You will need to plan for your nutrition and hydration requirements on the road. This will depend greatly on the area in which you will be touring.
As I am touring through Asia and Australia, the requirements for each area will vary significantly. For example, Asia is more densly populated than Australia which means I will be carrying less food with me and I probably won’t have to prepare many meals for myself for the first section of the trip. When I arrive in Australia, particularly while cycling in the north-central areas, I will need to carry more food and significantly more water.
Depending on your size and metabolism you will be burning 500-600 Calories per hour while cycling at a moderate pace. To add that fuel your body, you would need to consume roughly five bananas per hour – that’s quite a lot of bananas – and that is on top of your normal (maintenance) calorie intake.
For main meals during your trip, follow this principle: breakfast like a queen, lunch like a princess, and dinner like a pauper.
- Your biggest meal of the day needs to be breakfast, at least one hour before you hit the road as digestion requires additional oxygen consumption by the digestive organs, leaving less for the rest of your body.
- Take a good break in the middle of the day to eat lunch and then rest for an hour to allow for digestion.
- In the evening, consume a smaller meal and avoid that bloated feeling. If you go to bed with a really full stomach you won’t rest properly, and calories consumed before sleep tend to go to fat formation rather than to replenishing the muscles.
You need to maintain a good level of glycogen (energy) in your sytem. If you haven’t heard of it before, the Glycemic Index for foods is very useful tool for working out how to maintain energy. At breakfast time, try to consume foods that are high in complex carbohydrates, e.g. porridge which is high in fibre, easy to digest, and contain lots of vitamin B. For lunch and dinner, a small amount of protein combined with carbohydrates and lots of vegetables will keep you healthy and in good shape for your journey.
On the road snacks:
- Fresh fruit, especially bananas for their potassium and B-group vitamins, and oranges for vitamin C.
- Trail mix or “scroggin” made up of dried fruits, seeds and nuts (especially almonds, walnuts, pecans, and cashews). Add a few jelly-beans or other glucose based sweets for a treat.
- Fruit cake is especially good, some sugar for a quick energy boost, and dried fruit/nuts for slower energy release – a piece every 20km kept me going along quite nicely.
You must stay well hydrated at all times. Even moderate dehydration will reduce your ability to cycle, and will lessen your enjoyment of the experience.
Plain water is the best (and in my book, only) way to rehydrate. ‘Sports’ drinks are high in empty calories, and to get the most from those added electrolytes you need to consume a lot of water on top of the sports drink to get any benefit. You are much better off getting sugars and salts from natural sources to maintain your electrolyte balance, and giving your body the water it needs from actual water.
If you are cycling in very hot/humid conditions for days on end, drinking a lot of water and sweating, it is possible that you might need an electrolyte supplement every few days. In this situation, I use Gastrolyte (a pharmacy sold supplement used mostly to assist in rehydration for sufferers of gastroenteritis) – one tablet in a big bottle of water is sufficient.
Tip: to add a bit of flavour to your water, you can add a squeeze of fresh citrus (lemon, lime, orange) to your bottle. It makes for quite a refreshing drink on the road.
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