October 30, 2020

Nutrition intake during bike rides is all about keeping your sugar storage filled. If you fail to keep this so called glycogen level up, you cannot push hard anymore and start bonking. Below you find the four reasons for this explained.

1. Sugar storage capacity is limited

On average your body only has sugar storage for about one and a half hours of intense bike riding. During rides you use body fat and sugars as sources of energy. The higher the exercise intensity the higher your energy usage. At low intensities most of the energy comes from body fat, but as intensity increases the share of energy from sugars grows. An average athlete’s body can carry up to 300 grams of usable sugar. All these numbers are very much dependent on individual factors like body weight, condition and diet. Well trained athletes (having a high VO2Max) can use a higher share of fats and therefore can use their sugar storage longer. EatMyRide takes all such factors into account giving you truly personalized nutrition advice.

2. You usually burn more than you can consume

Athletes can burn 150 grams of sugars per hour when exercising at high intensity. However, most athletes can only endure a sugar intake level of up to 60 grams per hour. This means that you burn more sugars than you can consume . So you should start to eat in time to prevent that your reserves get emptied too much.

In the figure above you see that when intensity increases, the proportion of energy from fat and energy from sugars change. If you would draw this figure for different athletes, you would get very different looking figures. Gender, weight and condition play a big role in this, to name only a few factors. The EatMyRide algorithms account for these individual differences.

3. Nutrition needs time to be converted into usable energy

Carbohydrates in the food need to be processed before it becomes available for your muscles. This process is called oxidation and the speed of this process differs between different types of carbohydrates. Take for example two important carbohydrates, glucose and fructose. While glucose can be oxidated at a maximum rate of 1 gram per minute, fructose can only oxidate half as quickly. To make it more concrete: a banana contains about 20 grams of fructose; it will take the body approximately 40 minutes to make all this energy available. So you need to start eating in time.

When combining fructose and glucose you can reach optimal oxidation speeds. We will discuss this later in another article. 

4. Without eating enough in time you will hit the wall

If you don’t refill your sugar reserves in time, they will deplete and you will start bonking and will hit the wall. This means you are too late and cannot directly compensate. Thus if you are aiming to perform optimally during a long bike ride eating properly and eating in time is vital. This way you delay your sugar depletion as long as possible. 

Sufficient nutrition intake requires a good planning with the right products. But intake of such high amounts of sugars also requires training, so that your body can get used to it. Some athletes are struggling to avoid stomach issues and add some (less beneficiary) savory foods to their intake. So if you are planning for a long and challenging ride or a cycling race? You’d best start well before the final day to find the right balance that works for you. EatMyRide is happy to help you.

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