Nutrition for the MS Bike Ride
The last weekend of June is quickly approaching, which means it is almost time for the MS Bike Ride! If you are participating as a rider this year, I hope you’ve had a great time training for the event. I also hope you’ve started to think about your nutrition strategy leading up to, during, and after the ride. If not, I’m here to help…before it’s too late!
Fueling for the big day
You’ve probably heard about carb-loading if you’ve been cycling for a few years. You want to start out your ride with your fuel tank full, which means you need to top off your glycogen (stored carbohydrate) stores in your muscles. The best way to do this is to make sure you eat enough calories and carbohydrates leading up to the event. While a high carbohydrate meal the night before is great, you should really think about increasing your carb consumption a few days before the MS Ride. Foods that provide a good source of carbohydrates include pasta, rice, quinoa, bread, cereal, yogurt, fruit, and granola bars. Make sure you don’t skip any meals in the days leading to the ride and try to eat something every 3-4 hours to ensure your glycogen stores remain topped off.
For your pre-ride dinner, make sure you don’t experiment with any new foods and try to keep the fat and fiber content on the lower end. Pasta with tomato sauce or a drizzle of olive oil is a better choice than cheesy alfredo or other heavy sauces for the night before. Pasta isn’t the only option though; rice or noodle stir fry, pancakes and eggs, or a sandwich with potatoes or other starchy sides are also great to fuel you up. But remember, don’t try anything new the night before!
Carbs are king on the morning of the event too! Try to eat a light meal at least 2 hours before the ride, if possible. Similar to dinner, you don’t want a lot of fat, fiber, or even protein on the morning of the ride to avoid gastrointestinal issues. Great options include a bagel with honey and banana, yogurt with granola and fresh fruit, or breakfast cereal with low-fat milk and fruit. It is also important to hydrate leading up to the ride. Drink about 10-20 ounces of water with your breakfast and another 10-15 ounces about 15-20 minutes before the event (this gives you time for one last toilet stop before you start riding!) If you sleep in and don’t have time for a full breakfast, top off your liver glycogen right before the ride with sports drink, sport gel or chews, or even a liquid meal replacement drink.
During the ride
During the ride, try to eat 30-60 grams of carbohydrate every hour. If you are just out for a leisurely ride, you will be able to also include some lean protein in your snacks if you choose, like string cheese, a small amount of peanut butter, or low-fat milk. But if you’re out for speed and really push yourself, stick with easily digested carbohydrate. Not sure what 30-60 grams of carbohydrate means in food? This chart will help:
It’s also extremely important to stay hydrated! Since everyone sweats at a different rate, your fluid needs will be specific for you (hopefully you figured out your fluid needs during training). Drink every 15-20 minutes to increase absorption and don’t forget to replace electrolytes (sodium) through sports drinks, salt tablets, or salty food during the ride.
If you’re like me, you dream about recovery food! I usually start thinking about post-event food half way through the event because I am so hungry J You want to eat more carbohydrate-rich foods within 30 minutes-1 hour after finishing the ride, ESPECIALLY if you are riding again on Sunday. It is also a good idea to include around 10-25 grams of protein to help your muscles rebuild. If you don’t have much of an appetite at the end, try to at least drink sports drink, a smoothie, or chocolate milk until you can stomach a snack or meal. Below are some post-ride suggestions that provide both carbohydrates and protein: