Participating to a big cycling event need preparation, both mentally and physically. Such an event will place a fair amount of stress on your body, but many of the participants consider it live changing and one very rewarding finally. If you decided to accept the challenge, this is what you should be prepared for:
You’ll use up energy
No, really...This main source of energy for intense exercise is carbohydrates and therefore this is the nutrient you need to pay close attention to. Embark on a casual 20-miler, and you’ll be fine — no snacks necessary. But once you’ve surpassed two hours of cycling, it’s recommended that you refuel. And if you’re out there for 4–5 hours, nutrition requirements become serious. In addition to water and electrolyte-laced beverages, you’ll want to eat simple, easily-digestible carbs like energy gels to avoid the dreaded bonk.
You could Bonk (in the bad way)
To avoid bonking you should be eating something small every 20-30 minutes from about 60-75 minutes into the event. The signs of bonking include dizziness, shaking, feelings of extreme fatigue or weakness, nausea and blurred vision. Therefore, if you notice any of these, be sure to take on some fast digesting carbohydrates as soon as you can – for example via an energy gel.
You’ll lose fluid
Sweating intensely make you rapidly lose fluid and due to an increase in sweat rate and these fluids must be replaced. Set a timer to remind yourself and drink 500 – 1 liter per hour. If the weather is hot, you should drink more because of the higher sweat rate.
You sweat out useful electrolytes
This is the time when salt is really what you need. When you sweat you not only lose fluid, but you also lose key electrolytes. Consider replacing electrolyte losses using an electrolyte tab or isotonic drink. Isotonic drinks also contain carbohydrate so are great for providing fuel as well. You could also include a little bit of salty food into your fueling strategy to help replace sodium losses. Spreads like marmite and peanut butter are great options and these can also be a very welcomed alternative to lots of sweet and sugary carbohydrate-based foods.
You might get cramp
Cramps are involuntary muscle spasms that can make pedaling momentarily impossible, because of their intensity. So what causes muscle cramps? The scientific community doesn't have a definitive answer, either. There are theories on what causes cramping, but no certainties. The current theories on muscle cramping include muscular fatigue, low electrolyte levels (sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, magnesium), hyper-hydration, dehydration and personal susceptibility. Solutions? One is to make sure you stay properly hydrated and replace lost electrolytes. Secondly, but more important, actually, consider taking a magnesium supplement before your event. Magnesium has been found to regulate muscle contraction. Third, if you do experience cramp, stretching will bring immediate relief.