How should I fuel & hydrate for a long gravel grinder?

What exactly does our body need to ride for three to six hours? We are all individuals and just as we all look different, our nutritional needs can be different. But, with some basic knowledge and guidelines, we can tweak the guidelines to our own needs for the different endurance sports we do.

SODIUM

During exercise, we can lose as much as .8 to 1.2 liters of fluid per hour. Included in this fluid loss is sodium. How much sodium you lose depends on how salty a sweater you are. On average it takes 920mg to 960mg of sodium (NA) equivalent per hour to maintain proper fluid balance in the body and to maintain the body’s physical and cognitive abilities. This is the equivalent of 2.3g to 2.4g of salt (NaCl). In addition to sweating, the body loses fluid through breathing and urination. Sodium in common sports drinks also helps to facilitate glucose absorption across the intestinal wall, helping to delay physical exhaustion. Improper sodium and electrolyte balance also factors into the body’s cognitive and physical fatigue.

HYDRATION

If you use water as your only fluid on the bike for hydration, it is important to supplement sodium and glucose by way of food while on the bike. It is important to drink a minimum of 20oz of fluid per hour while on the bike.

FUEL

Between sports drink and food, you should consume between 200kCals to 600kCals per hour to keep your body functioning while on a prolonged 4-6 hour ride.

Starting your food and drink consumption early while on the bike in order to allow the body time to digest and uptake the minerals and nutrients. A good tip is to carry your food in 75kCal to 200kCal (approximately 2 to 3 bites) packets. Set your bike computer or watch to beep at you every 20 minutes. With each beep, eat the 2 to 3 bites and drink from your water bottle. By the end of each hour you have consumed the kCAls and fluid necessary to keep performing.

Is it better to eat certain foods in a certain order? Not really, but eating an assortment of different foods during prolonged riding or exercising is important. Besides the idea of getting bored with the food during the session and not eating enough, different foods absorb and burn at differing rates.

Think ratios: as you start your ride, you are topped off with fuel, the tank is full. Early on while the tank is full, you want to eat foods that are slower to be absorbed and burn off. As the tank starts getting used, mix in some food that is faster on the uptake to keep the tank topped off while the slower to absorb foods are being digested during the first hour. As you get later into the ride, you will want to transition to the more quick burning sugars, as the slower burning items are being used up and you only have an hour or so to go to get to that frosty beer!

We’ll have a big variety of fuel and hydration at the rest stops!