Fuelling your ride!

Training blog by OnVenture co-founder Sam Richardson

For me it was a given that you grabbed your helmet & a bottle, jumped on the bike and headed off around Ipswich & across Suffolk to enjoy the speed, scenery and freedom. I was lucky if I had any forethought about a route, sometimes I would remember some spares in case of a flat and certainly did not consider the need for nutrition & fuel!.

As the rides got longer in my early 20’s, the stops at village shops for a snack bar or grabbing a lucozade and café stops for a sandwich & a coffee got ever more frequent. Growing wise to my ever-increasing list of ‘ride expenses’, more so as the miles jumped up significantly whilst in training for a London to Paris ride in mid-2009.

Finally, I cottoned onto the need to actually plan & prepare food to eat during the ride to ensure that not only do I have enough fuel in the tank for 70+ miles but I am also considering my post-ride recovery and ability to actually live my life post-ride & not be completely wiped out.

“Carbohydrates need to be consumed early, in small amounts and frequently. Thirty minutes into a ride might seem too early but you are not eating for that moment, but for 15-30 kilometres down the road” 

British Cycling – Cycling Nutrition for Long Ride 

Fast forward 4 years and I had taken up triathlon, and the need to maintain good hydration & nutrition became ever more important, if not critical to my ability to maintain optimum performance. The longest discipline in terms of time invested during a triathlon is on the bike and it also offers the most comfortable & natural place to take on board fuel to sustain the ride and prepare for the run to come.  

I stumbled my way through various different types of fuel, naturally drawn to the energy gels early doors & soon realising that these do a job, but are not too appealing in terms of taste, texture & digestion and left my body still craving food with substance. 

I then evolved my fuel to a blend of ‘normal’ food like flapjack, cereal bars & cookies, alongside energy gels and consumed these alternately as I felt I needed it, and this proved more satisfying. However, this did lead to spikes in energy & invariably the dreaded ‘bonking’ was the net result, as I was consuming fuel with too higher sugar content, which was great in the short term, but did not have enough slow-release fuel onboard to provide energy to endure the medium/long term requirement of my body.  

“The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour of exercise, but few athletes understand the reason for this amount. The average person can process, or oxidize, only about one gram of carbohydrate per minute, no matter how much is consumed. The bottleneck isn’t your muscles; it’s your intestines, which can transport glucose from food you eat into your bloodstream only so fast. Dumping more carbohydrate into your gut doesn’t necessarily increase the absorption rate, but it can increase your chances of an upset stomach” 


Bicycling – A Quick Guide to Cyclist Nutrition: How to Fuel for Rides of Every Length 

As you can tell, it was very much trial and error for many years, some weeks it worked and some it didn’t, add in the complication that I have IBS and need to careful over certain food groups, as these can trigger it and needing to remember to take tablets to settle things down. However, trial and error is important & I would advocate it for everyone when it comes to fuelling your ride, as everyone is different and what works for 1 rider, wont work for another or may only be part of the solution!.  

My own fuel regime nowadays is pretty well drilled; 

On a short ride of say 1.30hrs, my source of fuel can be (and very regularly is) as simple as a choc chip brunch bar, as you have the about 40% cereals & brans and 25% is chocolate, so this provides a good source of carbs (around 22gs) and it can be easily eaten in stages & stored back in your jersey or feed bag. I will also carry around a litre of water/energy drink.  

On a bit of a longer ride, say 3hrs+, I need a mix of fuel, and this will certainly still incorporate a choc chip brunch bar or maybe even a Snickers, as the peanuts help provider slow release energy (around 26gs of carbs. I will accompany this with something like a sandwich, my personal choice is a BLT, as its tasty & the salty bacon helps stave off muscle cramping, I will also keep a little bag of peanuts in my saddle bag and a banana in my jersey pocket. I will carry around 1.5 litres of water/energy drink and maybe a bit more If I have somewhere to top-up along the route. All in all, it’s quite a feast, but I eat a little bit of my ‘picnic’ every 20-30 minutes and it keeps my body functioning well, adequately fuelled, hydrated and able to sustain a steady pace.  

A massive part of consuming food on a ride is having something that tastes good, and I find that this is half the battle of wanting & remembering to eat at the right time, as you have food that you enjoy & are looking forward to eating, as oppose to simply fuel for the ride that you just need to chuck down the hatch & provides you with no satisfaction.  

Thank you for reading

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