Question: I often feel bloated and have no appetite on longer rides (60-100 miles), even though I eat little along the way and usually don’t eat much before the ride. Sometimes I get some trace nausea in the later miles. I drink Gatorade and some of the things I eat along the way are granola bars, PBJ, banana, etc. – mild stuff. I often eat less during rides than I would during days off the bike, so I can’t understand the contrasting bloat. Any ideas how to eliminate the belly bloat and nausea? I don’t feel bonky during rides. So I think I have enough stuff in the tank. — Michael L.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: Nutrition on the bike is one of the most individual aspects of cycling. That’s why so many riders, especially in ultra events, experience so many gastric problems. Nutrition is also one of the most emotional topics in the sport. Ask a dozen riders what they consume before, during and after rides and you’ll get a dozen different answers. And many of those answers will be delivered with near-religious fervor.
Still, there are a couple of guidelines you can follow:
1. Nutrition is a personal matter. There’s no substitute for trial and error. What works for your riding buddy may make you gag.
2. Real food often works better than bars, gels and other commercial concoctions. Like you observed, bland food is usually better than spicy choices.
3. The longer the ride, the more important nutrition (and hydration) becomes. Riders in Race Across America devote endless experimentation on their training rides to getting it right.
In your case, it sounds like you’re following the usual rules for good on-bike nutrition — bland food, not overeating, etc. So maybe it’s time to shake things up a bit and try something different. Have you tried a different pre-ride meal? Liquid nutrition like Boost or Tailwind while riding? More food before the ride? Sometimes a counter-intuitive approach works when it doesn’t seem like it would.
Don’t forget to eat enough. I know you said you keep the tank full, but running on empty can bring on feelings of nausea and weakness that are often attributed to poor food choices when in fact they arise from an empty stomach and resulting semi-bonk.
A personal story — I was on a Race Across America 4-man team in ’96 and we did basically 30-minute shifts across the country continuously for 5.5 days. We had good intentions of sticking with a mostly liquid diet. That went out the window the first day and soon we were scarfing down turkey sandwiches, chips and bagels just before hammering all-out on our shifts. We were consuming so many calories that anything we ate vanished like, as a friend said, a tissue in a blast furnace. So don’t underestimate the amount of food even a century ride takes.
I hope this gives you some ideas.
Coach Fred Matheny is an RBR co-founder who has four decades of road cycling and coaching experience. He has written 14 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach Fred Matheny, including the classic Complete Book of Road Bike Training, which includes 4 eBooks comprising 250 pages of timeless, detailed advice and training plans. The Complete Book is one of the many perks of an RBR Premium Membership. Click to read Fred’s full bio.