Ride Nutrition #2: Time and Intensity
In our last article focused on the basics of riding nutrition, we looked at the basic food groups and how they affect your performance in cycling. Aside from just focusing on the macronutrients, one also needs to consider the timing and intensities of the activities that you are fueling for.
Remember, during the ride you do not want to consume much protein, fat or fiber: these all slow the delivery of carbs and even fluids.
Carbs are able to sustain high intensity outputs, whereas fats cannot.
Let’s quickly review what durations of exercise you can power without adding any extra macronutrients, specifically carbohydrates, since this is the one that fuels cycling related activities the most. If you haven’t read our previous article, check it out here.
What To Eat For 2 Hours or Less Of Cycling
The body stores carbohydrates in your liver and muscles, with enough storage to fuel 90-120 minutes of cycling, assuming that you haven’t depleted the carb stores by drinking alcohol, and that you ate a well balanced meal the day before.
This also assumes that you are riding at an endurance and low tempo pace (50-80% FTP).
Therefore, you only need to supplement this if you are training longer than 2 hours, or if it is a session very high in intensity (93% FTP or greater), in which case, just shift your focus towards carbs, but you don’t need to go overboard or carb load. See more on this below.
This ride at 50-80% for 90-120 minutes will deplete your carb stores, so make sure you replenish them after you consume your post ride protein. Return from ride and consume 20g of protein, then next comes the carbs.
What To Eat For High Intensity Cycling or Racing For Less Than 2 Hours
We simply lean our diet towards carbs. What does this mean? We really focus on eating carbs for 2 days before a big criterium or circuit race, but not on a massive carb loading schedule. We lean towards 5-7g of carbs per 1kg of body weight. Yes, that is a lot of carbs. For a 70kg rider, that’s about 420g of carbs, so 1,680 calories from straight carbohydrate.
During the event we stick to sports drink mix or a gel (20-40g carbs).
One serving of this the morning of your race, and one serving to stay topped off before the race.
Low Intensity Cycling or Training Rides For More Than 2 Hours
We don’t eat much more for these rides since the intensity is low and you can burn off your breakfast and use the fuel that you consume on the ride. If it is a zone 2 endurance ride, eat your normal breakfast and just lean towards carbs. Stay on top of the fuel during the ride, getting 60-90g of carbs per hour. Most gels and drink mixes are just carbs, whereas you need to be careful when it comes to the bars that you eat. Some are very high fat, and this is not what you want to be fueling with on long rides, since fat cannot be used for energy as efficiently as carbohydrates.
High Intensity Cycling or Training Rides For More Than 2 Hours
Carb drink, as we call it, is a must.
Carb loading, a MUST.
The general recommendation for carb loading is 10-12g of carbs per 1kg of body weight. YES, that is a lot of carbs, and YES, you will go over your normal amount of calories for the day. We honestly haven’t been able to get an answer from anyone on how this math works out; if your glycogen stores can only hold 500g of carbs, why are we eating more? Is it usable within the blood stream?
We’re torn on our recommendation
Staying topped off on carbs for long, high intensity sessions, will allow you to lay down the watts like you have not done before. Carb loading works, and you can use Monday to unpuff a bit; just don’t eat so much that you shock your body or feel uncomfortable. Drink more water or decaf teas, eat a hearty breakfast when you are hungry, and let your normal activities bring you back to race weight.
Don’t be surprised if you see us crushing bowls of sugary cereal before a race. Yes, fueling for a race is different that “eating healthy” and we’ll touch on that in a future post!
Questions? Comments? Other ideas? Comment Below!