When spending an entire day on a bicycle, or even multiple days in a row, one of the most important things is to take care of is what and how much you eat. Cycling is an excellent form of recreation. You get to lose weight and see the world, or at least wider area of your town, at the same time. When I bike regularly during summer, I can eat whatever I want, in practically unlimited quantity and still lose weight. Such is the power of cycling.
I am no stranger to riding 100-150 miles per day. Such mileage requires a huge calorie intake. During such extreme rides, no matter how much I eat, I feel it’s not enough. The body is spending energy like there’s no tomorrow. Loads of carbohydrates and proteins are needed to maintain sufficient level of energy.
One hour before you start riding, have a large meal, preferably with lots of complex carbs that will slowly release energy in the next couple of hours.
During hours and hours of riding, you are in danger of a sudden sugar drop, which could lead to losing consciousness. And you definitely don’t want that to happen when you are riding 20 miles per hour on a road filled with cars and trucks. To prevent that, it would be ideal to eat all day, little by little. Every 60 to 90 minutes. Since I don’t want to stop every hour to eat, I prefer to have an energy bar with me so I can eat it while riding. You can buy them or you can make your own at home. Always have an emergency energy bar close by just in case you start to feel weak. A fully ripe banana will do the trick as well, as it’s loaded with sugar.
Another problem you could face is low levels of sodium – that is, salt. If you ever cycled all day during a hot summer, you’ll know what I’m talking about. You can exude gallons of sweat during an all-day ride. With sweat, you lose salt. That could cause muscle cramps, headache, nausea, etc. So even though it’s kind of counterintuitive, you should increase your salt intake. Salt crackers or a nice, homemade prosciutto sandwich should do the trick. It’s even recommended you put a teaspoon of salt in your water container.
Of course, you shouldn’t ride all day on energy bars and sandwiches. If your budget and circumstances allow you, treat yourself with a proper meal at some restaurant. Even junk food is not excluded. When riding all day, it’s almost impossible to eat too many calories. Eat whatever makes you ride further.
And the most important: Hydration! Take regular sips of water, even when you are not feeling thirsty. If you want, you can even drink “sports” drinks that are filled with electrolytes. That will efficiently substitute the salt you lost through sweating.
A proper meal after a full-day ride is not to be missed. Make sure it’s loaded with proteins and complex carbs. Your muscles will surely need it.