Staying fuelled on the bike during long rides is crucial to maintaining performance and energy drinks are a great way of achieving this.
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You can top up carbohydrate stores whilst riding in a number of different ways, either through consuming natural foods or sports-specific nutrition products. But if you are looking for practical and swift energy replenishment, energy drinks certainly hit the mark.
James Morton, head of nutrition at Team Sky, explains why in his view energy products are preferable to natural or home-made alternatives: “When you eat whole foods — which contain carbohydrate, fat, protein and fibre — the presence of these additional ingredients can slow down digestion, which means that delivery to the muscle is compromised — whereas when you consume food containing only carbohydrate, it is very easily digested, absorbed and delivered to the muscles.”
Cyclists should aim to consume 40-60g of carbohydrate per hour to maintain physical performance. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should discard natural sources of carbohydrate and home-made energy bars altogether.
But rather make energy drinks your first port of call when it comes to energy supplementation, as LottoNL-Jumbo Nutritionist Marcel Hesseling explains, “Hydration drinks are one of the most important things, because you can count the carbohydrates that are in them and then supplement with solid nutrition afterwards.”
Bear in mind, you won’t need any additional fuel on short rides that are less than 60 minutes. If you didn’t begin your ride in a fasted state, your body should have sufficient glycogen stores to fuel the effort.