Big tour mountain biking
The day that you join a group of mountain bikers that go out into nature might come soon or maybe you have already joined such a group. They might opt for a long day or maybe for a week of every day “enduro”. When you go on a ride like that you will notice that the food reserves in your body are not sufficient anymore and because it costs more energy, especially in the mountains, eating and drinking will become more important in order to be able to keep up and make sure you will still be able to go out the next day.
The effects of consumption and the way you burn calories differ from person to person. Nevertheless, there are a few basic rules and if you understand a little about how your body and muscles work, you might be able to influence your endurance capacity and enjoy your long rides even more.
It’s all about eating and drinking the right way.
You have heard it plenty of times before: “Make sure you drink enough! During efforts and drink even more when the temperatures rise!” We know we have to, but even so, we always think that being a little thirsty won’t influence our performance.
During effort and on a warm day you will lose about 1 liter per hour (average body weight, the heavier your weight the more you will lose). Calculating on that average bodyweight a loss of 1½ liters of fluid will have a severe influence on your ability to deliver the same performance. Mind that with higher temperatures and higher humidity your body will even lose more fluids than the above mentioned 1 liter. Not only will you not be able to perform as well as normally, you also will store more lactate in your muscles which influence your recovery.
In conclusion, it’s best to follow these basic rules:
- During an effort drink preferably about 1 liter per hour. However, do not try to go overboard because your stomach won’t process more than 1 liter, drinking more is of no influence;
- On hot and humid days consider using some sports drink with adjusted carbohydrates; this will help you balancing your hydration. (more on that in the paragraph: eating);
- If you lose more fluids than you can drink, consider adding some minerals or salt (small quantities) to your drinks. This will also help keeping some water in your body;
- Especially when it’s hot, don’t drink any alcohol. Not before, not during, not after. Alcohol has a dehydrating effect so that certainly won’t help you.
To understand a bit more on how you can balance your nutrition it might be handy if you know the following things:
- During a 6 hour mountain bike tour you will probably burn about 3.500-4.000 calories depending on the level of the tour;
- Glycogen is the main fuel for your muscles;
- Carbohydrates are one of the main suppliers to fabric glycogen;
- Your stomach can only elaborate about 60-80 g. of carbohydrates per hour;
- Recovering from an effort will also use some extra calories.
First of all, if you take a smaller tour having a good breakfast will supply you with all that you need. On average, your muscles and liver will contain storage of about 500 gr. of glycogen. As 1 gram of glycogen will produce about 4 kcal., this will mean that you easily can do an effort of about 2 hours without getting a shortage on “muscle fuel”.
This means that with normal efforts, a balanced diet of carbohydrates, fresh fruit and enough vegetables will do it. Only when you’re planning larger tours you need to adjust your diet with enough carbohydrates to fuel your muscles.
In this stage we won’t bother you too much with how to store extra carbohydrates in your body. Carbohydrates will be partly used instead of your glycogen, this means that your glycogen available in your liver and muscles will last longer. To start off you can follow the following tips:
- Start using a sports drink with adjusted carbohydrates from the beginning, but don’t overdo it as your stomach will only process about 60-80 g. per hour;
- The advantage of a sports drink is that it also contains egg whites (building material), vitamins (acting on a high energy level uses more b complex and c), minerals like ferriet (iron), magnesium and zinc;
- Drink your one liter fluid per hour, this will help to process the carbs;
- 2 hours before your tour and preferably during, don’t eat fat. Carbs supply you with approx. 5 kcal. per liter oxygen, fat only 4,7 kcal. It might sound like a small detail, but believe me 6% does matter in the long range;
- Within limits, do what you like. Bananas are easy and quick carbohydrates. Myself I always take some bread with Nutella in my backpack. It’s not the most balanced food, but it makes me feel good and after all it contains carbs in the form of bread, sugar and nuts and some caffeine and for me it has a large placebo effect;
- Before you leave drink a cup of strong coffee. The caffeine helps burning fat and has a short term effect on your oxygen absorption;
- No alcohol. Especially on warm days it will really turn against you.
After your effort
So you survived your tour, now it’s time to re-install your glycogen level so you can go out again the next day. Although 16 hours is not enough to repair your glycogen level completely, you can do as much as possible. This will maybe help you:
- After your effort immediately start with light eating preferably high in carbohydrates, for instance 50-100 g. pasta with a creamy sauce (fat and protein), muesli or even a nice piece of pie;
- Mostly after an effort your appetite minimizes, still eat regular, balancing carbohydrates, protein and fresh vegetables;
- There is no need in eating large portions of pasta as your body has a limitation in absorbing those carbs;
- Consider taking a protein shake before sleeping as it also helps repairing your muscles. Also putting some whey (concentrated egg whites) in yoghurt will do the same thing.
You can easily do some research on the internet on lists of food that contain a lot of carbohydrates (like pasta) or those that only contain a few (like fish).