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Need to eat on 3-4 hour rides?(24 posts)

Need to eat on 3-4 hour rides?TrekMan
Jan 24, 2002 8:44 AM
At the moment my weekend rides last between 3 and 4 hours, and all I bring on them are two 800ml water bottles (which I refill half way through). I don't really feel hungry, but I keep thinking I should be eating something or at least using a carbo drink. So my question is this: do I need to bring a snack/carbo drink or can I just run on my vast fat supplies?
re: Need to eat on 3-4 hour rides?allervite
Jan 24, 2002 8:53 AM
If you are not hungry, don't eat. You may want to bring some food just in case you do get hunger knock. It's a long ride home when you bonk!
Jan 24, 2002 8:57 AM
If you fit and are riding aerobically, likely you won't need much or any food. If you were blasting up hills at threshold, you probably need carb replacement in some form. Typically, it takes 2 hours or more of hard riding to start to bonk.

For 3-4 hour training rides for me, I don't even think about food. I might throw some Sustained Energy in my first two water bottles or take a Hammergel flask. Until I approach 90 miles or so, or unless I'm riding very hard, I just don't need it.

However, water replacement is still very important.

Hey, if you aren't bonking, don't worry. Listen to your body.

Jan 24, 2002 9:08 AM
you're really scaring me. I probably could do that, but it wouldn't be pretty.
No, I take that back. I don't think that I could. After about 30-40 miles, I start thinking that I will want something soon (depends on what I ate before I left). After about 50 miles, I NEED something.
Jan 24, 2002 9:27 AM
Not when riding easy. Fat and glycogen supplies take care of everything. It's only when I hit big mountains and start huffing and puffing that more carbs are needed. More and more distance riding makes you more efficient.

Danny Chew bragged on his website about riding 160 miles (I think) with no food OR water.
Well, all I can say is that with the new, improved 10 hr/wkbill
Jan 24, 2002 9:50 AM
schedule, you won't be doing THAT anymore.
But the baby'll be worth it. Keep the faith, Doug.
what is scaring you??cyclopathic
Jan 24, 2002 10:40 AM
Dog is right 90mi LSD isn't a big deal if you had good breakfast ride aerobically don't make stops and avoid going into red zone. That of cause wouldn't apply to 14,000' century :)
how about muscle catabolization?Ted the Horseman
Jan 24, 2002 10:56 AM
You may not bonk, but if you don't replace what you are burning you risk your body using your muscles for fuel. I'd rather eat a power bar or something after an hour or so just to be on the safe side--and always eat after you get done with a ride--preferably some protein.
You probably should eat a little on a 3-4 hour ride. Ibill
Jan 24, 2002 9:04 AM
guess it depends on how hard you're working and what your goals are, (e.g., whether you just want to burn fat). For me, for performance purposes, I usually eat before I go (something light) and then something after about 2-3 hours. If I'm going really long or hard, I may not wait that long. It's a lot easier to keep down a little bit here and there than waiting until you need a big dose. If I don't eat for 3 hours in the saddle, I'm ravenous about five minutes after walking through the door.
Not a terribly scientific analysis, but I believe two things -- if you treat your body right, it will tell you exactly what it needs, and/but sometimes it tells you just a wee bit late for preventing the real need syndrome, when you're at risk of bonking or at least feeling bad.
As others can tell you, when you're working REAL hard and long you just can't replace calories quickly enough. Never been there.
Here are some numbers...PdxMark
Jan 24, 2002 10:04 AM
Sure to be disputed, but based on what I've read and my experience...

Your body can store 1500-2000 calories of glycogen, which I think of as ready-to-burn carbs. The time/distance you can ride without eating depends on how hard you ride & how big you are.

In my case, I weigh 165# and ride 18+ mph average (without big climbs), which results in a calorie burn rate of 600-800 calories an hour. Based on these numbers (and my experience), I have about a 3 hour (give or take) range without needing to take in calories - if I haven't skipped a meal. Add big climbs or a faster/harder ride, and I need calories.

You sound like you're riding within your regular glycogen stores, so you seem not to "need" to eat. If you are like me (weight/speed), I suspect you'd find that adding another hour or so to your ride will get you close to bonking if you don't eat.

Personally, I take an energy drink that gives me about 160 calories per water bottle. Drinking those down in the first half of a ride gives some caloric replenishment without having to choke down a Clif bar of Powerbar. It's easy and avoids a pointless bonk if you decide to push or the wind picks up.


you're burning fat, tooDog
Jan 24, 2002 10:09 AM
Probably about half of the 600-800 calories per hour (may be a little high) will come from fat, even at greater than moderate intensities. Of course, we have nearly infinite (for all practical purposes) stores of fat.

