hypoglycemia and eating on the road

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Anonymous's picture

I am a new rider getting into long rides. The last couple of rides have been 4 to 6 hours long (getting ready for the montauk century) and i have experimented with drinking gatorade for electrolyte replacement and eating some other snacks...needless to say there are both long and fast acting sugars involved. They play a big role in helping my energy during the rides but leave me flattened and hungover the next day. Anyone else hypoglycemic out there with advice?

Anonymous's picture
Bill (not verified)
Sports Drink Options

"I have run into the same issues you have with Gatorade, (Sugar high, then feeling lousy later). Try some of the other sports drinks that come in powder form so you can mix your own. I like ""Revenge"" and also ""Cyto-Max."" Both are less sugar-y sweet, and I haven't run into the sugar spikes I would get with Gatorade. I have yet to bonk even during long races. Another plus is you can fill a baggie or film canister with the powder and mix a new bottle on the road by adding water at a rest stop.

Anonymous's picture
Bob Shay (not verified)
Eating for a century

I too am doing the Montauk ride. During the season I try to do a 100+ mile ride every weekend. I enjoyed reading all of the replies to your question. Unfortunately, I still haven't found the perfect formula for me. My best learnings are, eat a balanced breakfast of about 500 calories at least an hour before the ride. During the ride, have a powerbar/similar energy bar and about 24 ounces of liquid about every 60 to 90 minutes. After the first three or four energybars you'll get sick of them. Usually in the four or fifth hour I eat a sandwich. I have tried different types of sandwiches but found you have to pick wisely here. Think very easy to digest. If it is too difficult to digest, a good portion of bloodflow will be diverted to digestion. That translates into less leg power and a feeling of sluggishness - which takes about 2 hours to go away. Regarding sports drinks, I have tried Gatorade and Extran. I prefer Extran because it is less sweet tasting and makes me feel more energized in the fifth, sixth, and seventh hour.

Good luck on the ride!

Anonymous's picture
B. Dale (not verified)

"Below is an excerpt from an Ed Pavelka newsletter that you may find helpful...


Ask Coach Fred Matheny

What Should I Eat Before Long Rides?

Question: I don't have a problem with energy on my
90-minute weekday rides. But I bonk badly when going
75-100 miles on weekends. What should I eat for longer
distances? -- Pete T.

Coach Fred Replies: It's amazing how many calories
we burn on long rides. A century can incinerate more than
4,000. Riders tend to underestimate how much food this

With the help of a calorie chart, put 4,000 calories
worth of bagels, sandwiches, fruit and cookies on your
kitchen table. Hint: It's equivalent to about 17 energy

They don't make jersey pockets big enough for so much
grub. And, of course, you don't need to replace every
calorie burned. The trick is to start long rides with a
full tank and then begin steady in-flight refueling.

---Eat 2-3 hours before the start. If you scarf down a
quick slice of toast and cup of coffee, you'll soon be
toast, too. Get up early if necessary.

---Mix protein and fat with carbs. Most nutritionists
suggest a pre-ride meal that includes all three food
components, not just carbohydrate. I like a bowl of
cereal with skim milk, a banana, juice and a bagel with
cream cheese. Ed likes a cheese-and-tomato omelet with
home fries and a couple of biscuits.

Carbohydrate is essential to endurance performance but
fat and protein ""stick to the ribs"" better and make the
meal last longer. Find what agrees with you and doesn't
let your stomach feel hollow an hour into the ride.

Of course, an ample breakfast means it's uncomfortable
to start fast, but that's a good thing when you're
touring or riding for fun. It holds you to a reasonable
early pace, the key to lasting the distance. You can
always ride harder in the second half.

---Keep re-fueling. Even after a fairly hefty pre-ride
meal, you need to begin eating and drinking no later
than an hour into the ride. At a burn rate of
approximately 40 calories per mile, it's amazing how
quickly cereal or an omelet gets converted to energy.

The rule of thumb for long rides is to consume 300-350
calories per hour. That's not as much as you burn, but
it's about all you can digest. It's the equivalent of a
typical energy bar and bottle or two of sports drink.

These calories, plus the muscle fuel already stored in
your body, should give you the energy you need to stay
ahead of the bonk all the way to the finish."

Anonymous's picture
JP (not verified)
Fine advice!

Nice article and sageful advice.

One thing to add - the post ride meal!!

When you get home after a long/hard ride and kick off those cleats, after you stretch a bit, eat. Eat carbs and protein. Eat within 30-40 minutes after the ride. Your body does not realize the ride is over; your metabolism is still in high gear. The carbs you eat will replenish your energy stores very quickly – more quickly than if you had not ridden. The protein gets metabolized more quickly too and really helps muscle recovery. If you wait an hour or more, it’s too late. Hydrate too. Hydrate until, well, … you know when you are fully hydrated ;-)

Anonymous's picture
Isaac Brumer (not verified)

Joe, what are the consequences of missing the 30 minute window? Do you lose muscle? (fortunately, the Guinness arrived just in time at Cold Spring this Sat.)

