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What type of food is recommended while cycling for long distances?

cycling riding

What Kind of Breakfasts Before You Ride:

Your fuelling strategy should be put into action before you start riding.You need to start your ride with full glycogen [carbohydrate] stores, so something like pasta, rice or potatoes for dinner the night before is good.

Make sure you eat your breakfast around 90 minutes before the event, and go for something like porridge, for slow release energy. Whatever you eat, make sure it’s low-fat; a full English breakfast will delay the absorption of fuel on the ride.

The Essentials:

1. Keep your carb stores intact

2. Know what’s in your bottle

3. Take on 60g of carbs per hour

4. Don’t neglect recovery

But there’s a limit to what you can store and process as you ride: Carbohydrate is held in limited supply within your muscles and liver as glycogen, and while you have it stored in your body, you feel good. You store about 2,000kcal of carbohydrate in the form of glycogen.

The more external [exogenous] carbohydrate you can absorb per hour, the less of your glycogen stores you’ll use. But there is a limit of about 60 grams per hour that your body can absorb, so don’t overdo it.

How you choose to get those 60g of carbs is largely down to personal taste — two or three gels, or even pastries if you prefer real food, will do it. But, Remember to consume both fluid and carbohydrate calories. In cooler weather, drink less and eat more, and in hotter weather, drink your calories and use fewer bars and gels. Electrolyte tablets are not a source of energy, only hydration, so they will not look after your glycogen stores. If you use these, you must eat a lot.

What To Eat - Slow Carbs vs Fast Carbs?

As you should now know (from reading above), your preferred energy source is going to come from carbohydrates. You are looking for carb foods which supply you with energy slowly over a long time period.  This is because fuel that releases slowly over time, fuels you for longer...When you consume carbohydrates and the type you eat can have a significant effect upon your performance. High carbohydrate foods like pasta and bread can’t be eaten during a race because they aren’t digested quickly enough to be converted to energy in the time you need it.

The ideal time to eat slow-release, low to moderate GI foods is two to three hours before a ride. During the ride you want high GI, rapidly delivered carbs – also immediately after the event. Then back to low/medium GI two to three hours after, too. For a rapidly digested energy boost athletes often look to some very simple sugary snacks that score high in GI but not quite so high in the rapid delivery stakes.

Best Slow Carbs for Cycling Include:

Oat based cereal bars

Dried fruit, bananas

Wholemeal bread

Commercially formulated energy bars

Energy drinks and gels

If deliberately trying to run out of energy, does nothing for you other than put the body under needless stress which it replies by storing more fat when you begin to eat again - as well as put you at risk of hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar)...)

How To Tell You're Becoming Hypoglycemic:

Stage 1. Start to feel shaky somewhat. You start to feel a bit peckish. The "red fuel light" has indeed come on! :). You've started to notice your speed is off for a few miles...

Stage 2. If you don't eat at this point, you'll start to feel very strange: lightheaded with a stronger sense of wanting something to eat. Ride performance is definitely slowing. You're thinking about finding a bakery or store and food is number 1 on your mind.

​Stage 3. Ignored further, your ride performance starts to decline to a crawl. This is because the body is now preserving the last carbs for your brain to function. You feel desperate to eat food! Do not ignore past this signal - you must eat sugar in any form now...This is the only time a Mars bar or snickers, sugary sweets - a cafe sugar left behind by a coffee...a piece of bread...will save you here! 

Stage 4. Ignored even further and your craving is all consuming. You'll have to stop on the bike. Your talking slurred. Even counting out money is a chore. The brain is shutting down...and you need to phone for help or get food. Hopefully you phone for help sooner rather than stage 4, if you've forgotten all energy bars/have no money or riding when stores/cafes are shut, or there are no cafes etc.

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