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expert advice re nutrition on long rides(8 posts)

expert advice re nutrition on long ridesDog
Oct 25, 2001 12:53 PM
This is an edited email I received from Steve Born, a great ultra rider who works for E-Caps/Hammer Nutrition. Thought others might benefit from his advice. There is nothing secret or personal here, so I think it would be ok to share it.

...After reading what happened to you stomach-wise [my 508 recap] I wanted to offer a
suggestion that I hope will help you in the future.

One of the things that I've learned the hard way over the years, a mistake
that many ultra cyclists are still making is that you can't overeat during a
race. While you may be burning 500-600 calories an hour your body is not
able to replenish them from exogenous sources at an equal rate. The body has
a finite ability to return carbohydrate calories back into the energy cycle
and I think the Ensure Plus, hour after hour, may have been backing up in
your stomach due to its high sugar content and its too-high carbohydrate

When I'm 508-fit I'm around 180 pounds and I rarely consume over 350
calories an hour. It appeared to me that you're lighter than that and I
definitely do not think that you need the 400-500 calories an hour that you
suggested you needed in your article (I think it was 400-500). I think on
average 300-350 an hour is much more suitable. The reason the body can
continue working on fewer calories ingested than expended is due to our
bodyfat stores. Even the leanest of athletes has 60,000 or more calories
from bodyfat stores. These are the body's fuel of choice during extended
bouts of exercise, perhaps as high as 65% of your energy requirements will
be fulfilled from bodyfat stores. So while you do need to eat during
exercise, it has to be in amounts that the body can handle. It'll take care
of the rest from bodyfat stores.

If you eat too much you are inhibiting your body's ability to access and
release fatty acids. In essence, when an athlete overeats they're telling
their body that they don't "need its help". The result is that you're still
energy depleted even though you're consuming a lot of calories. A lot of
those calories, as you have experienced, back up in the stomach so you end
up with bloating and nausea.

The occasional large calorie consumption is fine but that's the exception
and not the rule. On occasion if you were to have an Ensure that would be
fine. Do keep in mind that it is very concentrated and its high sugar
content will raise body fluid osmolality. This means that you need to dilute
it (drinking water from another source is totally acceptable) so that it
will exit the GI tract with efficiency.

I hope you will give Sustained Energy a try. Many riders say that the longer the race goes on,
the more they appreciate the neutral taste of SE and the fact that it
doesn't sit in their stomach nor cause any bad aftertaste. I think that 2-3
scoops of SE in 20-24 ounces of water an hour would be ideal. I like to
alternate 1 hour with SE and another hour with Hammer Gel. Occasionally I'll
have an Ensure Plus. And I definitely take Ensurolytes every hour and your
doing so in the 508 I think proved to be helpful.

Anyway, those are just some ideas for you to consider. I have no doubt you
could go a lot faster if your stomach had cooperated more. And I think the
root of the problem was that you were trying to consume too many calories.
Cut it back to 300 an hour and I think you'll find you'll be much more
comfortable while riding and your performance will benefit as well.


Anyone have any further commentary or suggestions?

re: expert advice re nutrition on long ridesJon
Oct 25, 2001 1:27 PM

I had read in one of the research newsletters that I get that the maximum rate of gastric emptying
during exercise is about 300 Kcal per hour. So that would corroborate Steve's info. I've found my
own limit to be about 250 - 300. During centuries I consume 225 Kcal per hour and that works
fine for me.
I have done some of my best riding in long rides after puking.MB1
Oct 25, 2001 4:05 PM
Got rid of all that junk I had been eating and drinking. I drank water and diluted Gatorade for a while after puking and felt much better.

Binge and purge, baby! Who says endurance athletes aren't the lunatic fringe.
Fat burningKerry Irons
Oct 25, 2001 5:55 PM
All the data I have seen suggests that a fit athlete will burn around 200 calories per hour while exercising. If you are burning around 600 per hour, and getting around 100 per hour from stored glycogen (should last 15-20 or more hours at that rate) then your supplementation rate needs to be around 300 cal. per hour, just as suggested. My weekly experience on rides of 110-120 miles suggests this is pretty reasonable, as I eat about 1300 calories of food in what is a 6-6.5 hour ride.

