How to refuel in ultra distance gravel?
Enjoying a gravel ride also means knowing how to listen to your body! Giving it the necessary fuel is therefore essential to avoid the famous hunger pangs. Discover our complete guide on nutrition and hydration during a gravel ride and during the effort.
Hydration in gravel: a key concept neglected?
Remember this basic principle. Your body is an engine that needs fuel. To avoid running out of fuel, it is better to prevent than to cure!
Hydration in gravel is essential. It must become a habit rather than a “constraint”.
I advise you to drink small sips but very regularly. Advising you a quantity is tricky because it depends on a lot of internal and external factors.
👉 Indeed, depending on the intensity of the effort, the outside temperature, your sweating,… We do not all have the same needs!
But it is considered that 500ml of water per hour of effort is a fair balance to avoid dehydration.
At the beginning, drinking such a quantity may not be natural. Force yourself to take small sips at set times.
As far as the drink is concerned, initially water will do the trick. There is no need to buy isotonic or carbohydrate drinks to start gravelling. If you really want to keep a sweet note, syrup can be added in small quantities (especially to remove the smell of some new cans).
In winter, and if you have an insulated canister, opt for a hot drink like an infusion! This allows the body to maintain a proper temperature more easily (and therefore use less energy).
💡 The trick: program alerts on your GPS meter! Every 10′ for example, a beep can sound to remind you to drink.
What to eat during a gravel ride?
Concerning solid food, it all depends on what your body tolerates or not as well as your preferences.
Some will only eat fruit pastes while others will need a richer and more varied diet.
Also, it all depends on what you eat before you go out cycling.
Personally, after a hearty breakfast, I know I can go 2 or 3 hours without eating anything but water.
But if you go out on an empty stomach or almost, it changes the situation ;).
We must also differentiate our nutrition according to the duration and intensity of the gravel ride.
A short and intense ride of one hour should be possible without any worries using the energy resources in reserve.
Beyond that, you will have to start thinking about your energy plan. A solid part (bars, gels,…) and a liquid part (carbohydrates). On even longer rides (half day), think about varying your rations by alternating sweet and salty for example.
Make sure you eat early enough in the run to avoid hunger pangs. It is often recommended to eat fast sugars (fast carbohydrates) to quickly recharge the batteries.
The specificities of bikepacking and ultra-distance
Today, gravel is also about longer and longer events. Eating well will depend on your objectives:
If you are aiming for the time: the objective is to lose as little time as possible. And eating can quickly make you lose a few precious seconds / minutes. That’s why, on a race like 300 or 350km, you should avoid any nutritional stop like a bakery break. It is better to plan ahead according to your preferences.
The banana taped to the aerobars 🍌.
On longer events, there are two options:
- At the beginning of the day, you build up as many reserves as possible for the next few hours of cycling.
- You take nutrition breaks at set times (for example every 4 hours).
If your objective is above all to finish the event, the time takes second place. You should not hesitate to “lose” time in order to gain time later on.
Here again, the stops should mark mental “stages”. For example, a nutrition break every 50km to refuel.
Preparing your body to eat less: a good idea?
In view of certain bikepacking events, many of us want to reduce the feeling of hunger and work on eating less during training.
The principle is simple: if all year long, you get your body used to eating a fruit paste every 30 minutes, on the D-day, the protocol should remain the same.
On the other hand, if the athlete gets his body used to pushing back the feeling of hunger, it is always a gain once in the race.
Nevertheless, this requires a perfect knowledge of oneself. I do not recommend it if you are a beginner in the discipline.
Nutrition brands for gravel
Special sport nutrition for effort exists since many years but I keep it exclusively for the competitions. Too sweet, bad digestion,… In short, the disadvantages were multiple. But today, there are several natural alternatives that are healthy, tasty but also efficient for the long rides. No more long lists of sweeteners and pompous marketing.
Among them is Coup D’Barre, a young belgian brand who seduced us with their natural cereal bars. This is why Gravel Cup decided to partner with them for our upcoming events.
Written by Gravel Passion
Translated by Gravel Cup