Fueling Like A Fool

One of the biggest struggles I have had throughout all of my athletic adventures has been fueling appropriately. It’s either been too much (ehem, LA) or too little (ehem, New York), and unfortunately I still don’t have it down yet. Thankfully, I have my trusty Coach now and as we are getting into longer rides, here was his early fueling advice:

For a 3 hour ride, you should be eating 200-250 calories/hour beginning about 15 minutes into the ride.  From a hydration standpoint, you should be drinking about 24oz. of fluid per hour.  Had the temperatures been over 80F, you would have had to increase that fluid intake to 30+oz./hour.  Play around with different calorie and fluid amounts on your long rides and runs to see what works best for your body.

With an almost four-hour/55+ mile ride on tap this weekend, I knew that I couldn’t wait any longer trying to practice and find my perfect fueling strategy. Some quick mental math indicated that for this ride, I should consume at 800 – 1,000 calories and drink about 96 oz. of fluid. 1,000 calories? What?! It seemed like an extraordinarily large amount to me.

I laid out some new fueling options I had shoved in my fuel box and even with all of that food, I was only around 600-700 calories. I thought that there was no way I would eat more than that on the ride. I grabbed one more pack of ClifBlocks and thought that should suffice. What an idiot.


I’m pretty sure Saturday’s ride was worthy of a new nickname. Perhaps, Butter Fingers? I ended up dropping the entire pack of ClifBlocks, turned around to get it, and dropped it again. I muttered a few expletives and said, “Forget it.” To add to my cycling shame, I’m still too much of a Fred to smoothly drink on my bike and I barely finished my entire bottle in the four hour ride – which includes dropping it once as well.

In addition to my inappropriately timed slippery fingers, I also was trying new types of food. I’ve never had something as solid as a ClifBar on a ride before, nor had I ever had a Stinger Waffle. Two hours into the ride when I tried the waffle, I thought to myself, “What the hell is this?” It’s like a cookie with a hardened Gu waffle on the inside – weird. But around three and a half hours, I gave it another try and you might as well told me it was one of these it tasted so good:

 Chicken Face’s Valentine’s Day Surprise: Sprinkles!

The pure deliciousness of the waffle was a sure sign that I was starving and not fueling appropriately. Needless to say, I have a lot of fueling practice to do: getting enough in to sustain my energy and, well, just holding on to the damn things.

What is your long ride/run fueling strategy? What’s your fuel of choice?

Happy Running!

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19 Responses to Fueling Like A Fool

  1. Meggie says:

    While long running – usually one gu every 5-6 miles. Jet Blackberry flavor.

    I don’t know how anyone bikes and does anything else. I’d be terrified of falling and crashing.

  2. Celia says:

    I really like the Vanilla Stinger Waffle but I just eat it as a snack. Only gels for me on runs.

    I like blackberry Gu, honey stingers, and hammer gels.

    However, I have got to learn how to fuel properly too!

  3. Monika says:

    I love food but while running or biking I can barely stand to put anything in my mouth. BUT.. I have to. On my long bike rides I’ve been bringing 2 bottles of water mixed with Ultralyte. Each serving has 100 calories so I have 200 calories there. I also bring a banana for another 100 calories. As I do with my long runs, I’ve been loading calories heavily for breakfast (600-800 calorie breakfast) pre-long ride so the 300 on the go seem to work for me up to 40 miles. I always use Gu on long runs since its the easiest, but since you can port other types of food on your bike Gu is the last thing I’d bring. I’ve tried the Stinger waffle and thought it was gross but kind of good. Might try it again some other time. When I pass 40 miles I’m tempted to just bring more bananas and bring larger bottles of Ultralyte. They seem the least offensive to me on the go. BTW my bike rides here always pass tons of cafes. I’m always tempted to pick up a burrito to tuck into the back of my bright orange jersey :)

  4. Colleen says:

    For long rides I do one bottle of perpetuem and one bottle of electrolyte drink. I have a timer that goes off every 10 minutes and I alternate drinking those when it goes off. Then I also have a flaskfull of hammer gel that I take a serving of every hour. That has worked for me, but if I’m going for longer than 3-4 hours, I would probably bring something like a powerbar (I got hande a peanut butter one during my Ironman and was in heaven!) on top of that. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to eating and drinking while you ride. I remember dropping my bottle during my first tri because I had never really ridden outside before! Just keep practicing! :)

    • PageWilliams says:

      Whoa – so many tips! What is perpetuem and how does it differ from an electrolyte? Also, what “flask” do you have of hammer gel, where do you store that and how does it differ from the other two fuels?

