unique to each individual; some people swear by nutrition products like isotonic energy drinks and protein bars whilst others go for a banana smoothie and a good bowl of porridge. It’s important to find out what works best for you as this really is the most important stage of the process. Personally I like to mix things up. I always tend to have a big bowl of porridge with a dollop of Nutella before an event or long ride, it’s just a great source of slow releasing energy. With this I’ll often also have an energy drink of some description, often MyProtein electrolyte powder. Recently I’ve begun swapping traditional milk for almond, soya or rice milk as I’ve found it can sit a bit lighter and defeat that ‘stuffed’ feeling.
Here the debate continues, as does the answer; it’s important to find out and decide what works best for you. Typical mid-ride snacks include small jam sandwiches, rice cakes, bananas, trail mix, energy gels, protein bars, cereal bars, chocolate… the list really is endless. It might be easiest to advise you on what not to eat; luckily GCN have us covered with a handy video (see below). On the whole I prefer eating wholefoods so I’ll typically carry a banana with me on any ride, I also quite enjoy spending time in the kitchen so I’ll often carry some homemade rice cakes or energy balls with me as well. I’d typically look to consume these during the first half of a sportive, and then look to consume a protein bar and an energy gel in the second half when your body is in need of more direct sources of energy. It’s important to space out your nutrition during the ride and always keep eating, it’s an all too common mistake to forget to eat early on and then suffer a huge energy deficit in the latter half of the ride. Let’s face facts, it’s always better to have more than less energy, so be strict with what you’re consuming and ensure that you stay topped up!
After completing a long ride or a sportive my post-ride nutrition is almost always in liquid forms. My number one tip is to have a good recovery shake, these provide a great source of protein and other essentials to help your body throughout the recovery process. Again here I turn to MyProtein as my go-to choice; I know they’re not a big-named cycling brand like SiS or High5, they don’t do glossy packaging and big sponsored campaigns but their products provide outstanding value for money and really work! On top of a recovery shake I might often look to have a can of coke or fanta, common practice in the World Tour, to give me that quick sugary pick-me-up. I also aim to consume at least a litre of water to replenish what I may have lost during the activity – I’ve found I can quite often suffer from dizziness or headaches due to dehydration so this really is a crucial part of my recovery. In terms of meals I’d always aim to consume something that has a high level of healthy proteins and carbohydrates to help my body through the recovery process.