cycling utah May 2000
Know how to fuel your sophisticated powerplant
By J.R. Smith
Good nutrition is critical whether you are doing a long touring ride, hard training ride or race. Not only is the choice of nutrition important, but timing your consumption is equally consequential. Only a decade ago, there were few options for nutrition on the go, but today the choices seem endless. By process of experimentation, you can find the right formula of glucose replacement drinks, energy bars and other such sports nutrition that will benefit you most.
Glucose replacement drinks (GRD's) are the most critical part of this formula. When you ride at a rate exceeding 65% of maximum heart rate, your body starts to burn glycogen for energy and at approximately 85% of maximum heart rate your body burns 100% of glycogen stored in the muscles and liver.
Your body only stores about 1,700 calories of glycogen for energy conversion, which depletes quickly, resulting in fatigue and reduced performance. It's important to replace this by drinking GRD's prior to as well as during riding.
The type of drink you use should contain 5% - 8% carbohydrate solutions to be most effective. Be particularly careful not to mix your drink above 8% of concentration-your stomach will not be able to digest it as you approach anaerobic threshold. Also, make sure you experiment with any drink prior to events to ensure your body will tolerate it. GRD's work best when they are cool (between 55-60 degrees) because they digest quickly to be used by the muscles afterwards. This process takes 15-20 minutes, so drink soon and often. Eight ounces per 20 minutes of exercise is the general criteria, or more if there is high humidity or temperatures exceed 80 degrees.
Energy bars are also useful in preventing fatigue through replacement of carbohydrates but the digestion process takes longer than that of using a GRD. On longer rides where you are in an aerobic state, eating bars that contain more protein and fat will be helpful. Also make sure to read the labels of different energy bars noting fat, protein and carbohydrate content. You may find that you are more or less tolerant of higher protein/fat concentrations.
Sugared drinks and food items are quite popular among some cyclists and I have seen a lot of racers use them on training rides. The problem with sugared foods/drinks is that consuming them prior to or during an event will ultimately result in very decreased blood glucose levels causing the rider to experience "bonk". However, taken within the last 30-40 minutes of an event can actually benefit performance since they initially provide a surge of energy. One of the most popular forms of sugars are gels, which are easy to consume in competitive events and a very effective way to increase energy. However, they should only be used near the end of a ride or race for best results.
These basic guidelines will improve your performance by maximizing your energy to race well, as well as do endurance and hard training rides. Finally, keep in mind what you eat off the bike as well. Fruits and vegetables should be the staple of your diet and will aid in your overall health and well being.
Cycle Salt Lake Century
¥ Drink Glucose Replacement Drinks (GRD's) starting day prior to ride.
¥ Eat breakfast (approx. 75 grams of carbohydrates) 2-3 hours prior to ride.
¥ Take a sport nutrition bar 1-hour prior to start of ride.
¥ Drink 12 oz of a GRD for every hour of riding.
¥ Stretch prior to start of ride and at rest stops.
¥ Change position of hands on handlebars during ride.
¥ Use sun block and reapply as necessary.
¥ Use aerobic capacity (spinning rather than pushing a big gear) to maintain speed for most of ride. Use leg strength towards end of ride to maintain desired speed or effort.
¥ Carry two spare tubes, patch kit, tire levers, 4, 5, 6mm allen wrenches and pump. CO2 inflators work great.
¥ When tired, draft behind another rider or riders (this results in an approximate 25% energy savings).
¥ Most Important - HAVE FUN!
J.R. Smith is a licensed U.S.A. Cycling Elite Coach, Category 2 Official and masters racer. He has been involved in cycling for approximately 20 years and has worked with previous U.S. National Team members and National Champions as well as managing a professional women's cycling team. He also has instructed at Bicycling magazine and Olympic Training Center cycling camps. He presently operates a consulting business and performs services for coaching, bike fit, body composition analysis, and performance testing. He can be contacted at (801) 944-2456 or via e-mail at [email protected]