Getting your nutrition and hydration strategy is vital and can make a huge difference to your performance and enjoyment levels during both training and racing. Fueling long sessions is often the most difficult. You’re out training for such a long time, often without access to proper foods – limited by what you can carry in your pockets.
Fueling your body with the necessary fluids and nutrients is essential to not only ensure that you survive your training session or race without bonking, but it will mean you can recover more effectively and get back on the road to do it all again. Hydrating properly isn’t just about drinking water. Drinking plenty of electrolytes in addition to water will ensure that your body’s stores of essential minerals like sodium and magnesium are maintained and thus allow you to hydrate more effectively because they encourage the uptake of fluids into the bloodstream and cells. Excess of these minerals will be excreted, so you can’t overdo it. However, you can get into trouble from over-hydrating if you limit yourself to water. Without the necessary sodium and magnesium you gain from drinking electrolytes, your body’s fluid balance within the cells will become diluted and in severe cases your body’s functioning – both muscle and vital organs can become compromised.
Electrolyte replacement drinks are commonly available in tablet form, which is great for convenience. You can take numerous tablets with you, and simply drop them into fresh water when you fill up. This eliminates the need to take 5 bottles with you on your ride. Some electrolyte drinks are purely that – an electrolyte replacement. Other options will also include a source of energy.
Fueling your ride is also essential to ensure you have sufficient energy and can perform at your best for the entire session or race. Eating some relatively simple carbohydrates beforehand can help, particularly if you’re riding early after fasting overnight. Some people really struggle to take on food during exercise. In such cases, fueling with electrolyte drink containing energy can be beneficial, but usually isn’t enough. Energy gels, bars and chews are usually quite easily digested. They’ve been manufactured to contain energy sources that are essentially already broken down, such that they’re more quickly absorbed and taken up by the body. They’re also designed specifically for the purpose of being eaten on the go. They’re relatively small and easy to open such that you can take on fuel without disrupting your ride. Those with cast iron stomachs can eat almost anything, and some people choose to eat more ‘normal’ food such as bananas and sandwiches. These options generally provide more energy, but also take longer to digest.
Choosing your own hydration and nutrition strategy can be difficult –everyone is different with regard to what they like to eat/drink and what their body can tolerate. If you’re just progressing to more endurance training/events, or you’ve struggled with your strategy for a long time, it’s best to purchase a heap of different products so that you can trial them and find out what works for you.
Regardless of how you choose to fuel your ride, you should do a rough calculation of your expected energy expenditure, or the time you’ll be out on the road, and ensure you take enough with you. Bonking is not a pleasant experience!
– By Emily Donker – Pushys sponsored rider