On Monday I mentioned that I had a great group ride last weekend that, I believe, was sparked by a change in my pre-ride meal. The change came about because I was ignorant on a couple of things and Kelli at Apex Nutriton straightened me out.

If you’ve been cycling for any length of time you know that your body needs to be properly fueled before you start riding and, if the rides is long, continued to be fueled it while riding. I knew this but my knowledge of fueling was very limited so I needed help. When I signed up for the Cycling for Optimal Weight plan with Darryl and Kelli I started getting an education and help. One of the first things Kelli did was help me establish a pre-ride fueling plan.

Short One Hour Rides

My weekday rides are, generally, about an hour in length. I ride anywhere from 10-15 miles depending on what the training plan calls for that day. The pace can range anywhere from 14.5 to 16.5 mph solo (so no drafting off a buddy). For these shorter weekday rides Kelli had me eat the following before riding:

  • 4 oz of water mixed with 4 oz of juice. (I use a measuring cup to get it pretty exact)
  • 1/2 of a banana.

Ideally I would eat this about 30 minutes before riding but it was usually anywhere from 15-20 minutes before I rolled out of the garage. Prior to getting help from Kelli I would almost never eat or drink anything before riding in the morning.

I immediately started to notice an effect on the bike for those short rides. The hunger feeling I would sometimes experience halfway into the rides went away. I also saw my performance on these short rides get better.

Here’s where the ignorant part comes in.

I make no claim to be a cycling or sports nutrition expert. If I was I would probably be in another line of work. With me not being an expert I make plenty of mistakes in both areas. I was making a huge mistake with my fueling both pre-ride and during my rides on the weekend. Here’s how.

Longer Rides

Saturday’s will almost always be my longest ride of the week ranging anywhere from 25 miles (up until now) and steadily progressing towards 70 miles and culminating in my century ride on May 21, 2011. Because those Saturday rides are longer, I should have modified my fueling plan. I was riding those longer distances still using my weekday pre-ride meal of 4 oz water + 4 oz juice + 1/2 a banana. By the one hour point of my Saturday rides I was really starting to experience a lack of energy. I would normally suck down a Powerbar Gel at that point which would give me a boost for about a half-hour. Something wasn’t right.

I finally emailed Kelli explaining what I was doing, when I was eating what, how I felt, and so on. She set me straight right away and modified my pre-ride fueling and what/when I ate anything on the bike for my longer rides. Last Saturday was the first time I tried the new plan and it went well.

Here’s the modified fueling plan for what was a planned 2 hour ride last weekend.


  • 1/2 a Clif Bar
    (the remaining half is kept in the package and stuffed in my jersey pocket)
  • 1/2 (or small) banana
  • 4 oz juice + 4-8 oz of water (I went with 8 oz)
  • 1 Cup of Coffee (12 oz) (I normally have coffee so I had a cup on my way to the bike shop)

While Riding:

  • 1 Hour into the ride: remaining half of the Clif Bar (chocolate chip peanut crunch….yum!)
  • 1.5 hours into the ride: PowerBar Gel (stawberry-banana is my favorite)

As you can see it’s not a huge difference from what I had been doing but I think it did wonders for me on that ride. I had plenty of energy, never felt hungry, or sluggish, and rode really well. The ride only lasted 1.5 hours so I never took the gel. And afterwards, I felt like I hadn’t ridden at all even after riding 23 miles at 15 mph.

Here’s the exact timeline of what I did that I sent to Kelly post-ride:

  1. 1/2 Clif Bar + 1/2 banana + 4 oz white apple juice + 8 oz of water at about 6:10 AM. I left the remaining 1/2 Clif Bar in its wrapper and stuffed it in my jersey. Filled two 24 oz water bottles with water and dropped a tablet of Nuun in each.
  2. Left to drive to the bike shop at 6:25.
  3. Stopped and got a 12 oz cup of caffeinated coffee. Cream and 1 packet of splenda.
  4. The ride started at about 7:30.
  5. Drank one bottle of water/nuun over the next 90 minutes. I usually drink a bottle an hour so maybe I didn’t drink enough. I drank the second bottle on the way home.
  6. At the 60 minute mark of the ride I ate the second half of the Clif Bar. Not the easiest thing to get down while on the bike but I managed it.
  7. Ride ended at the 90 minute mark.

A Word on Hydration

Another topic that I learned a lesson in and Kelli set me straight. Again.

Everyone will tell you that if you’re riding for just an hour then water is fine as your on-bike fluid. Go over an hour and need to start using some kind of electrolyte replenishment drink like Nuun or Camelbak Elixir (love the berry flavor). Sounds easy right? Not if you’re me.

As I said earlier, my weekday rides are, at most, an hour in length. So it’s only water for those rides. When my Saturday rides started pushing out to 1.5-2 hours in length I made a huge mistake. For some reason I thought for that first hour on the bike I should still only drink water and then switch to a water+electrolyte mix. So that’s what I had been doing. I would take two water bottles with me. One with water and one with the mix. I would drink water the first hour and then switch to the Nuun or Elixir for the rest of the ride. I guess you could call it ignorance again but I failed to grasp that I should have been drinking the electrolyte mix from the very beginning on those long rides.

Here’s what Kelli had to say on the subject:

You have to change your plan to electrolytes from the start of longer rides b/c what you do at the beginning has a huge impact on the whole ride. If, after an hour ride, you’re low on lytes, it’s okay b/c you’re going to recover. But, if you’re low at the beginning of hour 2, and you’ve got 4 hours to go, you’re in trouble!

I know. I’m a knucklehead.

Last Saturday was the first time I started with a Nuun mixture in both bottles from the start. I also think that helped keep me energized that first hour along with the modified pre-ride fueling. In fact, I felt so good that I didn’t drink but one bottle during the 90 minute ride.

I didn’t want to get into the theory behind fueling, or the ratios of proteins to carbs and all that stuff, so I could keep this post simple and give you an example of what I’m doing. More importantly, you can see the mistakes I made and hopefully learn from them.

Tomorrow’s Ride

Tomorrow I plan on particupating in a 50 mile group training ride for those riding the Tour de Cure. I anticipate being on the bike for at least 3 hours. Kelli and I have spoken this week and we’re going to stick with the same plan as last weekend. I’ll continue to alternate a half Clif bar on the hour and a Powerbar Gel at the half-hour. We’ll assess how I feel after that and start looking at some other options as my rides increase in duration.

How do you fuel before riding and while out on the bike?

PhotoC: jcolman