Long cycle rides, as with any endurance sport, can wreak havoc on our digestive system if we don’t treat it right. Your body is working overtime to keep your muscles moving, blood pumping & lungs breathing and you don’t want to create more stress by giving it more work to do to digest your food.

It wasn’t until I had a similar incident to Tom Dumoulin whilst on a sportive (I’ll let you Google that one) that I started to explore some strategies to keep my tummy happy whilst out cycling.

In this blog I’ll share with you some tried and tested tips to help you keep your tummy happy whilst out on your bike.

Pre-ride planning

Let’s begin before you’ve strapped on your helmet and clipped into your pedals. Looking after your digestive system, particularly in the days and hours leading up to a ride, is very important in keeping your tummy happy whilst on the bike.

Keeping regular meal times, staying hydrated and having a well balanced diet will get your body adapted to a pattern of eating and digesting, allowing you to get the most out of your ride.

On the morning of a ride I make sure that I have breakfast at least one hour before I set off on the bike. This gives my body some time to digest my food before it has to concentrate on other things, like pedalling! To the same note, avoiding meals high in fat in the hours before a ride can help your tummy stay settled. My favourite breakfast is a bowl of porridge, with some fruit (usually a banana and some berries) and a dollop of peanut butter - usually not as well presented as in the photograph below!

Sticking to a well practised strategy might also help with the pre-sportive nerves!

On the bike snacks

Just like you wouldn’t put petrol in a diesel engine, you don’t want to be trying out different food on the day of an event or long ride. It pays to find a refuelling strategy that works for you and you’ll want different things on different types of rides. On long rides, mixing up sweet and savoury flavours will make sure you don't get bored of a particular food and encourage you to fuel properly. For shorter rides, you might want to make sure your energy levels are topped up with a piece of fruit or energy gel about 30 minutes before you head off.

Top tip: Find out what food is provided at refuelling stations at a sportive, the different kinds of sugars in sports nutrition products can cause digestion problems for some people, and so it is important to test them out before you go. It’s also a good idea to carry some of your own snacks for an energy boost.

For long rides I prefer real food over energy bars and gels - my favourites being peanut butter sandwiches and bananas (can you tell what my favourite foods are?!).

Refuelling

After a day in the saddle some people are ravenous when they walk through the door, others aren’t so hungry. No matter which camp you’re in, it is important to refuel properly as it will help your body recover and perform on your next ride.

General guidelines for a healthy training diet are plenty of vegetables and fruit, quality carbohydrates, moderate in fat and adequate in lean protein.

In the first 30 minutes after a hard training session it is a good idea to have a mix of carbohydrate and protein. Carbohydrates will replenish your muscle and liver glycogen stores and protein will provide amino acids (the building blocks) to repair muscle tissue. If you don’t fancy a full meal at this stage, a homemade fruit smoothie with yoghurt or milk will provide the nutrients you need.

Within two hours of your training session, eating a balanced meal will help your recovery and replenish some of the calories you burned! General guidelines for a healthy training diet are plenty of vegetables and fruit, quality carbohydrates, moderate in fat and adequate in lean protein. A healthy diet allows the good bacteria in your gut to thrive - this has all sorts of benefits, including optimising digestion.

Shorter, easier training sessions will just require a normal meal. Here’s a handy table to get you started:

Vegetables: Choose 2 or 3 in different colours Carbohydrate: Choose 1 Protein: Choose 1 - eat a portion the size of your palm Fat: Choose 1
Broccoli, cauliflower Potatoes (white potato, sweet potato) Fish Oils (olive oil, vegetable oil, etc)
Leafy greens (spinach, kale, pak choi, etc) Grains (oats, couscous, barley, quinoa, etc) Chicken Avocado
Carrots Pasta, rice Eggs Cheese and other dairy
Any other vegetable you enjoy Bread, pitta, bagel, wraps Chickpeas, black beans, edamame, tofu, other vegetarian alternatives Nuts and seeds peanuts, almonds, pecans, sunflower, sesame etc.

 

Do you have any useful nutrition tips you'd like to share with your fellow Vixens? Share them in the comments below!

Happy riding, and happy eating!