Nutrition and HydrationNUTRITION & HYDRATION

Preparing for the Ride means training your body. It also means fueling your body to help you maximize your potential. On average you will burn 30 calories a mile which means you will burn 3,000 - 5,000 calories a day on the Ride. This means you will need to feed your body to ensure you have something to burn. 

When we feed ourselves the right balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and hydrate properly we have more fuel to burn. A good rule of thumb is to have a ratio of 65-70% carbohydrate's, 15% protein and 15% fat. The last one can be tricky because what you want is the good fat you find in avocados, nuts and egg yolk, not fast food, grease and packaged goods.

There are many variables and ultimately you will want to eat in a way that your body feels good and can sustain being on a bicycle all day long.  

Training for the Ride and on the Ride are no time to diet. You will want to eat but you want to eat smart. This is general information on how to fuel your body before, during and after training rides and the Ride. Every body is different so making adjustments to fit your needs is critical. Please consult with your physician, talk with other riders about what they have learned, visit our Community Partners who offer Nutrition & Hydration assistance and ask questions. We are here to help you. 

Just like training your body physically you will be exploring a lot of options to figure out what works best for you so you ride optimally. The best time to explore different ways to eat, what works and what doesn't, is during your training season. You want to be on point with how to fuel your system for the Ride in July. 


Before You Ride

Before you go on a bike ride you will want to make sure you are preparing your body appropriately with proper Nutrition & Hydration.


Preparing by eating a good dinner the night before and a good breakfast the morning of a ride is the best way start. Your body will use carbs stored from 2-3 days prior to your ride. You want to avoid fast.


  • Potatoes or Sweet Potatoes
  • Meat/Chicken/Fish
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit


Ideally you will want to eat breakfast 2-3 hours before you go on your ride but realistically that might not happen. Eating anytime before you ride is better than not eating at all. 

  • Oatmeal
  • Eggs
  • Fruit
  • Yogurt and granola

If you do manage to eat 2-3 hours before you will need to eat a banana or protein bar and drink 8oz of water 40 minutes before riding. 


The day before your ride you will want to avoid caffeine and alcohol as much as possible and hydrate. Starting off on a good hydration level is key so you will want to drink water throughout the day. A good goal is to try and keep the same hydration level while riding the next day. 

During Your Ride

While you are riding it is important to keep your body fueled with both food, water and electrolytes. Always remember to eat before you feel hungry and drink before your feel thirsty.


Ideally you want to nibble on your food throughout your ride. Eat a snack 40 minutes into your ride and then every 20 minutes after. Remember nibble on your snack, not gobble it down. The goal is to keep a good balance of your blood sugar and ensure that you are providing your body with fuel to burn. You will want to have snacks on you at all times, in your jersey pockets, in your saddle bag or your hydration pack if you are carrying one. This way you always have something on you.

Try eating more complex foods early because they burn more slowly and will give you a longer lasting source of fuel. Oatmeal, bagels, peanut butter are all complex foods.

Suggested Snacks

  • Energy Bars 
  • Trail Mix
  • Bananas
  • Bagels
  • Peanut Butter Sandwiches

Other Types of Cycling Fuel

You will likely learn about Gu's, Gels, Shot Blocks and other sources of fuel while training. These are quick sources of sugar that can help keep you going. All require you to drink additional water. If you are struggling and you know you have a hill coming up one of these products could give you the boost you need so be sure to eat them before reaching the base of the hill. The Ride does not always have these types of products so if you train and your body responds well you will need to bring these with you on the event. 


You will often hear other riders referrer to "bonking". Bonking is when you haven't been eating and your blood sugar drops really low. Bonking will lead to fatigue and could cause medical issues taking you off of your bike for the day. If you are not feeling well, stop riding, pull over to where it is safe in the shade, sit down, eat a little snack and hydrate. Give yourself sometime to let the food kick in and you should feel a bit better. 

Signs of Bonking

  • Swerving while riding
  • Slurred talking
  • Irrational behavior
  • Yawning
  • Feeling depleted of all energy


Hydrating properly includes both drinking enough water and electrolytes to maintain a good balance in your body. You should have two water bottles or one hydration pack and water bottle on your bike at all times. One bottle (or hydration pack) should be filled with water and one filled with electrolytes. You should drink a half a bottle of electrolytes and a half a bottle of water between each pit stop. Be sure to refill and pee at all pit stops.

Ideally you will want to take sips of water, rather than gulping, throughout your mileage to maintain hydration. You want to drink before you feel thirsty.


It’s also important to ensure adequate sodium intake during periods of heavy training and on the event. Including an electrolyte drink like Gatorade, Nun, Hammer, Skratch or other products will help you to keep your electrolyte levels balanced. 

Electrolyte losses especially sodium can be large, at times exceeding the equivalent of one teaspoon of salt lost in a two-hour workout. If you are a heavy sweater or if you finish workouts with your skin and clothes caked with white residue, your diet should contain enough salt to replace those losses. 

Finding the right electrolyte can be a challenge and you may find you need to experiment with what works for your system. Some products are high in sugar or made with artificial sugar and this may not work for your body. Salt tabs are another great replacement and can be found at any vitamins shop. You will have to follow the instructions on the label of how often to take and how much water to drink with. 

All electrolytes need to be ingested at the recommended ratio and not cut down with water because it will dilute the effect. If something is too sweet find a different brand. Training is the time to figure out what the right electrolyte is for you. 

The Ride provides Gatorade on the event. If this doesn't work for you and you are using a different product you will need to bring that with you on the event. Most electrolytes come in small forms that will fit in your jersey pocket or saddle bag.


Dehydration is one of the number one medical issues on an event like the Red Ribbon Ride and it doesn't have to be. You can avoid dehydration by properly hydrating with good balance of water and electrolytes. Becoming dehydrated can lead to a trip to the hospital and no one wants that. There are different factors that can contribute to becoming dehydrated like exercise intensity, environment, clothing, equipment, genetics, fitness and acclimatization. 

Early Signs of Dehydration

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Flushed skin
  • Heat intolerance
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dark urine with a strong odor

Severe Signs of Dehydration

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Stumbling and clumsiness
  • Numb or shriveled skin
  • Delirium
  • Sunken eyes and dim vision
  • Painful urination
  • Muscle spasms


After Your Ride

Recovery is extremely important. Recovering well can be the difference between waking up ready to ride or not being able to move. After a ride you will want to ingest a recovery snack within 30 minutes of finishing. This is when muscles can most readily store glycogen (carbohydrate) and fuel your muscles. 


A bottle of recovery drink (like Hammer, Gu, OSMO, etc) is the best because they have the right ratio of carbs to protein (4:1). We don’t supply this on the Ride in July, so if you use it, bring it yourself! 

You will also need to keep drinking water after your ride and when you return to Camp on the event.


If you are unable to do a liquid recovery drink there are food options that you can use as well. 

  • granola
  • energy bars
  • brown bread
  • brown rice
  • bananas
  • juice
  • bagels

Within 2 hours of your ride you will need to eat a meal with about 500-1000 calories. When you are on the Ride you will want your post ride meal to be 65-70% carbohydrates, 15% protein and 15-20% fat. You might need to eat more than one meal and that is okay. You will likely need to eat salad, pasta with extra pasta, protein, add salt, a vegetable and desert. The food on the Ride is balanced for this purpose.  

Having a snack later is also good and you will want to have a light snack before going to bed.