How to fuel a long ride

There are some excellent blogs out there on sports nutrition and eating strategies.

Almost all of them have 2 things in common:

  1. They are not supported by any evidence or science
  2. They are not tried and tested by you

The best I’ve read recently is by my hero Jas

Most of us aren’t trying to break the LEJOG record. If you’re just a regular person without health problems trying to do a normal long ride then take your food seriously, but not too seriously.

The sports nutrition industry is  massive. I can’t be arsed to research its actual size. Hundreds of millions of pounds. You can walk into any big supermarket and there are protein shakes, energy bars, energy gels, supplements, L-glutamine and collagen peptides.


Where is the evidence? The evidence that any of these work, the evidence that they improve performance, recovery or your ability to poop rainbows.

On top of that a lot of the fitness, health and tech industry is male heavy. Which means they often don’t factor things like a mensuration cycle into their so-called science. Take the apple health app and apple watch, when it first came out it allowed the user to input all sorts of micronutrient data, but didn’t ask anything about periods. If I wanted to know something about my iron levels that isn’t something I’d ignore… So if these products are tested in double blind randomised controlled trials (we should be so lucky) check the sample sizes and how many women were included.

In the absence of evidence there is fancy marketing, compelling copywriting and widespread acceptance that if you want to take your sport to the next level mere bananas and pork pies aren’t enough.


What are you going to do if you’re half way around an audax, bonking and there isn’t a fancy shake/juice/homemade energy bar in the tiny village corner shop. What will your temple-esque body do?! Chocolate milk. Not sexy, not fancy marketing bullshit just good old reliable chocolate milk.

Did you know that in Europe you’re Haribo or alternative has the same ratio of glucose:fructose as your average energy gel? Just because Haribo don’t pay their content person megabucks to market to athletes.

Eat well and often, but not too much.

Oats good, potatoes good, anything with complex carbs and some fibre in there to keep things moving. Eat before you get hungry or start feeling weak. Graze little and often, as much as you can on the bike.


Stay hydrated.

I got really bad indigestion on my first 600km because I didn’t drink enough. I carry a dioralyte sachet with me now, don’t bother with the electrolyte tablets, there’s no evidence that they work any better than water. Skimmed milk is also excellent for rehydrating and has some calories too.

Don’t eat too much sugar.

Not just because you’re energy levels will yoyo but you’re mouth will turn into sugary ulcery hell. People rant about malt loaf but it isn’t a fail safe. Bananas, pork pies and mixed nuts are brilliant. They can also be bought pretty much anywhere. Get your body used to foods that you buy out on the road, that way there are no surprises.


Eat bananas.

Food of champions. 100 calories a pop, potassium to help against cramp, not too sweet and they fit perfectly in a jersey pocket.

Eat what words for you.

Not what works for your mate Tom, Dick or Paula. Take inspiration from what works for others but don’t take it as gospel. If I’m waiting for Liam to eat to remind me I need to eat I’m keeled over at the side of the road with exhaustion by the time he is hungry. Our metabolisms are different and we’re not equally fit.

Go hard but not too hard.

The higher the intensity we ride at the more we rely on carbohydrates as a fuel. This is fine if you’re going for 2 hours, more problematic if you’re going for 24 hours because our carbohydrate stores (glycogen) are limited. There is also a limit to how much you can top up your glycogen so less of an excuse to carb load – sorry. If you reduce the intensity of your riding you burn more fat which is less limiting. Another reason to ride in a way that works for you, if you’re trying to push a pace that forces you to ride at a higher intensity then you’ll just bonk your brains out.


2 thoughts on “How to fuel a long ride

  1. I love this post 🙂
    I’ve always felt the best way to fuel up my body on a ride was to give it what it fancied and not buy expensive sport foods. After all, we managed to survive and achieve huge feats before all this packaged nutrition stuff came along? So we must have been doing something right.

    Liked by 2 people

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