So many cycling enthusiast go for short intense rides with a jersey full of energy gels, as if they were gonna immediately collapse without a constant stream of sweet goo in their mouth. It’s almost ironic that the same riders regularly under-fuel when going for long, slow day-trips on a bike. Do you want to be smarter with your nutrition than those guys?
How much? 60g of carbs per hour
The human body can absorb up to 1 g of simple sugars per minute (1). This means, you shouldn’t eat more than 60 g of carbs per hour. That’s the equivalent of two medium bananas, or four scoops of ice cream, or three insect-based energy bars.
But how much do you need in practice?
The mentioned 60 g is a theoretical maximum and your real carbohydrate needs will vary based on the intensity and duration of your rides.
- Less than 1 hour – You won’t need any external fuel here. Your stored carbs will be enough to keep you going.
- 1 to 2 hours – 30 g of carbs per hour will be enough.
- 2 to 3 hours – 60 g of simple carbs per hour will be your maximum.
- More than 3 hours – 90 g of simple carbs (a mix of glucose, fructose, and maltodextrin) will be the attainable maximum for ultra-endurance events (2).
Also keep in mind that these numbers are calculated for maximum intensity efforts, in other words, for racing. If you go for a moderate or light ride that lasts about 2,5 hours 30 g of carbs per hour will still be plenty.
Go for quality
For these long, low intensity rides, simple carbs are not enough, it’s important to get some protein to prevent muscle damage and minerals to replenish electrolytes lost through sweat. There are several ways to do this. You can make your own bar from nuts and dried fruits, if you’re willing to put in the work and calculate the amount of carbs. Or you can buy an energy bar at the store, just read the labels carefully because many of them are full of processed crap like white sugar. Or you can try SENS bars made with high quality cricket flour, nuts, and fruits containing all the carbs, protein, and minerals your body needs on a long ride. Just don’t be the guy who fuels with four scoops of ice cream every time.
Try our nutritious and tasty cricket-based energy bars with 20 g of fast carbs!
1) American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine, ‘Nutrition and Athletic Performance’, 2009, Med Sci Sports Exerc; http://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2009/03000/Nutrition_and_Athletic_Performance.27.aspx
2) Currell & Jeukendrup, ‘Superior endurance performance with ingestion of multiple transportable carbohydrates.’ Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2008; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18202575