Just been out on a ride around the Yorkshire Dales, 145km or so, a lovely day - sunny and about 15-16C. The problem is, my wife just won’t eat or drink enough. Stopped at a café about halfway round, 4hrs or so. I’d emptied both 750ml water bottles, she’d had about 250ml . I’d eaten all my bars, she’d had one. I had about twice the amount of food at the café as she did, I also nipped to get more snacks whilst waiting for the food.
The second half of the ride was similar, I finished my two bottles about an hour from home so could have done with more. She still had 750ml left (out of 1250ml).
So how do I get her to eat and, particularly, drink more? It’s obvious in her performance since as soon as she gets to any kind of uphill she drops to an absolute crawl. Yet she stubbornly refuses to listen.
Does she want to eat and drink more and forgets, or does she not want to eat and drink more?
The first problem was exactly me when I started riding with my husband. I didn’t really get thirsty or hungry until I bonked, so that happened a couple times He started calling out when he was eating and drinking, and that helped me remember to also eat and drink. (I could have also set up reminders on my phone/watch/head unit.)
If it’s the second problem, then you need to figure out why, and address that. Her “stubbornness” means she has a good reason, so one of you is missing some information or context.
Does she not like the food and/or drink? (Hubby thinks my salt/maple syrup/water mix is gross and refuses to drink it, so he gets the fancy mix and I rough it.)
Is it too hard to consume anything while she’s working?
Is she comfortable riding with one hand on the bars, i.e. pulling the bottle off the frame and ripping into whatever your food is while she rides? (This was also me for a while and I still can’t use SiS gels because they’re too hard to open with one hand and my teeth )
Is she trying to run a caloric deficit?
Does she think she doesn’t need that much food because she’s not working that hard or had a big meal beforehand?
What makes you say her slow climbing is because she’s out of energy?
I’ve tried the someone else approach with her mountain biking to no avail. When I pull her up about it, it’s just “uh, well …”, if I press it’s “stop bullying me!”
@mcneese.chad - she chose the food today so no excuses regarding flavours, etc.
@GoLongThenGoHome - no problem with her heading to the toilet - she used to be a caver! If there’s a wall to nip behind then she’s good. We ride at her pace - the only time we split up is on tougher climbs, it annoys her when I’m just behind (trying to stay with her) so I’ll head to the top and wait there and let her climb it at her own pace.
@ellotheth - I think it’s the former, she knows she should eat more but just plods along and doesn’t think about taking in food regularly. Her head unit is pretty old (Edge 800) so won’t take the little apps, I’ve a reminder one on my 520. She’s fine riding one handed but some snack bars are so well wrapped you need to stop otherwise they fly out of the package and land on the road! Not trying to run a calorie deficit either. She’s slow anyway on climbs but later in a ride I’ll be in bottom gear at 40rpm on just a short ramp of say 5% just so I don’t “ride away”.
@rkoswald - actually it was over 8hrs! If she could do 145km in 4hrs I wouldn’t be complaining about her not eating, I’d be complaining about not being able to keep up!
Given it seems you’ve addressed the main concerns and she doesn’t seem particularly receptive, I’d probably just leave it for now. At the end of the day it’s her choice, and whatever the reason I don’t think making it a point of contention will help matters. I think most of us have had to go through a learning curve when it comes to eating on the bike, and that sort of has to happen at our own pace IMO. (Also hard to know how much of a difference it can make before you experience it, which I think a lot of us take for granted. It’s a pretty common thing for people to think they won’t benefit from eating because they’re used to going without)
With that said, I’d still make the effort to ‘include’ her in your routine- ask her if she wants anything when you buy drink mix/go to the grocery store/stop at the cafe, make nice homemade ride snacks (for me, “real food” was sort of the gateway to sports-specific products which I had previously avoided due to me deeming them either unnecessary or gross). Maybe make a “thing” of cooking a nice meal together when you get back or going out somewhere, so she at least gets a decent post-ride meal.
Sort of like how your friend who “never goes out” might appreciate being asked regardless, having the option always open is a good way of providing support without being pushy, and makes it easier for them to choose that option when they’re ready.
It’s not as if she hasn’t biked lots, she’s got five bikes from road bike to fat bike. She was into biking before me and is the secretary of the local cycling club. So it’s not a case of me saying: “ooh, I like cycling, would you like to join me for a ride” (Crikey! That sounds so condescending) and then her not coping.
With the drinking thing, she knows she should - she drinks more sat at her desk than she does out on a ride - it just seems that all thoughts of looking after herself go out of the window when she’s on her bike.
Well, As she is your wife, she will do the opposite of what you suggest/advice her to doo. That’s my experinence LOL. Seriously: Get her to listen to TR podcast on fueling workouts. There is plenty. Or maybe better… Get some one to tell her about fueling without her knowing that you helped her. PS: Don’t say “I told you so” when she gets it;-) Cheers and good luck, Jan T.
My advice: ride with other people, especially other mixed groups. She might be more open to advice from peers. Otherwise, I’d just plan routes accordingly. I don’t think bonking is much fun for her either. Ride 80 km instead, for example.
If you think your wife would read it, I’d recommend getting a copy of Dr Stacy Sims’ book “Roar: Women are not small men” (hard copy or Kindle).
It’s full of women-specific training and fuelling advice and is a mind blowing read. It repeatedly points out the benefits of fuelling your rides (on and off the bike) and the negatives incurred from not fuelling, but in an empowering way, not preachy.
I think she’s probably under pressure to stay on your wheel over the 4 hours and maybe not getting a chance to eat/drink - then paying for it later. She might feel like she’s being condescended to when you’re telling her to eat. When I started cycling I was heading out with a buddy who was a good bit stronger than me. He’d be hovering around my front wheel during climbs. I knew he was trying to be supportive but it used to drive me mad . If you’re leading out slow up, drop back and cycle alongside her when you’re eating and drinking. Make it a break in the pace so she can recover enough to eat/drink.
Also, think about picking up a small top tube bag/bento box for her. She could stick food in it that doesn’t need unwrapping, e.g. an open pack of jellies/haribo. It’ll be easier to access, and she won’t need to reach behind her. Plus, it’s positioned in front of her - so less likely to forget to eat.
A dietician told me that when your core temperature is elevated it switches off the hunger hormones, so you literally have to force yourself to eat. If she is a lower fitness level to you it may be that she genuinely doesn’t feel hungry and doesn’t understand what’s going on inside her body.
Eating while training is a learned skill and something that needs to be eased into, so maybe a discussion with a dietician might help?