Nutrition for Endurance Cyclists

On average, cyclists burn 30 calories per mile. This means that on a 585-mile ride, you will burn around 18,000 calories! Obviously, the Red Ribbon Ride presented by Chipotle is not a time to diet. Take this into account not only on the event, but as you are training for it in the months ahead. We've put together some nutritional guidelines for you. By following these guidelines, your body and mind will be healthier, happier and ready to tackle those 300 miles with a smile.

Training Diet

An important thing to keep in mind is that you need to be eating a balanced diet and drinking plenty of fluids not only on training days, but throughout the week so that your body will be prepared for the hard work of training.

You'll want to do the following:

  1. Eat plenty of carbohydrates to replenish depleted carbohydrate stores that occur with intense training
  2. Eat enough protein to repair and build muscles
  3. Drink enough fluids to prevent cramping and fatigue during exercise. You should be drinking a minimum of 10 eight-ounce glasses of fluid per day (and if you drink caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea or soda, you need to drink two glasses of water to counteract the water loss). A good rule of thumb is that your urine should be clear to very light yellow in color, large in volume, and you should be urinating frequently.
  4. Make sure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals to keep your immune system strong (you may want to take a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement to ensure you are getting adequate amounts)
  5. Make sure you eat within the first one to two hours after completing a training session. This is when muscles can most readily store glycogen (carbohydrate), and you will feel much, much better later in the day (and the following day). If you don't have any appetite (or are short on time), try drinking a glass of juice or eating an energy bar.
  6. Try different energy bars and sports drinks prior to the ride itself. We will be providing a limited number of power bars and Gatorade (as well as other snacks) -- please try these out now! You don't want to wait until Day 1 to find out your body doesn't react well to Gatorade.
  7. Don't forget to take a day off! Your body needs rest so it can restore glycogen levels. You will return to your training more energized and with less chance of getting injured.

Your overall diet should consist of:

  • 60-70% carbohydrates
  • 15-20% protein
  • 10-30% fat

Good sources of the different food groups are:

Complex Carbohydrates Simple Carbohydrates Protein Fat
Whole grain breads  Fruit & fruit juice Lean meats  Olive oil
Vegetables Hard candy Low-fat dairy Nuts & nut butter
Whole grain cereals Pure sugar Fish Avocado
Rice and pasta   Tofu/soy Seeds
Beans   Beans  
Low-fat dairy      

What to Eat Before You Ride

(applies to training and on the event itself)

Your goals should be:

  • Eat adequate carbohydrates to maintain blood sugar levels (and avoid bonking)
  • Eat/drink enough calories to feel satiated but not overly full
  • Drink enough fluids to reduce the effects of dehydration caused by sweat loss

Your pre-ride meal should be eaten about 1-2 hours prior to the ride (if possible), and should be:

  • High in carbohydrates
  • Low in fat, fiber, and gas-producing foods (your fellow cyclists will appreciate that!)
  • Small -- according to the amount of food that you feel comfortable eating
  • Eaten with fluids. You should try to drink 2-3 cups of cool plain water one hour before, and 1-2 cups about 15 minutes before starting (again, you should be urinating frequently, and your urine should be clear and large in volume).

A sample, pre-ride meal might consist of orange juice, cereal, a banana, nonfat or low fat milk, and toast with jam. Or pancakes topped with fruit and syrup, nonfat or low fat yogurt and juice.

What to Eat on the Ride

(applies to training and on the event itself)

Your goals should be:

  • To maintain blood sugar levels for several hours and prevent fatigue
  • To replace electrolytes (sodium, potassium) lost through sweat
  • To prevent dehydration due to sweat loss

Everyone's body and cycling speed are different, but you will be burning around 300-600 calories per hour of cycling, and your body will lose two to four cups of fluid (through sweat). Climate can also affect these levels. We cannot stress enough how important it is for you to eat before you're hungry and drink before you're thirsty!

Some guidelines for you:

  • You should carry at least two large water bottles with you, or -- even better -- a camelback and a water bottle. One should be filled with water and one should be filled with a sports drink (for electrolyte replacement).
  • Try to go through at least one water bottle per hour -- and double that on very hot days. If you carry two water bottles, try to finish both by the time you reach the next Rest Stop.
  • don't wait until you're thirsty before drinking -- if you feel thirsty it means you are already dehydrated!
  • Stop at every Rest Stop to fuel up on snacks -- energy bars, fruit, bagels, etc. -- even if you don't feel hungry. You need to make sure you're keeping your tank full throughout the day, and remember -- eat before you're hungry!

What to Eat After the Ride

(applies to training and on the event itself)

Your goals should be:

  • Replenish carbohydrate stores (glycogen) so you'll feel great when you get back on your bike tomorrow
  • Replenish fluid and electrolyte (potassium, sodium) losses
  • Drink -- even if you don't feel thirsty! Carry your water bottle with you in camp and drink constantly.
  • Eat a high-carbohydrate meal or snack within one hour of finishing the day's ride. Again, this is when muscles can most readily store glycogen (carbohydrate), and you will feel much, much better later in the day (and the following day).
  • Eat a well-balanced meal for dinner, and again, drink plenty of fluids!

And get a good night's rest so you can get up and do it all again tomorrow morning!

 


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