How you never hit a wall again on the bike

In 2015 I rode my first long ride on my bike. I ran into problems that were new to me. After 1.5 hours of riding, the power flowed from my legs, my stomach growled and my mood went downhill faster than Chris Froome on the Peyresourde

Hitting the wall is the expression used for the phenomenon that energy is depleted. Your strength is gone. You are slowing down. Your effort lasts so long that you have used the natural supply of energy in your muscles and liver.

As soon as this supply is depleted, the engine stops.

In case of long efforts it is therefore important to replenish your energy supply in time. Give the engine fuel to burn. By means of carbohydrate-rich foods or sports drinks, you provide the engine with energy for your effort.

What do you have to watch out for to feed your achievements?

3 important elements:

  • Duration of your effort
  • Intensity of your effort
  • Digestion of nutrition

Duration

The length of your effort is important. Your body has energy in stock. This is sufficient for a low to moderate effort of about 1.5 hours. Exercises of less than 1.5 hours at low intensity do not require extra nutrition.

A longer effort means that you have to replenish your energy.

The production of adrenaline during your exertion means that your stomach and intestines receive less blood. Your body gives priority to your muscles, making your stomach and intestines process less efficient food.

Make sure your food and drink is easily digestible. This does not mean too much fibre and fat. A gel is quickly digested, while a bar is heavy on the stomach.

At low intensity, the blood supply to your stomach and intestines is greater. Eating a bar is a welcome source of energy.

Digestion

Every body is different. Not every athlete digests all products equally easily. Waffles, cakes, gels, blocks: it doesn’t matter to me. This does not apply to everyone. The sugar content and the type of sugar influence the digestion of the products.

A high sugar content is difficult for your stomach to digest.

Always drink enough water when taking a gel, bar or block. This reduces the concentration of sugar. Your stomach will process this more easily.

Tests different products for taste and digestion.

Take these tests only during training sessions. When racing or touring, you should stick to your preference. In the first hours of your trip or race, your body will still process solid food, such as bars and cakes.

After that, energy gels and isotonic sports drinks are your sources of energy.

Now you have the products you consume well. Now consider how much time you have to eat. While cycling I have time to chew. I’d rather eat a bar. While walking my breathing is so fast that chewing is very tiring. A pellet is swallowed quickly, so that is my preference.

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