Basics of Century Nutrition and Hydration

Basics of Century Nutrition and Hydration

When you’re planning a hydration and nutrition strategy for riding 100 miles, don’t think of it in terms of the distance, but rather in terms of the hours you’ll spend on the bike.  So, if you’re able to do it in 5 hours, you’ll need to eat and drink a bit differently than if you plan to take 10 hours. In either case, it can be disastrous to get behind. Forgetting to eat and drink regularly will often lead to the dreaded "bonk" and for a very unpleasant day. 

Long distance rides are often called "eating contests on a bike." The rule is to always “eat before you are hungry, and drink before you get thirsty.” You don’t need to treat your jersey pocket food stores like an all-you-can-eat buffet, but we do recommend you eat 90-250 calories every 40-60 minutes. Only consume food and drink that you know your stomach can handle. An event ride is the wrong time to experiment with a new energy gel or hydration product. The consequences of ignoring this advice can be quite embarrassing and smelly.  Eat real food instead of highly processed gimmick products whenever possible. 

You should drink 1 bottle of water and or hydration drink each hour. If the weather is hot, you’ll need to drink even more. Water is super important, but you will also need to replace your electrolytes (salt and potassium). We prefer OSMO or Scratch Labs hydration products.  Avoid sugary drinks like Gatorade that can sour the stomach.  In very hot and sweaty circumstances, you may need salt tabs to help prevent or stop leg cramps.  Some people claim that the salt and more importantly the vinegar in pickles and pickle juice can also help.

A few more quick tips. Don't overeat at the dinner and breakfast before a big ride. It doesn't help and can leave you feeling sluggish. The carbo-loading strategy of twenty years ago is no longer best practice. Make sure to work on being hydrated at least 48 hours in advance of your ride.  However, avoid heavily pre-hydrating the night before your event. This can leave you urgently needing to pee multiple times during the big event. If you need to pee, wait until a rest stop or find a private spot, stop, and do it.  Despite the heroic and humorous tales, we don't recommend you wee in the saddle or attempt to pizzle off the side of your bike. Uric acid can ulcerate the skin and cause an unpleasant rash. Also, crashing with your "gear" out makes for a permanent social media bonanza.  Finally, judiciously use caffeine. There's nothing wrong with a cup of coffee before an event.  A quick hit of caffeine toward the end of a ride can give you a nice boost.  However, overusing caffeine can hard on the stomach, inspire an emergency bathroom visit, and be dehydrating.