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  1. #1
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    Confused re: Calories on Century

    I'm 62, 200, 6'

    I ride about 150 a week and am doing a Century in Utah on Aug 8. During ALL my previous centuries, I never seem to eat enough and always get just about tapped out at the end of the rides. I have been doing research about calories burned and most of what I've read says that I probably burn 500-800 and hour, based on intensity, of course. That equates to 5-8 gels per hour....can that be right? During training, I eat about 1 gel per hour, along with drinking from 1 bottle of gatorade and 1 bottle of water.

    If the calorie number is correct, what has more calories that I should be eating? 5-8 gels an hour means that's all I'd be doing would be sucking down gels! I'd like to feel good at the end for once! I have plenty of miles in, so it's not a lack of training issue...it has to be lack of proper nutrition related!

    Thanx for any input

  2. #2
    Roadie brian416's Avatar
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    A general number of calories to shoot for is 250 per hour. I know I couldn't replace what I'm burning during riding and keep the food down. A bigger breakfast and a larger meal after riding can be used to consume the extra calories you burned.

  3. #3
    Senior Member runner pat's Avatar
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    Personally, I've never been able to stomach(HA!) gels. I use sport drinks for all my fluids on long rides and have no trouble taking in enough calories.

    I also use Jelly Belly Sports Beans and one or two Powerbars(or something similar).

  4. #4
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    First of all, if you've been eating regularly in the days leading up to the century, you've got about 2000 calories in storage in your liver and in your muscle cells (but this is different from what people talk about when they talk about burning muscle).

    If you burn about 500-600 calories per hour on the bicycle, you could go 3-4 hours without eating anything, and people who are experienced century riders can do this.

    Second, if you have a good breakfast of 500+ calories, you'll have an additional 500+ calories available to you, which should give you another hour.

    And there are experienced century riders who eat a decent breakfast, and then head out and ride a whole century on a couple bottles of sports drink and a granola bar. You do actually have enough in storage to do that sort of thing, but it seems to take some experience with riding long distances to be able to do it.

    That's why the recommendation is to consume about 250 calories per hour. You consume 250 calories, and your body accesses another 250-350 calories from what you've got in storage each hour. You can last a long time without bonking that way.

    They've also discovered that the stomach has trouble digesting much more than 250-300 calories at a time while you're exercising.

    As for food ... keep the gels for emergency use. Look for small tasty food that is going to provide you with a lot of calories. Oatmeal raisin cookies, for example, can run 250-300 calories. One of them per hour would be a good choice. I like to supplement my cookies with things like beef jerky, salted almonds, potato chips, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, pastries, etc. etc. ... whatever grabs my fancy at the time.

    And whatever you use as a sports drink can be counted in the calories too. I use HEED on the bicycle, but when I stop at a convenience store, I go for either orange pop or 100% pure orange juice. The orange pop gives me somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 calories if I recall correctly, plus it provides me with an extra 550 ml of liquid.

  5. #5
    Senior Member surfengine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    I like to supplement my cookies with things like beef jerky, salted almonds, potato chips, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, pastries, etc. etc.
    thats the kind of bicycle riding I can support!!

    anytime you're supplementing cookies...its a good thing.

  6. #6
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    Thank You All

    Thanx for the info! I feel better now. Since I'm not the fastest guy on the road, I usually spend just a few minutes at the rest stops and eat very little. I do this to get back on the road because I've always been worried that I would be the last guy on the road and that would not be good! I think that I've done about 7 centuries and on every one I felt light headed and weak at the end. I'm in better shape now than when I rode my first century and I quit smoking a year ago and that made a real big difference! I just want to enjoy ALL of the ride and not just the first 2/3rds.

    Thankx again to all who responded!

  7. #7
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ltmark View Post
    Since I'm not the fastest guy on the road, I usually spend just a few minutes at the rest stops and eat very little. I do this to get back on the road because I've always been worried that I would be the last guy on the road and that would not be good!
    Here's a tip .... get a Bento bag. When you stop, fill the Bento bag with snacks, and then nibble while you ride.

