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What to Eat for The Argus

07 Mar

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With the Argus approaching rapidly we thought we would take some time to brush-up on some elemental cycling nutrition. So to all of our clients taking part in The Argus we wish you the best of luck and hope that you find the below information on what to eat and what to avoid on the big day useful.

What kind of food should you eat?

The answer is well-known and well supported by decades of research into endurance athletics. Carbohydrates. Why carbohydrates? Primarily because their chemical structure is such that they can be broken down quickly and efficiently into useable glucose. Glucose can be derived from fats and proteins as well as carbs. Fats might seem to be an especially good source of energy because fats have roughly twice the number of calories as carbs or proteins.

The problem with both fats and proteins is that the process of breaking them down to extract useable glucose takes a long time and is inefficient.  If you eat fat or protein loaded food during a ride, the ride may well be over by the time the fats and proteins have been processed to the point where you can get energy from them

Where do you get the carbs you need during a long ride?

Some high-carb foods like pasta and rice are impractical to eat during a ride; you need high carb, low fat foods that you can easily carry with you on the bike. Good on-the-bike foods include dried fruit like raisins or dates, bagels, and low fat bite-sized cookies. Energy bars are a terrific source of carbs. For example, a single Powerbar has 45 grams of carbohydrate and only 2 grams of fat.

There are also energy gels made specifically for endurance athletes such as Power Gel, or Goo that have very high doses of carbs. If you eat high density carb supplements like energy bars or gel, make sure to drink plenty of water with them or they will sit like sludge in your stomach and you won’t get the quick transfer of carbs into blood glucose you need.

When do you eat?

A common cycling mantra is “Eat before you’re hungry and drink before you’re thirsty”.  This is excellent advice.  By the time the body reacts to low levels of fuel or fluid and sends hunger and thirst signals it’s too late.  Rather than stopping and eating a large amount of food (such as lunch) mid ride, nibble high carb foods frequently throughout the ride.

This not only provides immediate glucose, it can help protect the body’s glycogen stores; if the muscles are burning glucose from the low-fat fig newton you just ate, they’re not burning your stored glycogen. Try to ingest some carbohydrates every 30 minutes or so.

Can I have too many carbs?

If you’re going to be ingesting large amounts of carbohydrate during the course of a ride, you should be aware that high concentrations of carbohydrate in the stomach can cause gastrointestinal distress such as nausea.  The more you rely on dense carb sources like gels and energy bars, the more you’re likely to run into this problem.

If you listen to live broadcasts from multi-day stage races like the Tour de France you will frequently hear reports of professional riders that are having gastrointestional problems during the race. Individuals vary widely in their sensitivity to carbohydrate concentration so you will have to experiment to find your limits. If you’re feeling nauseous, drink water to reduce the concentration of carbohydrate in your stomach and lengthen your feed time until you feel better.

What happens if I don’t eat?

Ingesting carbs while you’re cycling isn’t always easy and it it isn’t always fun but it’s absolutely necessary if you want to have the energy you need to finish your ride.  Failing to take in the carbs you need can lead to pronounced losses of energy and strength, reduced awareness of what’s going on around you, and increased irritability and hostility, all combined with the feeling that finishing the ride is an unbearable and impossible task.

All the best for your ride! Let us know how you do and how you found the route. If you would like to read the highly-informative, original article on cycling nutrition we adapted this piece from click on Tuned in to Cycling.