Eating on a bike ride is highly personal. It depends on how far, how fast one rides, one’s weight, how much one ate before riding, and how many calories one takes in with powders added into water (my personal favorite is Hammer Perpetuem for long rides).
I have a blog friend who was told you shouldn’t eat anything if the ride isn’t more than four hours long. This is among the most idiotic advice I’ve ever heard given to another cyclist – unless very specific criteria are met.
First, if I go out for anything more than 25 miles I bring a Gu. I probably won’t eat it, but I bring it just in case. More than 33 miles and that Gu is going down the gullet. More than 35 miles and I’m bringing a Gu and a banana. Fifty miles and I’m bringing an extra backup Gu just in case. We did 44 miles earlier today and I was darn near Betty White status at 23 miles. We took a minute to eat at 25 and I felt infinitely better, almost immediately (banana and a Gu). The last 19 miles were comfortable and fast. I pulled into the driveway with a smile on my face.
Here’s the trick, we did that 44 miles in less than 2-1/2 hours. 18.5 mph average in some pretty hefty wind and a lot of it in our face the last half. Without that fuel, I’d have bonked between 33 and 35 miles. It’s all in the pace. If I’m cruising around at 15 miles an hour I don’t need much in terms of food. I get into that magical “fat burning” Zone 2 and I can go all day. At 18-20 mph, and above, I need some calories to sustain the effort because I can’t ride that fast in the fat zone.
Now that is where pace and weight dictate what to eat. What about other calories? Hammer Perpetuem is calorie rich with all kinds of good stuff to keep one’s effort sustained. A bottle laced with Perpetuem obviously means less edible calories are required on board.
NOW, and this is important so pay attention you who happen to be newer to cycling… The tendency is more often for noobs to overeat on the bike. Gu’s, Perpetuem, bananas, sammiches, energy beans (Jelly Belly rocks)… Stinger products, the list is endless, too much is just as bad as too little and means you can’t enjoy that wonderful post-ride lunch or dinner.
In fact, I’ve read posts before written by people who consume two Gu’s for a 5k run or a ten mile bike ride. Now, if you happen to be doing that 5k while doing a handstand or riding that ten miles on a unicycle, then maybe I could see the need for a Gu. Maybe.
We want to find that butter zone where we’re not eating too much but we’re taking in enough to sustain our effort. To find that zone, I like to assume that I want too much but once I start heading down the path to feeling like Betty White, I have to rectify that immediately if not sooner.
So definitely, heading out for a couple of hours on the bike, eat a little bit. You’ll feel better and ride faster.
Ride hard, my friends.