A ton of food - Bike Magic

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**How To

A ton of food

If you’re planning on riding Sleepless in the Saddle, the Schwinn 100 or the Newnham 90 then you’re planning on expending a serious amount of energy.
Riding at a steady pace but over rough, labour intensive ground you’ll be burning between 600 – 800 Kcalories per hour. That means 6-8000 Kcalories in a ten hour event – or 3 times as much as you’ll burn in a normal day.

So how do you stow this much energy on board?

The first thing to realise is that even with the best appetite in the world you’re not going to get it all on board. Eating this much food on a daily basis requires years of stomach stretching and training a digestive tract fast enough to deal with literally kilo’s of food at regular intervals. You’ll have seen those “here’s what a pro rider or weightlifter eats for breakfast” and thought that’s not physically possible, but what you need to realise is that a big part of their athletic ability is an enormous refuelling capacity.

So where does that leave you?

The big advantage is that you’re only racing the one event, so you can run your bodily reserves right to the limit and then refuel for as long as it takes afterwards. What you’ll be running on for the event is your stored energy (of which fat alone provides several days worth of low intensity power) plus what you can get down during the ride.


You’ll probably all of heard of carbohydrate loading, but the original carefully monitored and enforced techniques that gave impressive results are not the same as a binge eating pasta party the night before. To get real benefits, protein has to be cut back and carbohydrate increased as training is reduced over the whole week before the race. Again your body won’t respond properly unless it’s used to it, so doing it for the first time before an event is pretty much a waste of time. Add in the stresses and strains of a normal working week and it’s effect on your food supplies and it’s best to forget any ideas of being clever with your food as it’s more likely to go wrong rather than right.

The best thing to do is slightly increase the amount of carbohydrate you eat during the week before the event and where possible have your main meal within half an hour of finishing a ride. This is because the energy processing pathways are still wide open after working out and food is far more likely to be stored as glycogen in the muscles rather than end up as fat. Don’t go overfilling yourself though – espescially the night before – as feeling bloated and sick on the startline is the last thing you want.

On the day

This is where the last two weekends (or however long you’ve got left) before the event are crucial preparation.

They are your chance to rehearse your eating strategy. Whether that’s a strict regime of energy gels or a custard doughnut / pork pie whenever you feel like it is up to you, but find out whether it works now rather than later. As a recommendation start the day with whatever food in however large a portion you can happily eat without feeling stuffed. Leave at least an hour – if not two – before the start though or it’ll just sit undigested in your stomach as your body rushes blood off to your muscles and lungs.

As soon as you start riding start eating little and often. Small mouthfuls of carbohydrate snacks should be heading stomachwards on every flat or more relaxed section at least every 15 – 20 minutes to keep refuelling optimised. It’s also vital that you swill each lump down with more than enough water, or you’ll end up with a stodgy mess your stomach can’t unstick. If you were thinking of trying energy drink or gels or some new cereal bar your mate swears by, these last rides are the time to check they work or adjust accordingly.

No not that!

Although everybody has their favourite foods in their hour of need there are some things that really should be avoided for basic nutritional and physical reasons.

Here’s our four coursemen of the apocalypse:

Very fatty foods – you might dream of pies and fry ups but all that fat will act as a serious brake on your food processing and chances are it’ll be galloping back up your throat on the next climb.

Very sugary foods – Scoff too many sweets too fast and they’ll give you the kind of immeadiate hit you haven’t seen since Trainspotting, but smack you harder than a dozen Begby’s as they burn up and leave your body searching frantically for the next buzz.

Very dry foods – You’ll have trouble getting enough water down anyway so why make it harder on your system with cream crackers, dry bread and other thirsty snacks. Don’t go mad with salt either as too much will make you hurl rather than ward off cramp.

Fizzy soft drinks – OK so they’re not food but beware the pop can. For a start they’re normally loaded with sugar so cause serious dehydration rather than thrist quenching and secondly your stomach won’t thanks you for filling it with fizz.


Finally make sure you eat and drink as soon as you get back, rather than collapsing halfway through a glorious re-telling of your ride.

As usual carbohydrate should be a priority but make sure there’s some protein in there too as it speeds up post exercise energy absorbtion. Make sure you keep eating well for the rest of the night and the next day too, to make sure you’re refuelled and recovered as soon as possible.

We’ll be on hand with some last minute tune up tips before the Schwinn but for now just stay relaxed and enjoy your riding.


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