    If you're on a solo century, you can fill your Bento bag with oatmeal raisin cookies, or food of your choice and nibble as you go. I usually have 2 or 3 cookies in my Bento bag, and then a few more in my handlebar bag which I will put into the Bento bag when it gets empty.

    If you're on an organized century, you can fill your Bento bag with muffin pieces, cookies, fruit pieces, pretzels, or whatever they're handing out ... and off you go.

  8. #8
    Senior Member snaproll's Avatar
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    Other foods you can find at most convenience stores:

    Rice Krispie treats (good source of simple carbs, very light weight, won't melt)
    Fig Newtons (filling and good source of low-fat carbs)
    Cranberry juice (high calorie - about 130 per 8 oz - and high simple carb - 33g per 8 oz)

    You and I are pretty close to the same size; I'm 6'2" and 185. I burn approximately 1,000 cal / hour during a hard century (which for me means 6 hours or less) and I figure I've got about 1,500 cal on store if I've done a good job of eating prior to the ride, so I need to eat during the ride or I really do bonk.

    I've read that most of us can only consume 60 - 65 g of carbs / hour without suffering stomach problems but I seem to be able to take more than that with no ill effect. I prefer supplement carbs with Roctane GU gel and will take one every 45 minutes or hour on a hard ride. One of the things I like about GU is that it is a combination of sugars and is absorbed pretty quickly, so I feel the effect within just a few minutes of eating one. I tape four to my top tube for easy access during the ride. In hot weather I'll also drink at least 1/2 liter of water with a Nuun tablet which seems to help a great deal with cramps.

    Pre-ride diet is very important for me. If I top off the tank with good carbs, drink tons of water, and stay away from caffeine and alcohol the two days before a hard ride and it all goes much better.

    As always, YMMV.
    Fighting Time and Gravity

  9. #9
    Senior Member Richard Cranium's Avatar
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    I'd like to feel good at the end for once! I have plenty of miles in, so it's not a lack of training issue...it has to be lack of proper nutrition related!
    I doubt it. Your comments demonstrate the typical problems with assuming training theory can be applied to every real-world situation.

    First of all - in case you still don't understand - most of the energy needed for completing a Century comes from storage. And most of that storage was created in the days before the ride.

    Secondly, fatigue has never been a question of a single factor, such as blood glucose or other nutrients. So thinking that your "tapped out" feeling must be a result of caloric deficits is bogus.

    Finally, just because you have the capacity to expend 500-800 kcals- hardly means that you actually average anywhere near that rate for hours at a time. Your expenditure drops to nil - during coasting, rest stop etc......

    If I had to guess - and that's all it would be - I think you select a riding pace early in the Century that draws down too much of your peripheral glycogen stores. (leg glycogen) This results with the balance of your fat-burning leg-muscle tissue being called up to continue riding late in the Century.

    No amount of "freshly consumed" food will correct this loss of leg energy - at least not until substantial time and rest has occurred.

    Since you understand the need to "meter" your food on a per hour basis - you should apply the same rule to your efforts. Pace yourself correctly - and you'll find yourself finishing in better terms.
    Last edited by Richard Cranium; 07-15-09 at 08:25 AM.

  10. #10
    Senior Member ericm979's Avatar
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    If you do all your eating at rest stops it will be tough to get down 250 Cal/hr. Sports drink helps but unless you mix it really concentrated it won't provide 250 Cal/hr (no organized century I have been on has had stuff mixed like that, and few have used a sports drink that I could stand when mixed that concentrated).

    So you need to eat food, and you need to eat frequently. I put food in my jersey pockets and eat as I ride.

    One of the things that you improve with endurance training is the ability to utilize fat. We all have plenty of fat, even those of us under 10% body fat. The more fat you burn, the less liver and muscle glycogen you will need.

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