  5. I need to find a way to fuel correctly. I run halfs without any fuel. I need to figure something out for my marathon training.

  6. marlene says:

    I’ve been trying to practice with a bit of solid food on indoor rides, but I can’t imagine dealing with wrappers on chewing while riding OUTDOORS and not dying in the process! Good for you trying it out… now is the time to learn!

  7. Sarah says:

    When I trained for my marathon last year, I started eating dried dates. They have enough sugar to keep me going and they’re real food. My stomach gets upset if eat only Singers, etc from all the sugar. Those might be hard to eat while biking though…

  8. J says:

    I don’t know how to fuel property either! I have been working on taking GU with water during a run but its tough to drink and run. Plus i hate holding the water bottle for a long time. For biking I am totally in the dark – I don’t even know!

  9. katie says:

    fueling is SUCH a personal thing and so hard to figure out! I use perpetum on the bike because my stomach just really likes it. yum.

  10. Beth says:

    I like using peanutbutter sandwich crackers and shot blocks on the bike. The key for any kind of food is to open all the packages before you start so you’re not playing around with wrappers while trying to ride.

  11. Holly says:

    My biking fuel is a combo of Clif Roks and Clif Bloks. The Roks have protein in them and seem to help me feel a little “fuller” than just gels and bloks alone. For hydration, I have aero bars now so I have a bottle between the bars which helps me sip (through the straw) will cruising along. Before I got those last summer, I was just using my bottles and tried to drink on flats or if there was a signal light or something.

    My running fuel strategy just changed and I never got a chance to really test it out before getting injured, but it involves Clif Bloks or Honey Stinger Chews every 2 miles or so (just 1). I find that waiting until 5-6 miles to fuel causes my stomach to revolt. If I take small doses along the way, I spend less time getting acquainted with the porta potties and more time actually running.

  12. Melisande says:

    my boyfriend (who is a professional triathlete) loves gu chomps and gu energy gels, cliff bars, and puts cytomax in his water bottles. i never run/ride long enough to need more than water or the occasional lara bar, but he swears by the above!

  13. Kristi says:

    Nutrition is a tough call and as everyone says…its different for each person. Here is what works for me: For long rides I use First Endurance EFS in the Tart Lemon Lime flavor. I’ve experimented a lot and this is what my stomach tolerates best. (I also love the taste, which helps). I mix it pretty highly concentrated so I get almost 200 calories per 16 oz bottle (the biggest size that I can fit on my bike). For rides longer than 2 hours, I also use a front bottle between my aerobars (one with a straw – super easy to use). I try to take in around 16 oz. per hour of EFS – I don’t carry water on my bike, but will pick it up at aid stations in races for a few sips. I also take a GU (either Chocolate or Espresso) every 45 min. on rides longer than 2 hours. Finally, for long rides, I will also add some candy or salty potato chips to my bento box, just for a little treat. As an aside…I learned to drink, take GU and eat other foods on my trainer – it really just takes practice and before you know it you’ll be doing it on the road and it will be second nature. Good luck!

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  15. Nicole says:

    I was like you and refused to take in calories via liquid when I first started cycling because it seemed like a waste to drink them when I could be tasting delicious Stinger Waffles! However, I have since realized that since I need 200-250 cal/hour and I am also not very good at eating while riding, I have to drink most of my calories. I bought a wonderful flavorless pure carbohydrate mix called CarboPro and I mix it with Nuun tablets for electrolytes. I’ve had CarboPro recommended to me by too many people to count and although I was skeptical about a boring flavorless drink, it really is a lifesaver. I still eat a couple Stinger Waffles but on a 4 hour ride I’ll get 600 calories from CarboPro and the rest from solids. Just keep trying new things and see w hat works for you!

    I also just got a water bottle holder that goes between my aero bars that I plan to use during the race to make fueling much easier. I also have a hard time drinking enough on the bike.

  16. Rachel says:

    oh gosh, fueling is like the 4th sport of triathlon, and definitely one i need to work on! i definitely under fuel on bike rides because i find myself thinking in running terms for how much i need. i actually just touched on this topic in a review for a new Gu drink that has both carbs & electrolytes and is calorie-dense (aka perfect for me on long rides!). i’ll most likely supplement this drink with gels and solids like waffles (aren’t they amazing!?) and bars that have some fat/protein. i think part of my problem is just forgetting to fuel, or not wanting to interrupt my ride…so i’m thinking setting a timer is a good way to go. looking forward to hearing about how this develops for you.

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