Today’s question concerns nutrition requirements for longer road rides, including hydration and any ideas to prevent cramping…

Hey there, just in need of some quick advice. Getting into longer climbing rides on the road, 3 hours plus at the moment, and want to go further. But at about the 3 1/2 hour mark I start cramping up in my quads. I can get up hills ok but low resistance pedaling kills and when I’m done legs cramps more when standing still.

I’m currently using 2 500ml bidons [water bottles] of powdered Gatorade and eating a gel or part of an energy bar every 45mins. I’m looking at getting something like the NUUN you reviewed, and bigger bottles. Although don’t know if I should be finding something to add more carbs (glucose is what I need right?) with the electrolytes also.

Your help would be great as the more I try and look into all this the more I get confused/sidetrack! Top site by the way, very helpful.

Aussie Alan

G’day mate,

Let’s start with a quick word on cramping. Since it’s happening after climbs on these longer rides, it could be more of a muscular endurance issue rather than anything related to electrolytes and nutrition/hydration. So hopefully with more training, the cramping will lessen. At least, that’s what helped me the most.

Also, you mention standing still… perhaps you need more easy spinning before you step off the bike. I know people that sprint hard on the way home and jump off their bike quickly, but I personally prefer (and always recommend) easy spinning for 5-15 minutes at the end of each ride.

Or… the cramping could be from lack of electrolytes… or something else! (That’s why cramping sucks so bad! It’s complicated!)

To stay hydrated, Nuun would be great if you are still planning to eat during the ride. Surpassing three hours, you definitely want calories from something. Gatorade isn’t exactly high in calories either, so even if you stick with that, you’ll need to stock up on energy bars.

If you’re looking at sports drinks, I wrote a short article on sports drinks for 3 hour rides. And yes, get some bigger bottles! For three hours in the saddle, I’d carry a couple 24oz bottles rather than 16oz.

When you get to rides 4 hours and longer, it’s very important to eat early and often. In my case, I don’t need to eat too much for a three hour ride (perhaps an energy bar shortly after the two hour mark,) but for longer rides, I had to start eating by the 45 minute mark and take in calories consistently. And that was when I was getting calories from my drink as well. If you go with water or Nuun on a 4 hour ride, I’d start eating ~30 minutes into the ride (and consume 200-300 calories per hour.)

You’ll need to experiment for best results as everyone seems to have different reactions to type and quantity of food.

If you follow my advice in my two eating (pre- and post-ride eating, and during-ride eating) articles, and tweak it based on your personal testing, you should be good. You’re on the right track so far, so keep it up!

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1 Comment
  1. hi my name samir liane from lebanon im champion road cycling i read all how i eat before and after the race or training tank you tomuch for you .

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