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Fuelling for the Long Rides

Long distance cycle events like Source to Sea attracts many new cyclists, either in team or as individuals, as well as many experienced ones.  New cyclists often train quite diligently but are let down by missing just a few key basics of nutrition. It is on these long events that people often discover that the plan they used for a 3 hour race simply won't see them through those longer events in good shape.  Yes I know you can get round on two bottles of fluid, but trust me, drink abit more and your wheels are much less likely to fall off in that last hour.


Even if you are an experienced cyclist, there are probably some changes you can make to your nutrition plan in training and on race day.



Aim for around a bottle an hour.  Obviously cyclists of smaller stature need less than larger athletes, and weather conditions are also an important factor.  For you hard core "I only use two bottle guys", lets settle for a bottle before you start and an extra one in your back pocket, plus the two on your bike.  Will you have to stop to pee?  Possibly - they do on the TDF.  But often faster athletes find that with going hard, they don't feel the need to pee until after they have finished.  Or convince your bunch that you really are like the pros, and have the whole bunch pull over.  Yeah right..



For most cyclists, Perpetuem should be the main fuel of choice for endurance cycling events and most athletes do well on as little as 1-1.5 scoops per hour.  Yes really!  For those riding hard ie above 75% MHR, a blend of Perpetuem and HEED is worth experimenting with - here most athletes fall within the range of needing 1 scoop of each per hour (230 calories), plus a bit of Hammer Gel .  Usually your Perpetuem fuel will fit into a couple of flasks carried in your pocket.  But don't then start adding in bars, bananas, fruit cake etc or you will yourself well and truly overfed.  And besides, you need the room in your pockets for your fuel flasks and that extra water bottle.   Not to mention that its darn difficult (and sometimes dangerous) to get to fiddly food if you are flying along in the middle of the bunch. 


Electrolytes and Cramping

Cramp seems to be the biggest limiting factor for many cyclists.  It is incredibly frustrating if you have trained well, are primed for a great race, then it all falls apart.  So what can you do to minimise the chances of cramp?  Its an article all on its own but here are a few pointers to start with.


Correct fluid intake.  For most people two bottles for a 4-5 hour event just doesn't cut it.  Aim for around a bottle an hour, which is say 3-5 big swallows every 15 minutes.


Specificity of training.  If you usually ride at x intensity then come race day you are riding a y intensity then chances are you going to have some issues.  Include some intensity that simulates what you experience in training.


Correct caloric intake.  I'm not really metric yet.. Around 200 - 250 per hour works for most people.


Too much simple sugar.  We can't absorb them as quickly as we can drink them.  Stick to long chain carbs, avoid stuff that ends in -ose eg glucose, sucrose etc.


Keep your muscles in good order.  Knots in calves and tight quads aren't going to help you not to cramp.  Find yourself a good massage therapist and treat those legs to a rub, or do them yourself.   If you always have cramping in both legs, despite having fuel and fluid needs dialled in, get your spine checked by an Osteopath or Chiropractor as minor issues around L3 - L5 can contribute to cramping.  On a side note, if you suddenly start having trouble with your back during your training build up for Taupo, K2 etc, it can be referred pain from hamstrings as a result of riding lots of hills.  Again a good massage therapist can usually get you sorted.


Insufficient electrolytes.  Electrolyte requirements differ significantly between individuals so it can be tricky to judge.  We recommend taking a couple of Endurolytes before the start, then a couple every hour to help keep you out of trouble.  If you do cramp, bust an Endurolyte capsule open on your tongue and chase with water.  Warning - try this at home first as minerals taste like, well they taste bad.  But we have seen many bad cramps stopped in their tracks by doing this.

So thats the nutrition plan outline - in a nutshell, its a bottle of fluid, 220 - 250 calories and a couple of Endurolytes per hour. 

If you aren't sure how much you should be using of what, or which products would be best, send us an email, including your weight and ballpark time (this just tells how hard you are likely to be riding) and we'll send you a suggested fuel plan.

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