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Training & Nutrition Learn how to develop a training schedule that's good for you. What should you eat and drink on your ride? Learn everything you need to know about training and nutrition here.

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Old 07-06-12, 02:01 PM   #1
Yen
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Electrolyte drink question

On rides longer than 2 hours, I've had only water in my bottles and I eat Shot Bloks or similar products while riding; at rest stops I might eat 1/2 a banana and/or food bar (favorite is Trader Joe's "This Fig Walked into a Bar", or the apple version) depending on how I feel and what I've eaten so far. These have been fine for me at moderate paces in moderate temperatures, but I tend to run out of steam on the second half of group rides approaching 50 miles or longer --- which I've blamed on my being off the bike for all of 2011 and having not enough base miles this year. I'm working on building my aerobic and muscle endurance, and I'm wondering if I need to have a sports/electrolyte drink in one of the bottles on longer rides, especially group rides that are not self-paced when temps are warm.

So, my question isn't how but when do I drink it? Do I alternate between the water and electrolyte drink for the duration of the ride? Or, do I switch to the electrolyte drink in the second half of the ride, and drink just water w/food at rest stops?

Do you go by how you feel, or do you schedule your intake of these drinks at specific points in the ride?
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Old 07-06-12, 02:11 PM   #2
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Opinions differ but in my view, if you are drinking water and eating food you are doing the right thing. There is nothing in the drinks that you won't get from other sources. I might recommend electrolyte replacement if you were doing > 4 hours in high temperatures, but not otherwise. It's mostly hype.

Try them if you like, but my guess is that your first thought was correct. You run out of steam because you're tired, and are still building endurance.
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Old 07-06-12, 02:42 PM   #3
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Thank you for your reply. The main reason I started thinking about doing this is because the stronger (endurance-wise) riders in our group do carry an energy drink on rides, and one of them recently urged me to do so. However, I don't want to just follow the herd and carry a drink because they said so; on the other hand I don't want to struggle due to my own poor choices and stubbornness to do this my own way.

My husband got a pack of HDX Hydration Mix only 25 calories (so I'd need to otherwise consume more calories) that we plan to try soon.
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Old 07-07-12, 07:46 PM   #4
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I'll usually alternate, drinking the juice one time and water the next. It's also possible to drink, say, 3 swallows of goo followed by 3 swallows of water (from the other bottle). The latter options lets you rinse your mouth, and may promote better dental health by diluting the citric acid most drinks add. Some people dilute electrolyte drinks by 50% and put that in both bottles, but it tastes ghastly to me.

If you're slowing toward the end of a 50 mile ride, though, you may need some Xade for sugar and energy. After a couple of hours you've probably burned up most of the glycogen stored in your muscles, so you're limited by how quickly your body can pull sugar out of fat and dump that into your bloodstream.
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Old 07-07-12, 09:29 PM   #5
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I'm an advocate of completely separating the Big Three for long, tough rides: food, hydration, and electrolytes. Why? Because depending on the situation, a rider needs them in different proportions. So I'll always have a bottle or Camelbak of plain water, a bottle with very concentrated liquid food, and a separate source of electrolytes. I might also have some gel and some fig or Clif bars and a baggie of food powder. Each rider has to experiment and find what's right for them. I think it's wonderful that we are all different.

So the reason they carry energy drinks is that liquid food gets into the bloodstream fastest. Maltodextrin is the fastest. Look for stuff with that instead of sugars. It's all about getting it across the stomach wall and into the blood pronto, to the tune of 250-300 cal/hr. So you can immediately see that ordinary sports drinks don't even touch it.

OTOH, figure out your calories. If you're doing the calories, then it's not that, it's just developing endurance. Also what you'll see is that you may be working further up your aerobic curve than other folks and thus burning more glycogen than they do. As you get stronger, your effort will decrease, which means you should focus on getting stronger - raising your wattage at LT. Also focus on conserving. On a group climb, I might drop off the pace a little and then get them back on the descent. Stay out of the wind on the flat. Stay 6" off your wheel and a little to one side. If you come to the front, give it 10 strokes and pull over.

Edit: I should mention what my wife does. We both use 24 oz. bottles for water and then liter Zefal Magnum bottles for food drink mix. For a 3-4 hour ride, she puts in 2 bottles of Ensure Plus (700 cal.) and fills the bottle with water. Great stuff, quick stomach emptying, everything you need, and really easy and low tech. Almost every large grocery store has it, sometimes store brand, just as good. Easy to carry a bottle or two along for longer rides. 4 bottles plus other stuff will easily get you a 200k.

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Old 07-07-12, 09:36 PM   #6
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Just avoid the drinks with high-fructose corn syrup... Regardless of the positive spin the Corn Refiner's association tries to put on it, it's NOT natural and NOT healthy...

I'm diabetic, so I get the Powerade Zero - no sugars... I mix mine 1/2 and 1/2 with water when doing long, hot rides (anything more than 3 hours of sweating) and that's all I drink is the 50/50 mix.

I also like bananas when riding - but I have to have no more than 1/2 at a time or my blood glucose spikes quite high, even when cycling. Having little-to-no insulin isn't a great thing when you're a foodie =)
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