Always ‘Eat before you are hungry' and ‘drink before you are thirsty'. If in doubt, consult with a professional nutritionist, as this is a more complex subject than most realize. Below are some important basics :
- Drink 16 to 28 ounces of water per hour as you ride. The exact amount will depend on your size, the temperature, how hard you are riding, the altitude, and other lesser factors
- Test energy drinks carefully to determine your ability to drink them when you are hot, tired, and/or mentally down- something that you will experience later, as your rides get longer. As a general rule, plan on at least half of your liquid intake being water.
- Carry no less than two large (28 oz) water bottles, and be prepared, on some rides, to carry extra water (one to 2 liters). You can do this most easily by carrying the extra water in a collapsible container(s), such as a Platypus water bag (available at outdoor stores), which won't take very much room in your jersey pocket after its empty.
- IF you feel slightly nauseated after riding for some time, it is almost always a sign of early dehydration. You can ‘come back' from this condition by eating something(s) salty, resting a while, and then increasing your liquid intake.
- Eat simple, easy to carry foods that are high in carbohydrates and low (less than 30%) in fat.
- High carbohydrate foods include cereal, bread, pasta, beans, rice, potatoes, corn, fruit and vegetables, and pancakes (with only small amounts of butter, margarine, or oil). If you choose mostly refined carbohydrates (white bread, white pasta, white rice) you will get fewer vitamins and minerals, so a supplement may be required.
- Experiment with different foods, to find out what works best for you when you are hot, tired, and/or mentally down. What tastes good at home may not taste good on the ride!
- Your food should provide three important things: (1) relatively quick energy) a higher glycemic value); (2) electrolytes (salt, potassium, etc.); and (3) sustaining energy.
- Some food ideas: pretzels, fig bars, crackers (especially saltines), bananas, oranges (pre-peeled), grapes, baked potatoes (add only a salty spicing, such as ‘Cajun spice'), and various flavors of rice cakes are all good.