On ~60 mile (3 hour) rides, I keep bonking at worst and underfueling at best. My upcoming rides/races are only going to get longer (75 miles end of October; 100+ mid November), so I need to start experimenting to find that illusive “what works for me.”
Sometimes I eat first (cheerios + banana). Sometimes I dont. On the ride itself, I have tried:
Fig bars: Made me gag; too sweet and dry – I have no sweet tooth.
Cliff bars: Better, but so dry and hard to eat
Maltodextrin in a bottle: Too sweet and I value having a 2nd bottle of just water; it is hot here in AZ. I may try diluting it further, but then I have to make up for that elsewhere.
PB&J, smooshed: sort of okay, but the dry bread + peanut butter (though I went easy on it) is hard to swallow without downing so much water
I will try:
Raisins: I use these on the trainer sometimes without issue. Somehow they don’t seem as sweet and they don’t require much water to chase. I haven’t figured out an easy way to carry them in my pockets yet. Ideas welcome.
Rice balls: I worry these will be way too dry, but like that they aren’t sweet.
Waffles/muffins: I can cook these, so I think I can experiment with making them moist enough. Small banana or lemon muffins, seem like a possibility.
I’d love your other ideas. Not sweet + not dry seems like a challenging balance to strike.
I don’t see gels listed. I admit gels are mostly disgusting, but they get the job done without taking up too much space. Also definitely eat before. Probably more than you’re eating now, I’ll leave specifics to the experts.
Also maybe get a third water bottle holder (top bar or behind seat)
Best bet is just to sample some. Maurten has a ‘nothing’ taste. I think Gu has an unflavored one too. Most others have flavors that are hit or miss with different people. The chews (like Clif Bloks or Skratch Chews) also have a variety of flavors. You can also try adding carb drink mix to your bottles… again a variety of flavors or non-flavored.
For starters, I’d just say pancakes or oatmeal for breakfast and fast carbs on the bike. Even if you don’t like the flavors, it would help to confirm that lack of carbs is the issue… but seems most likely.
Function > Taste/Ease of consumption imo… I agree that clif bars aren’t that easy to get down and that gels are sweet, but i prefer eating those to bonking - so just eat them! I also have a carb drink mix to keep myself topped off.
I tried for years to avoid sweet on the bike. In my experience it’s basically impossible at any functional intensity. I was always under fueling and bonking (not doing structure though). I don’t eat things with added sugar off the bike. I tried most of the things you have listed. But eating it on the bike makes a world of difference.
Now I have Gatorade and malto in the bottles and eat sour patch kids for carbs. Works so much better than bars (which are not sweet but SO hard to get down while riding). I know this doesn’t help but if you can change your pallet it will work wonders.
I quit all refined sugars and artificial sweeteners in 2004. I took up cycling 18 months ago. I lasted six months trying to fuel with bananas, rice tortillas, and then rice cakes. If you want to ride casually at a Z2/Z3 pace this is totally sustainable, there are dozens of recipes in Feed Zone Portables for you to try. I recommend the Denver rice portables as they have no sugar. You could do 30g Malto per bottle (with sodium and lemon) which isn’t sweet at all, and one rice cake per hour and get by on 60g/hr.
Now if you want to maximise performance and tap into longer SS/Threshold efforts you’re gonna have to HTFU and eat some stuff that just plain doesn’t taste good. I haven’t had sugar in 18 years. You have no idea how disgusting putting down fructose is. But that’s the taste of speed (as a wise podcaster once said), and that’s the price I’m willing to make for the gains I’m getting at 90g/hr.
Thanks guys. So, I should really read “experiment with what works for you” to mean, “crack works for everyone; eat it!” I’m … okay with this, as I am in fact (and foolishly) trying to become competitive. I’ll add gummies and a variety pack of gels to the list of things to experiment with.
1 cup, before its cooked. That’s still only 55g of carbs and 330ish calories. That’d be the bare minimum to eat pre-ride.
OP, you need to desensitized yourself to sweeter stuff. You’re not gonna be able to eat rice and beans on a ride. Even the classic rice balls are relatively high volume and low calorie.
Raisins are high fiber. Fig bars as well. Clif bars have fat and protein that’s helpful on long long rides, but unnecessary for something 3-5hrs. Same with pb&j. Waffles and muffins are good, but still require additional digestion… And it’s hard to eat a muffin on a bike. Simple sugars/carbs are where it’s at.
After a few years of eating 100+g of carbs an hour, normal cokes and stuff don’t even taste that sweet anymore. You just get used to it. Wout van Aert and Pogacar aren’t like ‘ewww…no, carbs are too sweet, I can’t do them’… They understand that they’re burning 1k+ calories an hour, and they need to put back in as much as possible or they’ll crack at hour 4, so they do 150+g of carbs, and it’s sweet.
I have been off of sugar for roughly 5 years but I do need it to ride. Sweetness changes as you stop consuming a lot of sugar and you do notice when something is too sweet. I found GU Roctane’s sweetness on the lower side so I can handle it for 3-4 hours without issue. I supplement it with cliff bars(but they need water) and cliff bloks…but they are sweet. I dont mind them which just may be the texture change is good.
Like others have said, I think you will have to get used to the sweet stuff. Check out the “I love carbs” thread I ❤️CARBS! (and so should you!)
It also seems like you’re not eating enough for breakfast before a ride. Oats are really good long acting carbs.
So one thing that is critical to proper fuelling for longer/harder rides is to understand that it starts the day before. If you don’t eat properly the day before (or if you worked out the previous day, all meals after that), it’s hard to compensate for that.
Easy experiment to try:
Day before long ride, 250g of cooked white rice, 120g of protein of choice (chicken breast or so) for lunch, pasta (250g cooked) + some protein for dinner & complement with some oatmeal + greek yoghurt before bed, or cereal of choice. Try to keep it low sugar and high carb in the cereal though as its not great to have a shitload of sugar before bed).
In the morning 90min before the ride, 4 pieces of toast with jam/honey, or pancakes (4-5), some protein (large glass of milk works), and a coffee if you like that
Start fuelling 30min into the ride, aim for 80g carbs for each time you eat. Easiest is to keep water in bottles and just do 2 gels an hour, starting from 30min in.
Its literally impossible to fail with the above.
Unfortunately the the issue is that you need sugar on the bike, period. So its practically impossible to ride hard and then try to fuel on things that aren’t fast carbohydrates (sugar).
But if you feel that it helps to eat waffles on the ride, do that, but do keep in mind that you’ll have to complement with at least 1 gel to each waffle per hour.
But honestly, try what I posted above, it’ll work for sure
GU Roctane does a “Summit Tea” flavour, and I think other brands do similar. I found it very not sweet. You’d need quite a lot for your 3-5hr rides, maybe a hydration pack? Or two large bottles and supplements with a bit of the “other” stuff.