Eating during a ride is just as important as eating before it. There are certain foods that enhance your physical performance. We are going to disclose some general guidelines that professional cyclists eat by before and during a race.
Elite riders can cover up to 1000 km every week while recreational cyclists achieve a mere 300 km. Nonetheless, fuel is vital before any type of exercise that lasts long periods of time. For example, the carbohydrate needs of Tour de France riders vary between 8-11 g per kg bodyweight. Recreational cyclists who train at a reasonably high intensity require about 5-8g of carbs per kg bodyweight.
Apart from carbohydrates, you also have to eat an important amount of proteins for cellular growth and muscle repair. For a ride under 3 hours, you should have a high carbohydrate meal the evening before plus a high carbohydrate breakfast on the race day. In general, you should allow 2-4 hours before cycling after a large meal. If all you had was a small snack, 30 minutes is enough.
The glycaemic index (GI)
Foods with a high glycaemic index release energy faster than those with a low GI. The rule is that low GI foods (whole grains, fruits, 5-minute boiled pasta, legumes, nuts) should be the focus of main mains during the training phase while high GI foods (sugars, honey, white rice, corn, wheat, potatoes, white bread etc.) are great for the carbohydrate loading phase and as quick snacks during a race.
What to eat before a race
If you wake up 2 hours before your race, you could eat porridge, scrambled eggs, mango and banana smoothies, or pancakes. On the other hand, if you get straight out of bed to the starting line, eat breakfast bars, muffins or a breakfast smoothie. If you prefer not to eat in the morning, increase the carbs portion the night before because it will be stored as glycogen in your muscles.
What to eat during a race
Aim for 30-60 grams of carbs per hour depending on the intensity of the ride. For rides that are shorter than an hour there’s no need to refuel. Riders should opt for high GI snacks during cycling because glucose is easily absorbed and ready to use for fuel. Don’t exaggerate though, because it is important to avoid discomfort and nausea that sometimes come with carbs loaded foods. Include sports drinks that contain carbs and electrolytes. They are easier to consume and maintain a proper water/electrolytes ratio, which is very important during vigorous exercise.