Words by pro cyclist Nicole Moerig
I was out riding with an old school friend the other day and we got chatting about nutrition. She has been cycling going on 1 year now and came from a running background, similar to me. Any runner would know how hard to it is to fuel your body before and during training. ‘Runners Belly’ is not what I would call the most pleasant experience. For this reason, runners tend to avoid eating around training. However, this is a very different story when out on the bike as you are cycling for significantly longer periods of time.
Halfway through our ride my friend went from tapping up the hills to falling out the ass of them (excuse the French). At the end of the ride, we got chatting and she commented on how much food I had consumed. It went a little something like this…
Friend – ‘You eat a lot!’
Me – ‘ha, what have you eaten during the ride today?’
Friend – ‘nothing’
Mind you we had just banked 80km and it’s 11.30am. Convo continues…
Me – ‘Ok, what did you have for breakfast’
Friend – ‘Oh nothing, I can’t eat before I ride’
Me – *face palm 🤦♀️
When I reflected on this conversation I realised I too was once just like this. At times I still get caught out and don’t realise just how much food is needed to perform optimally. You think you’re just ‘struggling’ today or your legs are sore from yesterday when really your body is just screaming for food! A few days after this I had an appointment with Taryn at Dietitian Approved and we set some guidelines for training to ensure I’m fuelling adequately on the bike.
The longer and harder the ride, the more carbohydrates you need to consume from the first hour on. Taryn gave me a table that I regularly refer to that breaks down the carbohydrate required based off time and intensity. I generally spend 10 minutes the day before putting my food together for the following day. That way I’m not grabbing at random food as I’m rushing out the door the next morning.
I know this is an obvious one but it’s very easy to get wrapped up in your ride and before you know it 2 hours have flown by and you haven’t eaten a thing. I often get caught out because I don’t feel hungry until my glycogen supplies are well depleted. By this stage, I’m trying to play catchup and I generally pay for it towards the end of the ride and often well into the next days’ session. To combat this I tend to set an alarm on my Garmin every 30 minutes as a little reminder to eat.
My pre-ride meal makes a big difference in how quickly I have to eat once out on the bike. I generally try to take in enough carbohydrates for the first hour of my ride. Being a female athlete in a non-impact sport it’s also important to consume a small amount of calcium before a ride.
The only time I don’t eat before training is on recovery days where I’m out for no longer than 1.5hrs and my focus is on socialising and coffee after training.
Once you find the right sports drink for you, it can be a lifesaver! My preference is Secret Training, mango and passionfruit flavour. They are an easy way of getting nutrition on board especially during racing or more intense sessions.
I like to enjoy what I’m eating when out on the bike as it can break up a long 5hr ride. Plus, Taryn likes to point out that if I’m going to eat some “not so healthy” foods, why not do it during or just post-training. This is when my metabolism is running at full tilt and I’m burning off anything that’s going into my mouth.
NOTE: This does not mean I polish off a mud cake post-ride at the coffee shop, as much as I wish it did. More like some sweet Banana Bread with Nutella on top which is contributing to my fuel needs as well and providing nutrients to help reach my daily requirement.