Also, add to the available energy what you eat before riding (which I always do). You could easily have another 500 calories there.

questions on burning fatTig
Jan 24, 2002 10:28 AM
I've heard (not sure if correct) that the fat we burn during riding is stored in the liver, blood, and of course our fatty tissue. Anyone know when these fat sources get burned during an aerobic ride? Also, in what order do we use these sources?
not burning that much fat...PdxMark
Jan 24, 2002 10:34 AM
Nothing I've read has indicated you burn remotely as much fat as carbs at anything but low exertion levels ... Can you point me to a source? If you were right about fat, how could anyone ever bonk? Nope, fat won't get you through a century - no way... The proportion of fat burned is relatively constant (+/- 25%), unless you go anaerobic (80+% maxHR) - I'm pretty sure carbs are it...

The 500 calories in your belly is a good point
It isn't as simplecyclopathic
Jan 24, 2002 11:11 AM
it greatly depends on intensity and training. Ultra-marathon cyclist tend to utilize fat much more efficient.

even given the same extortion level % of burned fat would not be constant. It takes ~20-40min for your metabolism to kick in. You more likely to use fat if you eat fat before (fatty acids will be readily present in your blood stream).

and yes fat can get you far. I've ridden a tripple century on 1 sandwitch, 2 bowls of chicken broth and a plate of potato salad after riding hilly 230mi in previous day. There's no way I could get more then 30% calories from carbos figure out.
well, CP, that's not much help...PdxMark
Jan 24, 2002 2:33 PM
we had this discussion a couple weeks ago.

Someone asks about 3-4 hour rides, and for the sake of showing us how smart and fit you are, you tell us about ultra-marathon cyclists and 20-40 metabolic minute start times... thank you very much...

You may be an ultra-marathon cyclist and PhD sports physiologist who can ride 300 miles taking in only 600 calories. Good for you. If that's your suggestion to the guy, though, then you're simply being unhelpful, not remotely realistic, or relevant, to the average person who would ask the question...

instead of telling us how you can expend 5000 calories of effort by taking in 600 calories... why don't you answer the guy's question? Should he eat on a 3-4 hour ride? Is that so hard for you to understand? Or is the extent of your brilliant wisdom limited to "it's to complicated for a mere mortal to understand" - after extolling your metabolic perpetual engine.
I'd have to eat to go 4 hrs, but not 3 hrsdzrider
Jan 24, 2002 10:56 AM
There's a point about 3.5 hrs when I start getting really grumpy and demoralized if I haven't eaten. If I plan to go more than 3 hours I carry food to avoid this intolerable mental state. I could continue without eating and have done so, but I'd rather enjoy the experience and food helps make that possible.
Most riders I ride with eat somethingDCP
Jan 24, 2002 11:17 AM
when riding that length of time. Usually not a lot, but something.

The bottom line is, apprently, that you don't have to eat, but why not try it? You may prefer it.

I am not hungry on rides either but I usually eat one cereal and fruit bar on a ride of that length, and I do think I feel better. I just can't bring myself to eat one of those flavored cardboard products, even if they work.
I agree - I'd eat, tooDog
Jan 24, 2002 11:36 AM
Most do; in fact, most of the time I do, too. I gathered that the question was "do I need to?"

In fact, most of the time I'd recommend eating, too, especially if you are training to race or do a fast century or whatever. Essentially, in training you are training to do what you are doing. In other words, if you eat in training, you'll better be able to eat while racing. If you can eat while racing, you'll go faster. If you want to teach your body to be able to eat while riding fast, then you'd better do it in training.

Didn't intend to mislead. It's sort of a question of whether you must or whether you should. I think you should, usually.

Effort and recovery....MB1
Jan 24, 2002 12:29 PM
If you are just doing a below a threshold effort and don't plan to ride the next day you probably don't need to eat for that 3-4 hour ride. If you plan to ride much the next day or you increase your effort you better eat something.

We would pretty much just drink Gatorade and be ok if we weren't doing much the next day and hadn't done much the day before. Always carry some food just in case.

not if you stop for a guiness at half way (nm)naff geezer
Jan 24, 2002 4:12 PM
well if you don't get hungry and bonk why bother?cyclopathic
Jan 24, 2002 4:13 PM
I would suggest eating something immediately after the ride for recovery some snack with carbos and protein.
not if you stop for a guiness at half way (nm)naff geezer
Jan 24, 2002 4:15 PM
If you stop for a guiness at half way,guido
Jan 24, 2002 6:59 PM
That's when you can have that ham on pumpernickle sandwich with a dill pickle slice and chase it down with the Guiness and a bag of home-made potato chips. Life can be sweet.
If it feels right, do it....just not all the time nmnaff geezer
Jan 24, 2002 10:06 PM