8 simple (not-too-scientific) ways to fuel long bike rides


Want to start cycling or go further, but not sure what to eat? No fear! Nutrition expert, James Vickers, gives his top tips for fuelling long bike rides


If you are thinking of getting into cycling, just do it. It is glorious. For those starting out, it’s always best to start small and ease into it over time. But as you do venture further and further, it is important to think about your for fuelling longer bike rides.

If you are already a keen cyclist, I’m sure fuelling your long rides is nothing new. Or if you are like me, the main question is: where shall we stop for coffee and cake (for nutritional purposes of course!)?  

Either way, nutrition should not be forgotten and quite often the advice is quite scientific. So, if you are new to the world of cycling or just want to check you are thinking correctly about your nutrition, here are some simple tips to help you out, especially if you're looking to fuel long bike rides.  

First off, our bodies will need a top up of energy every 60-90 minutes, the rest of the time, a good balanced diet will be more than enough. There are plenty of products to suck you in like gels, powders, bars etc but let’s kick off with the basics... 


Great news, you can have more! But let’s not go crazy, it is easy to go over and above what your body needs. If you have an activity tracker or cycle computer that will tell you, roughly, how many calories you burn during your ride, that is a great starting point.

That will give you an indication of how many calories you will need to add to your diet throughout the day to fuel long bike rides. Try to get your calories from a variety of food sources to maintain a balanced diet and support the body with fuel, recovery, and different functions. 



Our bodies use carbohydrate as the primary energy source. Too much will be stored as fat, but we want our muscle stores to be full for cycling. Roughly throughout the day you will be looking for 5-9g per kilogram of body weight.

If you are going to be riding a few times a week you might need to increase slightly. To save you from working out the maths and weighing out your carbs, a good way of getting this amount is about 5-6 fist-sized portions of wholegrains, fruit, or vegetables with each meal or as a snack.

Think about oats with breakfast, fruit as snacks and mixed grains and rice as part of your evening meal.

Try not to have too many sugary carbohydrates throughout the day as this can cause peaks and troughs in energy levels, a key factor when preparing your body to fuel long bike rides. 

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Recovery is a big thing for cycling, especially when you want to go on multiple rides throughout the week. Although you won’t be cycling to build big muscles, you will need adequate protein to repair your muscles and help with many other functions in the body.

Plus, protein can help you feel full to help regulate your appetite. Try to aim for lean sources of protein as well as plant-based sources 


As part of your diet, it is important to get the right fats to support your body, try to look towards unsaturated fats found in nuts, seeds, fish, and oils. Dietary fat benefits include brain function, lubricating joints and reducing inflammation. 

Eat before, during and after

Before you hit the road, try to time your pre-ride meal to about 90 minutes prior and try to have a low-fat carbohydrate-based meal with some lean protein. During your longer rides you might want to take some snacks with you to help keep your energy levels maintained for the later stages of your ride.

Somewhere between 30g-60g of carbohydrates should be sufficient to fuel long bike rides but play around with the amount you take as you don’t want to be uncomfortable on the bike.

Something easy to take with you like a flapjack, energy bars or even something in your drink to keep you going like orange juice can be enough.

If you are eating sufficiently throughout each day, you will probably be just fine on a 60–90-minute ride of a moderate pace but for longer more intense rides, you might benefit from topping up your carbohydrate stores throughout your ride. 

Stay hydrated 

Your drink is very important to keep you hydrated throughout your ride. You will lose about 0.5-1 litre of fluid per hour but the best way to find out how much fluid you lose is to weigh yourself before and after your ride, obviously considering anything you have eaten or drunk during your ride. 

Don't forget the recovery

After your ride? Refuelling and recovery is key. You want to be able to go out again later in the week so about 1g of carbohydrate per kg of body weight is ideal for refuelling. Combining this with some protein (about 10-15g) will help with recovery. 

Most of all, enjoy it!

The one person who will know best is you. You will know how you feel on the bike so assess your performance, play around with how you eat and drink. You will be able to see a difference in performance based on how well you have eaten throughout the day and week prior to your ride.

Most of all, enjoy the ride.

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