Question: I ride long on weekends and want to fuel up correctly. Weekday training is fine because I’m limited to 90-minute rides. How much should I eat and drink before a ride of 50-75 miles, and how much time should I allow between eating and starting the ride? – Jerry K.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: The key is to learn what pre-ride meal works for you, and then eat it 2-3 hours before every long ride (if possible).
Most nutritionists suggest eating some protein and fat along with the traditional carbohydrate. I like a bowl of cereal with skim milk, a banana, juice and a bagel with cream cheese, along with a cup of coffee.
Something similar works well for many riders I know. It also works before races and competitive centuries when the pace will be fast from the start.
Longer, slower rides require more food. At PAC Tour Training Camps, held in the high desert of Arizona each March, we average around 90 miles per day. Riders hit the breakfast buffet hard: scrambled eggs, oatmeal, pancakes, ham, potatoes, fruit, muffins and sweet rolls.
All this food means we can’t start fast an hour later, but that’s not a problem when touring or riding for fun and speed isn’t an issue.
Notice the protein and fat in the meal, courtesy of the ham, eggs and muffins. Carbohydrate is essential to endurance performance, but protein and fat seem to “stick to the ribs” and make the meal last longer into the ride.
Remember that even with a fairly hefty pre-ride meal under your jersey, you need to begin eating and drinking on the bike no later than the end of the first hour.
At a burn rate of approximately 40 calories per mile, it’s amazing how quickly that cereal (or ham and eggs) get converted to energy. If you don’t eat, you’ll be empty in the last third of a four-hour ride.