Fuelling your mountain bike ride is key to enjoying a session on the trail, but what does this mean? The goal is to keep your tank topped off from start to finish to avoid "bonking", which is when your energy level drops low enough to affect your cycling performance. Eating and drinking both on and off the bike keeps you strong and energized to keep riding until you reach the trailhead. Here are your ultimate go-to tips for fuelling your mountain bike ride.
- Proper hydration starts way in advance of your ride. Drink a minimum of a quarter-litre the morning before you head out for a ride.
- Being dehydrated by as little as two per cent can affect your cycling performance by as much as 10 per cent. When dehydration increases to just five per cent, performance drops by 30 per cent. If you're already dehydrated when you start riding, there's a good chance you'll stay dehydrated during it.
- Mix carbohydrates and a small amount of protein to elevate fluid absorption and retention.
- Maintain a 2:1 ratio of water to a sports drink to decrease the chance of dehydration.
- Drink and eat at regular intervals early into your ride to promote elevated energy levels later on down the trail.
- On average, the equivalent of one cycling bidon of fluid (about a ½ litre) should be consumed per hour. It's a good idea to drink more when humidity and heat are high.
- The day following a ride, your best reaction to feeling a little "off" is to start drinking fluids immediately.
- Without eating well to fuel your ride, you may be at risk of "bonking" in the late stages of your ride.
- Don't overeat. A large meal prior to riding diverts blood flow to the stomach when your legs need it more.
- Eat small amounts at regular intervals to sustain energy and blood sugar levels.
- Consuming carbohydrates and protein through beverages or foods immediately after riding helps with recovery and helps set you up for hitting the trails again the next day.
If you're working toward a regular mountain biking routine, be sure to include a variety of foods including whole grains, dried and fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats. What follows is a list of five superfood staples for mountain bikers of all abilities.
- Bananas – This portable, affordable, and easy-to-digest fruit fits in your jersey pocket or in a side pocket of your hydration pack. Bananas pack a dose of potassium and can be found almost anywhere (even at petrol stations).
- Nut butter – Almond, peanut, cashew, sesame, and sunflower "butters" offer micronutrients in a rich base of ground nuts or seeds. The high-fat content will help you sustain the high energy demands of mountain biking.
- Dried fruit – Predating modern sports nutrition, dried fruit like figs, raisins, and apricots are ideal energy-dense ride-along snacks to fuel your mountain bike ride. Plus they don't melt like chocolate or have excess packaging like most manufactured sports nutrition. Put dried fruit together with nuts for a perfectly portable power food.
- Eggs – Protein and fat come together in a convenient package that's so versatile, it fits into nearly any meal or taste preference. Hardboiled eggs make for hearty ride food that packs easily into small spaces.
- Oatmeal – This useful whole grain turns up wherever your imagination can think of a use for it, plus oatmeal supplies all the macronutrients your body needs.
Begin with these basic tips for fuelling your mountain bike ride and add your own tweaks and tastes to fit your ride routine.