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Nutrition during exercise

24 May 2019
Nutrition during exercise

Nutrition during exercise

24 May 2019
Nutrition during exercise

Nutrition during exercise

24 May. 2019

What are the basics of eating during cycling?


A banana in your back pocket, sports drink in your bottle or perhaps a piece of apple pie on the way. If you just jump on the bike for an hour, you don't immediately need a whole supply of carbohydrates. But, when your journeys become longer and longer, it may be wise to eat something along the way. In this blog I will explain the basics of eating while cycling. What does nutrition look like during exercise?

First a short introduction of the body. Your body has three different main categories of nutrients: carbohydrates, fats and proteins. The first two are mainly used as fuel. We mainly use proteins as building material. When you go cycling you will use the fuel to extract energy, after the effort you can rebuild your body by using these proteins. The type of fuel you use depends on the intensity and the time you spend on the effort.

It may sound beneficial, burning fat, but it takes your body a lot of energy to convert fats into energy.
Maartje Maria

Your body always provides a little supply of fuel. When you eat carbohydrates, part of it will be stored in your muscles and liver for later use. Your body will always hold some fat as a reserve for emergency situations. When you exercise, your body will have about 1.5 hours of energy in stock to use (if you eat enough carbohydrates). When you do not supplement this during exercise, the body will continue to use other kinds of fuel. This kind will be fats. It may sound beneficial, burning fat, but it takes your body a lot of energy to convert fats into energy. Because of this intens process your body will be able to perform less intensively on fat burning. For example, if you have to keep up with a group or are even competing, this can be very unfavorable. You certainly do not want to let the group go or miss your biggest opportunity within a cycling competition. So, if you decide to exercise on the highest level while burning fats, then there is a good chance that you will hit a wall. The solution to prevent this problem is to supplement your carbohydrates during exercise.

The following recommendation is used:

Time of exercise           Supplements
0 - 1 hour no details, water to drink
1 - 2 hours 30 grams of carbohydrates per hour
2 - 3 hours 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour
3+ hours 90 grams of carbohydrates per hour

The recommendations should be used by experienced athletes. If you are just starting to exercise, it is possible that your body cannot yet tolerate these amounts.

Your body can only absorb 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour in the form of glucose. The remaining 30 grams can come from fructose. Most ready-to-use sports gels already contain a glucose fructose ratio of 2: 1. You can use this very well.

Maartje Maria

How do you apply this strategy?

For an effort, estimate how long it will take and calculate how much carbohydrates you will have to supplement. You can then choose your own way to gain these. You can opt for sports drinks, sports bars and / or sports gels, but also bananas, gingerbread or homemade carbohydrate-rich snacks.

If you train for a long trip or competition, make sure you also train with your food behaviours. By already training with your diet, your body gets used to it and you can discover for yourself what your stomach and intestines can handle best.

My feeding schedule for the triathlon in Bilzen

The triathlon in Bilzen will be 1km of swimming, 100km of cycling and 10km of running. My feeding schedule looks like this.

It will be a competition of 4 hours which means that I need 4 times 90 grams of carbohydrates. In total 360 grams of carbohydrates. I will reach this amount of carbohydrates by feeding myself with the following things.

I need 3 bottles of 750ml with Isontonic sports drink with approximately 43 grams of carbohydrates per bottle. This means it will give me around 129 grams in total. Furthermore I will need energy bars that contain 20 grams of carbohyrdates each. So, I will take one every 20 minutes to gain around 240grams in a 4 hour long competition. 

Of course there is much more to it. Moisture and electrolytes are also important, for example. To know more about nutrition in general and nutrition related to sports, you will find much more about this in my book.