120 miles at 30 calories per mile = 3600
6.5 hours at 200 per hour from fat = 1300
Calories from food eaten during ride = 1300
Muscle glycogen and stomach contents = 1000

I'm not really hungry when I get home, since I've really only used probably 500 calories of muscle glycogen. And I only had to digest 200 calories per hour - I never experience any stomach problems during or after these rides.
Sounds reasonable to me ...Humma Hah
Oct 25, 2001 6:42 PM
... I've always figured 200 calories per hour for fat burn, about 3500 calories available from glycogen if you start fresh and well-nourished, and the rest from food eaten while riding. The glycogen can be stretched to last thru a pretty long ride, maybe century length or a little longer, and the ultra-distance types do probably need more food than us paltry century riders.

In my case, I feel comfortable consuming Ensure Plus at a rate of about 2 ounces each 10 miles (that's around 90 calories). After 50-70 miles, when I feel that's not getting the job done, I add a shot of gel on the alternate 5 miles (about half an ounce, or 50 calories). I'll take a little more if I feel bonk symptoms coming on, and get some solid food when my stomach growls. All is washed down with much water or electrolyte solution.

For me, gas is a symptom that I'm eating too much. What I don't eat, the bacteria get, and turn into methane.

My presumption is that the cruiser burns 50 calories/mile (may vary with wind conditions), plus 20 per 100 ft of climbing. Roadbikes are probably 20-30% more efficient at "economy cruise", but when really pushing hard may develop enough wind drag to be comparable.
Are you sure it's 3500 calories of glycogen?McAndrus
Oct 26, 2001 5:03 PM
I've read where it's about 2000 calories in a fueled body. Using an all-sources burn rate of 800 calories per hour (a guess at a 20mph average) that gives me 2-1/2 hours of fuel.

Using this guestimate, I start eating after about an hour and keep eating until the end of the ride. Then I feel pretty good. If I ride more than two hours and don't eat, I'll feel the effects.

It's interesting that everyone seems to like semi-liquids like Ensure.

Two of my riding buddies are ultra-marathon types: both veterans of the 24-hour Challenge in Grand Rapids, MI and both 400 mile plus finishers in that ride.

On my first century with them we stopped at 45 miles to hit a convenience store. One of the guys immediately when to the Little Debbie's rack and picked up a couple of individual-sized Apple Pies.

After he laughed at the look of horror on my face he told me he thought they were the best ride food ever invented.

I don't eat that kind of stuff on a ride but I am here to testify that this guy could turn-and-burn. We call him "the diesel."
Are you sure it's 3500 calories of glycogen?peloton
Oct 26, 2001 6:52 PM
There is really about one and a half hours worth of glycogen in the liver for intense exercise. Of course you will use this up at a different rate according to your level of intensity, additional fuel brought in (glucose), and the harnessing of other energy sources from the body. Your body does metabolize energy from creatine phosphate, glucose, glycogen, and fatty tissue constantly from all these systems. Right now your body is using all these systems for energy, and producing lactic acid. Since you are at rest at your computer they are small demands though. Which systems are used more depends on your blood glucose levels, and intensity of the activity. That's how you can stretch out glycogen in the liver, by the metabolism of fat or food.

One of the things about finding out about nutrition for riding though is it takes some personal experience. Straight Gatorade makes me a sick man. I bet Doug won't drink a lot of ensure again. John Stamsed says he thinks donuts help him in ultra endurance efforts. Whatever works to get you through. The more I learn about physiology and training, the more I think you must try it for yourself for experience and true understanding. Nothing beats personal experience made from a scientific basis instead of a guess.
check out the triathlete sites..dotkaye
Oct 26, 2001 8:26 AM
the Ironmen/women have lots of experience with nutrition in extreme conditions.. check out Dan Empfield's overview,
and their review of gels has some good info too,

Personally I like Leppin's Squeezy, a mild flavor, used it on ultramarathon runs without trouble. Most of the gels nauseate me during runs, though I can tolerate them better on the bike.

Dr Tim Noakes' "Lore of Running" has an fine discussion on energy and metabolism during exercise. More from the runner's perspective, but the physiology is the same.