By Nick Kleban, elite cyclist // Team Skyline & President of Mcgill cycling
A common question I get from friends and family is “do you eat while you bike?” which is normally followed by “how do you eat?” or “do you need to stop?” Well, congratulations friends and family, this is your lucky day!
Before hitting the road, pre-ride is the time for stashing food in jersey back pockets, an art form in itself. I tend to adopt the following system; physically larger snacks such as rice cakes or sandwiches in the middle pocket and smaller items, like an XACT bar in the side pockets. When multiple layers of kit are required, I use the same system but leave my food in the outermost layer for easy access and place valuables like my phone and wallet in the innermost layer. For more info, check out my “cold weather nutrition tips”.
During the ride I like to eat my first piece of food after the first hour and then every 45 minutes after, so I bring food according to that rule of thumb (I.e 5 hr ride means 5-6 snacks). There’s more precise research on how many grams of carbohydrates to eat every hour while cycling, but I find this method gets me nicely in the ballpark. Personally, when I’m fueling for a long ride that will take many hours, I try to take on my low GI items (slow-burning carbs) early on, such as rice cakes or dense granola bars and switch to higher GI items (fast-burning carbs) as the fatigue sets in, such as an XACT bar. This allows me to take in energy when I am tired and maintain a higher intensity while my glycogen reserves run low. Another helpful tip is the 45 minute rule is malleable as the road permits. For example, if it is a particularly busy section of road, I will wait until a quieter stretch to take my hands off the bars to eat.
Another important and relevant note, especially in light of the UCI’s new anti-littering rules (I feel for you Michael Shar ://) is to, well, not litter. I return all the wrappers, including biodegradable ones such as banana peels (it can take up to 2 years for a banana peel to decompose when out in the open), I use back in my pockets so I can dispose of them appropriately later, either in a trash can on the ride or at home. Empty wrappers do have a tendency to stick to hands, so this may take a couple attempts until the wrapper is safely back in the pocket. I also tend to reuse the plastic bags I pack my homemade ride food in so I put those back too so I can wash them out when I get home.
A final recommendation is to practice your on-bike nutrition regularly. For beginners, this can mean practicing food retrieval even on short rides, so when you are tired or bonking on long rides, you know what to do without falling off the bike or dropping things. For the pros, practice precision so your on-bike nutrition is dialled in for race day. Practice Makes Perfect.
To maintain adequate energy levels during a long effort (“ 1 hour) sport nutritionists recommend '30g carbs / 30-60 minutes = approx 1 xact energy'' or '' 1 XACT energy = 25 grams of simple, easy to eat carbs. Take every 30-60 minutes''