How important is eating on rides?

Cupras
Cupras Posts: 145
edited June 2013 in Road beginners
So I commute to work and back on my bike when I can but I also ride weekends/days off for longer rides.
I have seen a lot of threads about eating ect on rides but how important is it to eat whilst riding and if I don't eat how much will it effect my riding? My water bottle is used for water only so far but I am trying to figure out if I am doing it all wrong.

I am cycling to get fit so eating things unnecessarily isn't a great idea for me but I am curious if it helps the current ride or helps recuperating after the ride.

Comments

  • alihisgreat
    alihisgreat Posts: 3,872
    I eat (or have some energy drink) on almost every ride I go on for various reasons:

    -If its a long ride you want to be fuelled up so you can finish the ride comfortably, go faster and train harder, and maintain energy levels after the ride.
    -If its a short ride you want to maintain energy levels during and after the ride

    Simple rule of thumb is one piece of food per hour (or 30g of carb) - then after a while you'll work out whether you need more of less.

    A few of my staples:

    Banana - 20-25g carb
    Frusli bar -20g carb
    energy gel - 25g carb

    and I take 750ml of energy drink on anything above ~1hr 30mins, and 2x750ml energy drink for anything over 2hr 30 which gives me 30g+ carb per hour.

    Don't get into the 'eating less is better' mindset because that's wrong. You need the energy to be able to train to be able to get fitted.
  • JayKosta
    JayKosta Posts: 635
    It depends on the duration and intensity of the ride.
    Just water is usually fine for an hour or less
    Energy drink for under 2 hours.
    Energry drink and some food for longer rides.

    On a long duration ride without enough carb intake (via drink or food) you can deplete the amount of fuel in your muscles and be forced to go extremely slow - at a very slow pace the body can get adequate fuel from fat. But it is much better to eat/drink enough so you can continue at a reasonable pace and not get completely exhausted.

    Jay Kosta
    Endwell NY USA
  • smidsy
    smidsy Posts: 5,273
    Everyone is different.

    Generally accepted that if you eat and drink properly off the bike you should be fine on rides upto 2hrs or so with just water.

    The longer you stay in the saddle the more likely you are to need to fuel on the go.

    e.g. I have a 100 miles ride in a few weeks and that may take upto 7hrs to complete. This will require me to eat on the bike. For me that will be bannanas, flapjacks, fig rolls and jelly babies. I will go through at least 1.5 litres of fluid (more if it is hot).
    Yellow is the new Black.
  • Neil_aky
    Neil_aky Posts: 211
    I always take an energy bar and banana with me after ending up in a bad way on a longer ride.

    Everyone will tell you about the physical issues of running out of fuel but my short experience of this says that afte about 1.5 hours of riding I get hungry, therefore, I have something to eat. By eating something when I am hungry, I ride better - on longer rides it psychological as well physical endurance so being hungry is not good.

    If you are cycling, an energy bar and a banana are not going to do you any harm so I wouldn't worry about overeating on the bike, you are much more likely to overeat after the ride so decide beforehand what will be your recovery food / drink. I have Nesquik chocolate shake or scrambled eggs on toast.
  • Bozman
    Bozman Posts: 2,518
    We're all different but if you have a good diet food shouldn't be an issue unless you're going over 40 miles and then It's a bit of flapjack ever 15 miles for me. Fluid seems to be an individual thing, I used to drink on a 7 mile commute but now that I'm fitter I roughly use up to 750ml for every 50 miles, in the winter I could well use half that amount.
    I never use an energy drink but I'll take a couple of gels in case of an emergency, I've yet to blob it but there's always a first.
  • djm501
    djm501 Posts: 378
    You don't tell us how far you ride - that is quite significant. I will eat half an energy bar and maybe 1 1/2 litres of energy drink on a 70 mile ride - above that real food becomes quite important. I won't tend to eat anything on a ride below 50 miles. But it does depend on intensity and what you are trying to achieve.

    What noone has mentioned is electrolytes. When I started I got bad cramps on rides of 30 miles and above because I was just drinking water. I never do that anymore - make sure you have either electrolytes (salts) in your drinks or food (bananas are good) to stop cramps arising from sweating out all your bodily salt.
  • kayakerchris
    kayakerchris Posts: 361
    As said above the distance you are riding is important, how fit you are, why you are riding, etc.

    25km commute to work coffee before I go. I am training to store more glycogen so ride fasted and generally dont bother with breakfast either.

    100km ride. Couple of chocolate bars and plenty of fluid.

    250-600km. I will eat a mars bar or similar every hour on the hour. Every two hours i will add some savoury. Every 3-4 hours stop for 20-30 minutes for a meal. All washed down with 500-750mls of electrolytes/water mix per hour.
    Chris
  • Cupras
    Cupras Posts: 145
    Thanks very much for the replies.
    As I don't often go over 2 hours a banana seems to be the ideal solution.
  • andyd77
    andyd77 Posts: 27
    Cupras wrote:
    Thanks very much for the replies.
    As I don't often go over 2 hours a banana seems to be the ideal solution.

    make sure its a Raleigh one, know this could be obvious but think about how you will peel it / dispose of skin and practice riding and eating / opening things too takes practice.
  • Bozman wrote:
    We're all different but if you have a good diet food shouldn't be an issue unless you're going over 40 miles and then It's a bit of flapjack ever 15 miles for me. Fluid seems to be an individual thing, I used to drink on a 7 mile commute but now that I'm fitter I roughly use up to 750ml for every 50 miles, in the winter I could well use half that amount.
    I never use an energy drink but I'll take a couple of gels in case of an emergency, I've yet to blob it but there's always a first.

