Step 7 – Nutrition and Hydration on the Bike

 

Staying well hydrated while you ride is the 2nd most important thing on your cycling list. The 1st is: Place helmet on your head.

You will find four conveniently placed holes in the inner triangle of your frame which are intended to hold bottle cages, these bottle cages are then to be populated by you the cyclist with a bottle containing water or an electrolyte sports drink of your choice.

Dehydration on the bike is your enemy and it can happen so quickly even in cold weather. Sports doctors recommend that athletes consume around 500ml to 750ml of fluid for every hour of endurance exercise but once again everyone’s body is different and you will need to find what formula works best for you. I personally use around 750ml over two and a half hours depending on weather conditions. Take note however that as you go over the four hour mark your intake will start increasing as your body starts demanding fluids.road cycling water

There are probably twice as many companies out there making sports drinks as there are bike brands and each brand will have a long list why they are better than the next. You will need to test a few of those before you settle for a drink that works for you but start off using one of the better known brands on the market, there is no substitute for the millions of dollars they throw at research and development.

On rides of 90 minutes and over you will need to put a bit more back into the body than just water and some electrolyte drinks, you may find yourself getting a bit hungry too. Solid foods are the last thing most people feel like consuming on the bike but to maintain long periods of sustained effort this will be necessary. You will need to keep these foods as simple as possible and bananas are a great energy source which are high in carbohydrates which can be absorbed by the body quickly.

The manufacturers of the sports drink you choose are sure to have a line of bars that you can use to replenish energy, the upside of using a bar that is made by the same manufacturer as your sports drink is that these are often designed to complement each other without undesired side effects.

You will rarely see professional cyclists sitting around a table sipping a coke but 5hrs into a stage race you may see a professional team manager hand a can of coke to a rider. Coke is extremely high in sugar and is quickly absorbed into the body, if you are on a long ride and feel completely flat and out of energy then drink a coke and it will surely give you a lift. Beware though as for some the lift they experience from a coke can drop them just as quickly so use coke as a last resort.

Recovery is extremely important too and you need to take in replacement fluids and foods within 30 minutes of a long ride as your body will be primed to process nutrients quickly at this time. Recovery drinks also most likely available from your sport drink manufacturer will be high in proteins to boost muscle recovery. High protein foods in conjunction with healthy carbohydrates should be consumed quite soon after your ride too.

Taste and personal preference will have much to do with your choice of nutritional products and it may take a few tries to find the product that works for you.

Enjoy the ride.

Step 6 – Keep Your Bike in Top Condition
Step 8 – Cycling Etiquette

21 Responses to “Step 7 – Nutrition and Hydration on the Bike”

  1. Leeann

    Oct 31. 2014

    I use a single bottle of water for a 50 mile ride, is this sufficient?

    Reply to this comment
    • Tim

      Aug 14. 2015

      Depends on how long it takes you to do the 50 miles, depending on your fitness and difficulty of the 50 mile route then a single bottle should just last you. Perhaps start using an electrolyte drink with that.

      Reply to this comment
  2. Ibrahim Myrick

    Nov 20. 2014

    I am trying to maintain a good natural diet but most supplements are loaded with ingredients that I can’t even pronounce.

    Reply to this comment
    • Tim

      Aug 14. 2015

      I prefer to use supplements that are as natural and unprocessed as possible and you do get brands that certify their products as natural, non-GMO etc so it’s a matter of finding these brands and which one works for you.

      Reply to this comment
  3. Crosby T.

    Nov 22. 2014

    Can you suggest a brand that I should use, there are so many!

    Reply to this comment
    • Tim

      Aug 14. 2015

      Sure but I prefer to do it in private, drop me a mail and I will mail you my choices 😉

      Reply to this comment
  4. Ivan I

    Nov 22. 2014

    I struggled for some time with finding a food that I could eat while on the bike comfortably, after trying numerous brands and concoctions I eventually settled with bananas, healthy and digest easily.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Berkley E.

    Dec 07. 2014

    I have been doing some research into how much a person should drink while cycling and one school of thought is to drink when you are thirsty. Works for me.

    Reply to this comment
    • Tim

      Aug 14. 2015

      This is a good philosophy however most athletes are remarkably bad at listening to their bodies so make sure you are taking on enough.

      Reply to this comment
  6. drew ibarra

    Dec 26. 2014

    Thanks for stressing the importance of helmets first up in the article, couldn’t agree more.

    Reply to this comment
  7. Adam

    Jan 15. 2015

    I am a big fan of gels as they often contain a good mix of sugars, carbs and proteins, so I ride with a pocket full of these and plain water in my bottles. I will admit it does get pricey and it takes some time for your gut to adjust. I normally use one per hour.

    Reply to this comment
  8. Dorry A.

    Feb 14. 2015

    I have just stated riding and I ride around 1 to 2 hours, do I need any special foods?

    Reply to this comment
  9. Whitaker B

    Mar 15. 2015

    Hi no you should be fine with two bottles of water and a banana or sports bar of sorts.

    Reply to this comment
  10. Rees C

    Apr 07. 2015

    For those that train in cold weather don’t think that because you ride in cooler conditions that you are immune to dehydration, I have suffered from this because I assumed that that I was not sweating enough and didn’t drink accordingly, 75 miles into the ride I started feeling terrible and had to stop. It ended up being dehydration. We were riding in -2 degrees Celsius.

    Reply to this comment
  11. Karleen R.

    Apr 29. 2015

    Your daily routine should involve a normal level of water consumption and if you are preparing for a race or long training ride try to take a little extra fluids one or two days leading up to it.

    Reply to this comment
  12. Morrie A

    Apr 29. 2015

    I have tried eating solid food on the bike but I get nauseous after eating, I am only able to use liquids. Is there anything you can suggest?

    Reply to this comment
    • Tim

      Aug 14. 2015

      This is reasonably common as a person stomach tends to shut down when exercising, this means that food will sit in the stomach undigested. As another reader suggests try using gels mixed with water.

      Reply to this comment
  13. Burnard G.

    May 22. 2015

    If any of you ride consecutive days then the recovery drinks are a must.

    Reply to this comment
  14. Ed

    May 26. 2015

    I sweat a lot and to make sure I haven’t lost too many minerals I take extra electrolytes, the ones I take are in a capsule form which I pop after about 2 hrs and then every hour.

    Reply to this comment
  15. Pier Caston

    May 27. 2015

    I must be the odd one out here, after about 90 minutes on the bike I am starving and could eat just about anything.

    Reply to this comment
  16. Marci

    Jul 18. 2015

    With hydration I have tried to develop a habit where I drink after 15 minutes and then small sips every 20 minutes thereafter. I used a lap timer on my watch to remind me.

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