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Fueling, My Biggest Challenge
As a marathoner, I always said, “Point me in a direction and I can run forever.” Bonking when running was never a problem, but when cycling…
Learning how to avoid bonking while cycling versus running took a little while for me to figure out. When running marathons, taking in about 100 calories every 40 to 45 minutes which converted to one gel roughly every five miles seemed to do the trick and was easy to remember.
With cycling, my speed varies more so distances are harder to predict and set as refueling times. I’ve settled on fueling on the hour and that seems to work. Unfortunately, that means stopping to fuel because I can’t eat while riding. Add to that, my cycling friends don’t need to eat as often as I do and I hesitate to ask them to stop. Of course, the alternative would be that I bonk, slow down, and my friends would have to wait for me as I struggle to keep up…
Over the course of the summer, either a blueberry bagel and/or a hard boiled egg along with a banana have become my go-to pre-ride breakfast choices. I complete my pre-ride breakfast with water and Zipfizz (affiliate link) energy drink. The rest of my Zipfizz gets topped off with Gatorade (affiliate link) and goes into a 20-ounce bottle on my bike along side a 20-ounce bottle of water.
The Lightbulb Moment
It took a while, but I eventually realized that it was all too easy to keep riding along on my bike assuming that my breakfast was still providing the energy that I needed and I wouldn’t refuel until it was too late. I’d get sluggish, have trouble keeping up, and would start second guessing my cycling abilities. In fact, I often blamed myself assuming that I was too tired from running or I that wasn’t in the right gear for the terrain.
On one particular ride, it all came together when I realized that I wasn’t hungry, but was low on energy and needed calories. Even though I’d eaten breakfast, I still needed to refuel by the end of the first hour of riding. More importantly, shortly after eating my energy returned, I felt great, and the lightbulb flipped on.
Fueling on the Go
I’ve settled on three particular packaged fuel items that I carry with me on all of my rides. Since most longer rides involve driving to the start and there may be an hour or more between breakfast and roll-time, I usually take a Honey Stinger gel (affiliate link) just before we roll. By the end of the first hour, I open a package of Honey Stinger chews (affiliate link) and eat about half of the bag. About an hour later, I’ll eat a Nature Valley almond butter biscuit (affiliate link) along with the rest of my chews. For the rest of the ride, it’s rinse and repeat.
If we’re on a tour where there are rest stops with food, I’ll forgo my packaged fuel for real food with the exception of taking the occasional chew or gel as I feel the need.
When Calories In Equal Calories Out
Just for fun, during the 66-Mile Tour de Madison Metric Century, I kept track of everything I ate before and during the ride and compared those calories to the number of calories I burned while riding. I felt that my fueling was on-point that day and felt strong the entire ride. Not surprisingly, the calories consumed were almost the exact same number as the calories burned.
- • What do you prefer to eat when on a long run or ride?
- • How often do you refuel? Do you go by time or distance?
- • What’s the most unusual thing you’ve eaten on a run or ride?
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