I recently found an article on Active.com describing how to plan for, and eat appropriately while doing endurance rides. It is broken down in to a basic formula. Figure out how fast you think you can ride (average over the whole distance), the total distance you will ride, your weight, and the amount of elevation climb for the ride. Pop those numbers in and viola. Out shoots some really useful information.
You now know how much you will be expending in calories (not a scientific fact, but a round number not based on power meters, heart rate monitors, etc). The better part of this data is that you can now break this down in to how much you will need to replace while ON THE BIKE, and how much you should be replacing each hour after the first 60-90 minutes.
At first when I saw this number for a recent ride, I thought it would be tough to eat that much on the bike. I was used to maybe a 100 calorie gel every 2 hours or so. This was telling me that I should have at least 230 calories per hour. Woah! That is very different. But being the scientific brain that I am, I tried it. And I felt strong. Stronger than I would have expected after a particularly hard, early season training ride.
I now know that for the past season, I have been under fueling while on the bike. That might explain the extreme fatigue I have experienced on some of the hardest rides, and the actual bonking that occurred a few times. If you haven’t already clicked on the link above, I highly recommend it. A friend of mine actually turned it in to an Excel spreadsheet with lookup values to make it easy. I am sure to use this as a guideline before many of my rides (until I get the hang of eating enough anyway).
What do I eat? Well, I combine real food with gels. In the gel category, I have tried almost all of them. I spent last year trying out different brands, flavors, etc to see while was the most tolerable. The key word there is tolerable. Gel’s don’t taste great. They aren’t some wonderful meal you sit down to. In fact, I gave one once to a non-cyclist. The look of sheer horror on her face once she began to eat it was comical. But that is another story. I personally like the Accel Gel. I think it lasts longer than some of the others out there, like Gu, or PowerGel. Maybe it is the protein, maybe it is just my imagination. I also mix it up with real food. By real food I generally mean fruit based products. My favorite is Lara Bars. They are all natural, no preservatives, generally only 4 or 5 simple ingredients such as dates, cherries, almonds, etc. and the flavors are very good. The Apple Pie bars taste like, well, apple pie. And so on for the Cherry Pie, etc. I can’t rave about them enough.
See you on the road!