Our 2016 Elephant Rock Ambassador Tim Kippel discusses the importance of cycling nutrition in preparation for the Annual Subaru Elephant Rock Cycling Festival in Castle Rock, Colorado.
Cyclists joke that they ride so they can eat anything they want. When I rode the Elephant Rock century in 2013 my Strava cycling app estimated that I burned 4,500 calories! But eating anything you want PRE-ride is not the wisest.
I have found that proper nutrition is highly important, not only to keep me from becoming “hangry” but for the best cycling performance and recovery. Something I have incorporated into my cycling routine that I picked up from my time in the military was this – fight as you train, train as you fight. What does that mean? Consistency. I do my best to eat during training the same way I would for the day of an event. Just like you wouldn’t wear new boots to hike a 14er, you shouldn’t suddenly try a new nutrition routine the day of Elephant Rock.
Eating the right food, and hydrating properly will help keep you from “bonking” (BTW the cycling definition is something entirely different than that of Urban Dictionary’s), simply described as the feeling of sudden fatigue. This is caused when your glycogen, aka blood sugar, levels are depleted. Your training regimen will determine what you should eat. I have found the articles put out by Bicycling Magazine (http://www.bicycling.com/tags/bicycling-nutrition) to be very helpful. For a short ride, an hour or so and not a ton of climbing I’ll eat a banana and a couple of Fig Newton cookies just before my ride. For longer rides I like to make sure that I’ve eaten a balanced meal about three hours in advance that has complex carbs and lean proteins. My wife thinks I’m nuts during cycling season because I’ll wake up at 4am just to eat a quick meal, then go back to bed. For these early morning meals I’ll have a breakfast burrito that I’ve made previously, and then frozen. For these burritos I’ll use whole wheat tortillas, eggs, potatoes, and ham or turkey sausage. The key is having a good balance of carbs and proteins.
When your training rides start breaking that hour mark, make sure you’re snacking and hydrating consistently. My personal rule of thumb, is at least one bottle of water and one gel pack an hour. If you haven’t tried the gels and bars that are readily available give them a shot. I’ve even been known to get those “Justin’s” individual serving packs of almond butter for long rides. There are so many options available to include organic and vegan, but before you rush out and buy a case of something try a couple on rides to make sure the product tastes good and agrees with your system. I’ve had many friends offer me meal bars and such that they just didn’t love after buying a Costco worthy stash of them. There are many makers of sports nutrition supplements/food; I encourage you to research and use the nutrition products that work best for YOUR body and YOUR ride.
Post-ride recovery nutrition is important as well, but I’ll keep it short. A 3:1 to 4:1 carb to protein ratio is something to aim for. Chocolate milk is a personal favorite.
I’ll leave you with a couple thoughts… Be consistent in your training and eating. Don’t be scared of carbs. Hydrate! Enjoy your ride. Healthy food doesn’t have to suck.