How to fuel for a winter ride
Fueling for a winter ride can be sometimes difficult, but it doesn't have to. Here are a few tips that can help you avoid the feared 'bonk'.
This is an area it's easy to neglect in the winter, as the natural reminder of summer warmth and dry air isn't around to prompt you to drink often. It is, however, just as important to stay well hydrated in the colder months.
Dehydration has a negative effect on your performance, recovery rate, and can be seriously bad for your health, all of which are compelling reasons to pack that extra bottle on your winter rides.
As with any other time, drinking little and often is generally the best method, as you keep your fluid intake steady and avoid discomfort from cycling with a bloated stomach. Waiting until your thirst prompts you to take a drink is to be avoided, as by that point your body is already suffering, and you still have to wait for anything you then drink to 'take effect'.
You should be aiming to consume approximately 3/4 of your bidon per hour, and if preferred, you can also use this consumption to meet your quote of carbs.
If anything you may find yourself getting through more calories on those cold / wind-resisted winter rides, so maintaining your carb intake throughout the ride can be an additional challenge when the temperature drops.
You should be aiming for approximately 40 to 80 grams of carbohydrates per hour. This is the equivalent of a large banana, a carb sachet in your bidon, and an energy gel.
As with drinking, little and often is best, for the same reasons. Even if you're not yet feeling hungry, you may have used-up all of your readily-available energy calories and be at risk of your body eating into your hard-earned muscle cells to make up the shortfall.
Unfortunately, it can be more difficult to facilitate your feeds on winder rides, thanks to full-finger gloves / shivering fingers, waterproofs covering your jersey pockets and an unwillingness to pull over (and risk cooling down) to open energy bars etc safely.
Some simple pre-ride hacks can help offset some of these issues, such as combining an energy sachet with your electrolytes drink or water, pre-opening energy bars before you set off (they'll stay fresh out in the cold for a few hours), and pre-planning feed-stops in sheltered areas (bus stops, village high streets etc).
Once you've finished your ride, there's still one more nutritional hurdle to get over. Hunger.
Whilst you will no doubt have burned more than enough calories to cover those taken in during the ride, your hunger will soon kick in once you cool down. It's important to try and eat a healthy meal as soon as possible after your ride, both to provide the nutrition your body needs to start its recovery, and to ensure you don't end up grazing on 'empty calories' for the rest of the day.
This can be something as simple as eggs on toast, but if you can plan ahead and pre-make a meal of fresh, whole ingredients, you can hit even more of the nutritional targets you should be aiming for. Lean proteins (such as chicken, eggs, fish) and low Glycemic Index carbs (such as sweet potatoes and brown rice) are ideal ingredients.
Anything you can make in advance (soups, stews etc) and freeze, ready to leave out defrosting whilst you ride and heat up whilst you stretch / shower, could be a game-changer for your post-ride recovery performance.
But if nothing else, just try and eat something wholesome and substantial, you've earned it!