It's hard to break bad fueling habits if you don't even know they're problematic. That's why people repeat the same mistakes.
"A lot of cyclists form bad habits because they don't think about food," says Suzanne Girard Eberle, a sports dietitian and author of Endurance Sports Nutrition.
By recognizing your downfalls you can forge a routine that ensures optimum energy on every ride. Here are six common pitfalls and how to change them.
Some people aren't hungry in the morning. Others, says Eberle, pass on breakfast to trim calories. Neither is a good strategy, because undereating in the morning usually leads to increased calorie consumption later. Plus, eating breakfast replenishes your liver glycogen stores, which typically dip while you sleep. An ample supply of liver glycogen will stabilize your blood sugar as you ride to help keep your levels from spiking and prevent you from bonking.
Change it: If time is your problem, stock up on just-add-water breakfasts such as instant oatmeal. If solid foods seem unappealing in the morning, whip up a fruit-and-yogurt smoothie.
Experimenting at the Wrong Time
During a race, trying new foods and drinks usually spells disaster, but during training it's a great way to discover what fuels you best. "Training rides are prime opportunities to practice race-time eating and drinking strategies," says Eberle. Once you discover a winning formula, you'll approach your next big race or century ride with a fail-proof plan.
Change it: Test new foods on shorter rides before eating them on epics. Designate one day a week as "new foods day." You'll never discover your ideal fuel combos until you mix things up a bit.
Underfueling During Long Rides
Eating on the roll can be tricky. And drafting behind other riders can fool you into thinking you don't need to refuel. Eberle says cyclists often fail to take in enough energy to realize their potential during tough workouts or long rides.
Change it: Fill your bottle with a sports beverage rather than water and set your watch alarm to remind you to sip every 15 minutes. Make a game out of eating all the snacks you've stashed in your jersey: End the ride with uneaten food, and you lose.