In this episode of the Mountain Bikes Apart podcast, we talk about how to stay fuelled on your long or even all-day MTB rides. Now that the weather is improving, it’s a great time to get out for longer rides on the bike. Here’s our guide to not running out of energy as you ride for hours at a time and how to eat post-ride for a quicker recovery.
Fuelling for the ride ahead
In the first part of the show, we discuss eating before your ride begins. This is an important meal, as it will largely fuel the first 1.5-2 hours of your long mountain bike ride.
Whilst there’s nothing wrong with having an English breakfast before your leisurely ride, there are certainly better choices to improve performance. Anything with oats is good, as is any other slow release carbohydrate. This will provide more sustained energy rather than a sudden burst and then the inevitable drop just when you don’t want it!
We also mention timing, agreeing that it’s good to get the majority of your breakfast down with about 3 hours until you set off down the trail. This gives ample time for digestion and stops you getting a sugar-low as you start your ride.
Food for the trail
On long MTB rides, you’ll also need to top up your energy stores as you go, as the body can typically only store about 90-120 minutes of glycogen. Avoiding the dreaded bonk is top priority, as is having enough energy on board to keep you flying up the climbs.
Colin and I discuss “real” food vs energy products, and the pros and cons of each. It seems that taking a bit of both is probably your best bet. Energy bars do a great job at balancing slow and fast releasing carbs in a handy package, but you can’t beat a banana for an instant energy-hit either.
There are also other foods that sit in neither camp that are great to use as trail food too. These include Soreen or malt loaf, as well as a good flapjack (again, using those oats!).
Our advice it to take a range of foods, so you don’t get sick of eating just one type and you’ll be good to go!
Recovering with nutrition
What food you take in after your ride makes a big difference to how well your body recovers and how quickly you’ll be ready to ride again.
We discuss that ideally, a balanced meal with some good carbohydrate, protein and fat sources is the best route to solid recovery. Ideally, these want to be from natural, unprocessed foods that are nutrient dense.
But, you have just done a big old ride, so don’t feel too bad about indulging in some less-than-optimal food after a hard day in the saddle. Afterall, with all those calories burnt, it’s arguably the best time to get your bad eating out of the way! I know both Colin and me have stopped at the local supermarket on the way home to get such foods!
Got a question?
We really want to know what you use to fuel your rides and what are some foods you’ve found to work well. As always, drop us an email, a comment or get in touch with us on Twitter. Colin is @colinmcgray and I can be found at @bytombell. You can also get in touch or leave some feedback via my website at tombell.co, and we’ll take it forward into future shows.