Anonymous's picture
JP (not verified)

Hey Isaac,

John is the name ;-)

I select a 30-40 minute window for myself, based on a couple years of observation, trial and error and what works for me. Someone else may have a different metabolic rate and have a higher or lower time. I’ve heard 20 minutes and 60 minutes. 30-40 works for me.

Despite the variables, the basic premise remains – eat while you are still warmed, while your body thinks it is going to do another 20-30-40 miles. The body is saying GIMMEEE … so give it nutrients. And since you do not use nutrients at elevated athletic rates, it helps recovery. So eat in the window. Don’t wait a few hours to have dinner with friends that evening. Eat in the window – then dine later too. You’ll be hungry anyway!

No, to my knowledge you do not lose mass if you wait too long. The recovery process just takes longer. You’ll find the leaden leg feeling setting in or staying with you, esp the next day after a long and hard ride. Muscles get torn during a workout and it is the repair, the recovery that makes them, you stronger. Speed this recovery by eating protein in the window. I know I need all the help I can get and I might as well let the body do its tour of duty and help recovery along.

Beer has carbs and will replenish your stores somewhat. Porter beer was originally brewed for longshore porters to give them strength! But PROTEIN is lacking/insufficient. And alcohol? I enjoy my beer and cocktails; but right after a ride, when my body is looking for nutrition, I generally (usually) stay away from alcohol. First, it seems to inhibit recovery. Empty calories. Secondly, since my body is saying GIMMEE, and I am a bit dehydrated, the carbed alcohol wacks me out. Cheap date ;-) So, I usually wait 2-3 hours for digestion and rehydration – when I urinate lots and it’s is clear, I think about alcohol. I still am affected quickly the night of a ride. Of course, after a less strenuous ride or just for the hell of it, I do violate my “rules” and join fellow riders for a brew. Darn, I’ll never make the Div 1 pro peloton ;-)

Cheers, John JP

Anonymous's picture
Ken (not verified)
Post ride malaise

"I've been prone to post-ride acheyness and tiredness that keeps me from getting more rides in during the week. While I eat and drink plenty during the ride, at the end and after the ride I seem to totally conk out.

Normally I'm pretty suspicious of sports drinks and Dr. Ed Fishkin (who gave a presentation to the NYCC) concurs. However I was desperate and a friend recommended Endurox (a post exercise recovery drink) which I am just trying now. The package is pretty vague about amount / dosage. Any experience with this drink? Any thoughts?

Click here for a link to an Endurox thread on a runners' BB

And my friend's e-mail:

A few issues back in Bicycling Magazine - they had a good article on what to eat after a bike ride: the following is foods are consumed before and after my rides (as well as Accerlerade (frozen or with ice) during and Endurox afterwards).

  • cereal with milk

  • macaroni and cheese

  • pb&j on wheat

  • eggs and toast

  • payday + coke a cola

all combine protein to carb ratio.

before the start of a ride on weekend mornings i either eat a bowl of oatmeal or i make a shake with the following: yogurt, ice, oj, oatmeal, banana or strawberries.

during the week, i try to have a snack before my sunset cruise rides - either cliff bar, oatmeal bar, Hershey's kisses, gu or similar supplement.

this is just me. might as well try it and see what works for you. over the years, i have tried many different ingredients and this is what works.

also sleep, water before a ride (i keep a 32 oz jug on my desk and try to finish it on days that i ride). somedays i even find riding when i've had a bad day works wonders for my speed and mood afterwards.


Anonymous's picture
fendergal (not verified)

"Why are you suspicious of sports drinks? Does that mean you drink only plain water on rides?

If you ""totally conk out"" at the end of every ride, something is lacking in your system. Look at what you're eating and drinking prior to, during, and after the ride. You may think it's plenty, but maybe it's below your caloric requirements.

I find it's just as important to drink a big glass of water in the morning, before riding (especially when it's hot). You might also need electrolyte tablets, like Endurolytes, made by Hammer Nutrition. Emergen-C packets, which are available, can help replace lost minerals and vitamins.

That said, what one eats and drinks around and during riding is highly personal. I usually drink Cytomax on training rides and Accelerade during races. Accelerade is fabulous! It goes down very well when I'm riding really hard. I also like Endurox, but am usually too lazy to mix it up for a post-race drink.

(Hint for mixing sports drinks, especially Accelerade and Endurox: fill your bottle halfway with water, add the mix, then top off with water. This makes the mixing easier, and you don't get that unmixed portion stuck at the bottom.)

To fight that ""dead leg"" feeling, you could also consider ice (or at least, cold water).

