When approaching a century ride, or any long ride for that matter, it is very important to pay close attention to your on-bike nutrition. It is all too easy to fall into the bad habit of not eating much while you are riding a century and this almost always leads to a very rough last few hours. The secret is to train yourself for on the bike nutrition, this will allow you to become comfortable with eating on the bike and more aware of what foods work for you.
Here is a general guide to help you finish your next century or long ride with energy to spare:
Step#1 taking your body style into account
The first thing to consider is your body type. In the event that you are a small framed person you will not have to take in as many calories as a heavy set 6.3 man. Once you acknowledge your body style you will be able to determine if you should be on the low or high end of the following calorie intake.
Step#2 Calorie Intake
On average, an adult man will burn between 650-900 calories an hour while cycling. The exact calories burned will change based on body style and speed. Most century rides are completed at an endurance pace or 70% of max heart rate. At this speed more calories are burned so it is good to focus on the higher end of the calorie window unless you are a smaller framed person.
In order to keep energy stores high, I find it is necessary to consume on average, 65% of your calories burned per hour. For a 175 pound man riding at an endurance pace, the calorie intake should be around 585 per hour. The good news for most people is that you can and should eat more on your rides. The hard part is training yourself to consume as much as is needed. 585 calories roughly works out to 1 bottle of an energy drink, 1 gel pack, a few gel blocks and one energy bar!
Step#3 Planning the Feast
Now that you have a guide of how many calories you should be taking in during your ride, you need to think about how to do it. The first thing is to have a good breakfast that will provide you a good amount of energy to kick the ride off with, consider a bowl of cracked wheat or oatmeal with dried fruits and almond milk. Second, pack up with the food you think you will need. A simple way to plan what to place in your jersey pocket is to take your estimated ride time and deduct 2hrs then multiply the suggested items above by the remaining hrs, this will give you a good starting point. Take into consideration that you will have to refill your bottles a few times along the way, if you are doing a century ride this is what the aid stations are for!
Most people find their bodies respond well to having some regular food around the half way point of a century ride. I always pack a cyclist lunch if I can. Once again, practice your on bike nutrition during training; there is nothing wrong with packing a small healthy sandwich next time you go out on a longer ride. Most people will find that having a mid-ride treat is a good step towards having a great ride. I would suggest that you eat your treat and any other heavier food items before the 3.5 hour point, after this time on the bike foods become a little harder to digest.