Fuel For A Century Ride

Recently at Pure Cycles, we have had a number big rides/trips that we have taken on and that has taken a fair bit mental, physical, spiritual, and logistical preparation. Most a recently a few decided to take on a century ride here in Los Angeles. Now first off we have to admit that riding 100 miles in one go is no easy feat. We had done our training rides leading up and felt like our fitness was good (or as good as could be to ride 100 miles). But, the one thing we all found that we had some questions/reservations about was our nutrition for the ride. So I thought we would put together a list of the things that we found helpful in preparation.

The #1 question that a lot of people ask (including some in our group) is “How often and how much do I need eat during the ride?” To be perfectly honest, I was a long time advocate for eating what you want, when you want. However, while that strategy worked (for the most part) I found that slamming a Mtn. Dew and a giant bag of peanut butter M&M’s however tasty, wasn’t super conducive to achieving optimal in-ride performance.

What we found as we looked into it were some pretty straightforward & solid guidelines for nutrition. Sport nutrition guidelines advise athletes to consume roughly 45-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour during an endurance activity with 10 grams of protein per hour for events lasting longer than 3 continuous hours. Hydration is going to be slightly different, because it will depend on the individual and the conditions, but your need can generally be met by drinking every 15mins throughout the duration of the activity.

At this point you might be thinking did he say “for an event lasting longer than 3 hours!?” For riding times, most people can expect to ride between 4.5-7hours. We mention not discourage anyone from attempting a century, but rather to help set expectations for your ride. Also, this can be helpful as you plan your menu for the ride.

So as you think about the guidelines that we mentioned previously here are some combo options to help you achieve your caloric intake for the ride:

  • 2 sport gels + 1-ounce beef jerky
  • 1 peanut butter, banana & jelly sandwich
  • 1 Clif Bar + 1 banana
  • 25 gummy bears + 1/2 turkey sandwich

For long rides like this, a nice mix of simple carbohydrates and complex nutrients are going to be your best fuel sources. This balance will help meet the immediate need, as well as providing sustained energy and keeping the hunger levels under control.

So as you alternate your simple carbs with whole-food options, it is important to remember that you are going to want to eat/drink at pretty regular intervals. This will help keep your energy levels consistent and you will avoid bonking. For your bites of food, you should shoot for every 20-30mins and for hydration, you should be sipping every 10-15mins.

One of the things that almost century rides will have will be sag stops or aid stations. These stops are a great place to top off water and refuel, but I would place all your nutrition needs in the aid stations hands. They can on occasion run out of food or as we found out on a recent century ride they might be spaced too far apart to keep you sufficiently fueled up.

So as you think about tackling a 100 miler making sure to follow a practised nutrition plan should get you through the ride with enough energy to spare. However, if you have struggled with finding a fueling plan that keeps you properly energized during training, contact a sports dietitian to that works for you and helps get your body to that 100-mile mark.