Why ice? Muscles, when they contract forcefully for long periods of time, develop tears and inflammation on a very small scale. Ice helps stop this inflammation and the muscles can start to repair the damage more quickly. (I'm not an exercise physiologist, so cannot be more specific.)

Pro racers and many amateur racers take ice baths after a hard race. Just try to find ice in an ice machine at a hotel during a stage race! If the thought of getting into a tub of icy water fills you with dread, consider alternating hot and cold water in the shower. After you've cleaned, soaped and shampooed and are fully cleaned and warm, turn the water to the coldest setting. Aim the water just on your legs. Target the front and back. Then turn it back to hot. Douse the legs thoroughly with hot. Last, put it back on cold. Finish the legs with cold. Each segment should be two or three minutes long.


Anonymous's picture
Ken (not verified)
Sport drink suspicion

Fendergal wrote:
Why are you suspicious of sports drinks? Does that mean you drink only plain water on rides?

I have been suspicious because few if any in the medical community say it's necessary. Exercise physiologists and trainers while knowledgeable are NOT part of the medical community -- for worse or for better. Yes, it does mean that I only drank water. However, I am starting to revise that practice. Being a detail-oriented-evidence-based kinda guy I am also suspicious of any product that does not come with instructions but just a plastic scoop. It would be nice if it said X scoops of powder to Y oz of water or if you weigh 125-150 this is how much you should use and if you weigh 150-175 that is how much you should use etc.

Now, my concern about the the lack of a dose / response graph may say more about me than the effectiveness of sport drinks in general. Notwithstanding, I did plunk down my $25 at GNC and now am the proud owner of a on-steroid-sized tub of Endurox. I've also purchased my first bottle of Accelerade. Will probably get the powder later.

Many thanks for the thorough advice Fenda ~ Ken

Anonymous's picture
Katie (not verified)

I'm an Edurox fan.... I never thought it would help my recovery until I tried it! Now I'm a total convert.

the key to success is finding the correct mix for you. personally I'm a one scoop orange flavor girl. I find two scoops to be chaulky and I recieve the benefits from one. But I also Accelerade during my rides so I think that might be why i get away with using only one scoop.

I swear I'm not as stiff and muscle fatigued when I use both products during and after my workout.

I never thought I'd turn into a supplement girl but after a few weeks of really paying attention and following a supplement regimine I've been able to increase my biking mileage decrease the number of times i've been dropped on said rides and taken 1:30 off my running mile pace without feeling like I'm going to drop dead!

Anonymous's picture
Ken (not verified)
Endurox fan

Impressive results! You're starting to convert me as well! How many 1-scoop-bottles do you drink after a ride? My guess is only one.

Now the trick is not getting it confused with my laundry detergent. ;-)

Anonymous's picture
Katie (not verified)

I started with the Accelerade and Endurox because Gatorade is way to acidic for me

I drink one (1) scoop Accelerade on the 1st half of the ride, I bring a scoop of Accelerade with me in a baggie and mix up another at lunch for the ride back (I don't usually finish the second one) then one (1) scoop of Endurox when I get home in a highball glass (I'm guessing it's about 6 oz of water) - then I'm on to the ever important carbo replenishing beer....

I've never tried the premixed formulas - I wonder how they compare to my weaker mix..

Anonymous's picture
Ken (not verified)
Endurox Fan

Thanks for the specifics.

Anonymous's picture
Katie (not verified)

I was just reading an article in Runner's World about this very topic. you might check out the latest issue....

Anonymous's picture
Frank (not verified)

Endurox has a protein component which the sport drinks I've used in the past did not (Gatorade, Ultrafuel, Cytomax) and I suspect the benefits tie in with what we've read for the past couple of years about proteins aiding in the reabsorption of carbs--or vice versa--anyway, point being that protein and carb taken together provide the best recovery during/after exercise. I have the same positive experiences you report with Endurox. I suppose any recovery drink with protein/carb mix would deliver--I just happened to end up with Endurox because it was on the shelf and I wanted to experiment.

Anonymous's picture
John Z (not verified)

Fuel requirements are primarily based upon intensity, not duration. Stay at a pace where your body is only using fats for fuel and you could ride a very long distance without consuming any additional calories. However, most people don't ride at this pace, especially when significant climbing is involved; therefore, consumption of calories is required otherwise bonk is inevitable. While some might be suspicious of sports drinks and gels for whatever reasons, they provide calories and facilitate constant consumption during a ride, which is key for higher intensity efforts. Personally, I like Hammer Gel, not only because I like the taste and its calorie-dense, but it can be purchased in 26 serving containers that can be used to fill smaller flasks. Each flask provides about 600 calories.

Keep in mind too that performance is based upon hydration levels and glycogen availability -- a hydrated rider with full glycogen stores can ride very close to functional threshold power even at the end of a long ride. OTOH, dehydration and depleted glycogen result in markedly reduced performance.

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