    That seems like a tiny amount of fluid to me. 50 miles must be 3 hours or so. Although probably not comparable I read that a pro cyclist would get through about 8-9 litres of fluid in a warm 5 hour stage race. I can get through about a litre per hour on a warm day and a hilly route.

    I also read that once you suffer dehydration of 2% (ie 98% of your ideal fluid level in your body) your athletic performance will start to become impaired, even though you won't feel thirsty at these level.

    Regarding food it depends on the length of ride. Up to 2 hours I rely on a big bowl of porridge before setting off. More than 2 hours I try to eat a little every 30 minutes or so. The general rule is eat before you feel hungry, drink before you feel thirsty
  • VTech
    VTech Posts: 4,736
    Im a total newbie but for me its the difference between getting home and bogging down miles from home.
    It also stops mid sleep cramps which I dont get when ive eaten during the rides.

    I take a 750ml bottle but im changing to 2x 550ml as they fit better, if I need more it means im out longer so that means I will pass a shop to top-up on fluids.
    I have started to use small food bars to top me up, they work a treat, like breakfast type bars etc.
    Living MY dream.
  • team47b
    team47b Posts: 6,424
    monkeys hold bananas by the stalk or handle and peel the 'blunt' end, humans break off the handle to peel it. :D
    my isetta is a 300cc bike
  • Bozman
    Bozman Posts: 2,518
    Bozman wrote:
    We're all different but if you have a good diet food shouldn't be an issue unless you're going over 40 miles and then It's a bit of flapjack ever 15 miles for me. Fluid seems to be an individual thing, I used to drink on a 7 mile commute but now that I'm fitter I roughly use up to 750ml for every 50 miles, in the winter I could well use half that amount.
    I never use an energy drink but I'll take a couple of gels in case of an emergency, I've yet to blob it but there's always a first.

    That seems like a tiny amount of fluid to me. 50 miles must be 3 hours or so. Although probably not comparable I read that a pro cyclist would get through about 8-9 litres of fluid in a warm 5 hour stage race. I can get through about a litre per hour on a warm day and a hilly route.

    I also read that once you suffer dehydration of 2% (ie 98% of your ideal fluid level in your body) your athletic performance will start to become impaired, even though you won't feel thirsty at these level.

    Regarding food it depends on the length of ride. Up to 2 hours I rely on a big bowl of porridge before setting off. More than 2 hours I try to eat a little every 30 minutes or so. The general rule is eat before you feel hungry, drink before you feel thirsty

    49.2miles in 2:39 yesterday and it was pretty warm, 700ml of electrolyte and two bits of flapjack, I'll make sure that I'm well hydrated the day before and I'll probably have a couple of pints of squash in the morning before I go.
  • djm501
    djm501 Posts: 378
    A pro-cyclist will be hammering it HARD though - really hurting themselves. This is really not the same thing that most of us will be doing. They are generally in a race against other pros..
  • socistep
    socistep Posts: 88
    As beginners we also have to factor in dropping food whilst trying to take out of pockets/unwrap on the go, its happened to me a few times!
  • djm501
    djm501 Posts: 378
    A good trick is to unwrap bars in advance - still manage to drop them sometimes though ;-)
  • Mikey23
    Mikey23 Posts: 5,306
    I've been a roadrunner for many years and a cyclist for two and know my body pretty well. My take is as follows

    Up to an hour, will take a bottle but rarely use it
    Up to three hours, one bottle and drink to empty as appropriate
    That's 99% of my rides

    Over three hours, some kind of food plus two bottles. Coffee and cake as a treat in a cafe. I can't really bother to be carrying around food with me

    Normal hydration and nutrition before and after
    Apple squash is my favoured drink because I prefer the taste to plain water

    I ain't a pro cyclist so won't be working at their levels of intensity

    I wouldn't knock the industry for their gels and sports drinks culture but I think for the majority of us they are a waste of time and money
  • giant_man
    giant_man Posts: 6,878
    depends on how far you go imo
  • sub55
    sub55 Posts: 1,025
    Alot of people seem to be saying ,it depends on the distance.
    No it doesn't ,it depends on time. Also depends on how fit you are ,in relation too the speed you're riding.
    If i'm riding a 100 mile tt ,so absolutely flat out ,would expect to finish it in under 4 hours and wouldn't eat anything . 100 miles over the mountains , 6 hours at a more comfortable pace ,would stuff my face constantly. So it all depends on your riding. The only way to find out ,is constantly push it to the limit and see what happens .
    constantly reavalueating the situation and altering the perceived parameters accordingly