How To Fuel Your Ride

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Like lots of things to do with cycling, there have been lots of words written about fuelling for longer rides. It is very easy to get confused about what are the correct carbohydrates and how many should you eat.  It’s also important that you know not to overeat during a ride – your stomach won’t be able to cope,and you’ll get bloated and stand the chance of a stomach upset.

So firstly, what is a long ride? Anything over a couple of hours is where fuelling starts to become important,and your performance will begin to be affected if you get it wrong. There are, of course, ultra-long rides undertaken by audaxers and long distance specialists who can go overnight and through the next day, but participation in these events requires practice and knowing more about how to manage your fuel.

How Many Carbohydrates?

For each hour of exercise, the recommendation is that an athlete takes 40-70g(1.4-2.4oz) of carbohydrate per hour. Why this amount? Well, the average person can only process around a gram a minute. Eating more won’t help because your stomach won’t be able to absorb it, and eating less will mean that you won’t be maintaining the blood glucose levels required for your body to perform optimally.

What to eat?

Knowing how many carbs to eat is one thing, but knowing how many are contained in your food is another. There are some simple guides – the average energy bar contains around 50g (1.8oz) of carbs and a gel about half that. A bottle of sports drink contains around 50 grams (1.8oz). You can see now how it would be easy to ‘overdose’. A simple way to keep your intake within limits is to drink a low-carb, electrolyte hydrating drink and eat easily digestible foods like fig bars and bananas.

Suggested Long Ride Intake

If you’re going to be riding for three hours or more, then the main issues will be to replace carbohydrates and electrolytes. Drink a minimum of two bottles of low-carb electrolyte hydration drinks, and stick to the 40-70g  (1.4-2.4oz)  of carbohydrate per hour. Count it out if you need to.

As the ride progresses,you may find that eating solids gets harder so try to eat a few more during the first part of the ride and ensure you have plenty of fluids for later on.


Fuelling can be difficult because of the different way our bodies react. Stick to the simple rules outlined above,and you should be fine – remember that having too much is as bad as not having enough.Getting it wrong can be extremely uncomfortable. In time you’ll learn what your body tolerates best and how it deals with long hours of physical effort.