AIDS Lifecycle - Ride to end AIDS

Nutrition & Hydration

Expert Nutrition and Hydration advice for endurance cyclists. Learn more

Nutrition & Hydration

Superior cycling ability comes from good training.  However, without good food choices and the correct timing of meals, your training and performance will suffer.  You need a fueling plan that includes the right balance of carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals, and the correct amount of fluids.

All of the information presented here should be applied during all of your training rides as well as during the actual Ride in June. Just like you have to train on different saddles, bikes, and shoes to find the right ones for you, you have to do the same with your fuel. Think of yourself as a car. If you want to keep driving it, you’ll need to put proper gas into it. You are no different. The important thing here is to find what works for you and then stick with it. You’ll probably have to experiment, and it’s very important that you do. 

You will burn approximately 30 calories per mile, or somewhere in the range of 3,000-5,000 during a day on the Ride, so you have to make sure you have them there to burn! Also, remember that these are general guidelines. The key is to find your own routine…you’ll learn how much you need to function and recover well. You’d be amazed at how much properly eating and drinking will make a difference. You’ll feel better, perform better, and enjoy everything more!


The day before you ride, stay away from caffeine and alcohol as much as possible. Caffeine inhibits the absorption of iron (a vital nutrient) by 50%.

Hydrate with water throughout the day.  Try to drink 3 or 4 bottles (700ml each).

Consider this: the next day, you want to MAINTAIN your hydration level on the ride, not have to build it up first!


You will use carbs stored from 2-3 days before your ride, so make sure they’re there!
Eat a good dinner the night before a ride and be sure to eat breakfast the day of the ride…ideally, you want to eat at least 3 hours before you start riding, but realistically, eating anytime before you ride is better than not doing it at all. 
Good suggestions:


  • Pasta (whole wheat is best)
  • Rice (brown is best)
  • Potatoes
  • Meat/tofu (or other protein)
  • Veggies
  • Fresh Fruit


  • Oatmeal is the best because it contains both carbs and water
  • Eggs
  • Pancakes
  • Yogurt and granola parfait
  • About 40 minutes before your ride starts, eat a banana or energy bar and drink 6-8 ozs water


Remember that every human being is about 70% water! You can use bottles or a combination of bottles and a hydration pack (good option for people who don’t drink enough). You should always have electrolyte replacement drink and water with you. You should drink ½ bottle of electrolyte drink and ½ bottle of water between stops (every 15 miles or so). Consistently sip your beverages rather than intermittently gulp them (about every 10 minutes). When you reach for your bottles, call out "hydrating!"  This will remind your neighbors to drink too. You should refill your bottles and/or pack every rest stop. A good rule of thumb is if you can’t remember the last time you took a sip, take a sip!


Make sure you that you squirrel away snacks in your pockets, CamelBack, and bike bags. Don’t wait for the first stop to start eating.  Eat one of your snacks within the first 40 minutes of riding, and then every 20 minutes thereafter. Consistently nibble your food, rather than intermittently gobble it. 

Good suggestions:

  • Energy bars (we are fortunate to have Clif Bars donated on the Ride, but you may also bring your own)
  • Trail mix
  • Bananas
  • Bagels
  • Fig bars
  • Peanut butter sandwiches

Try to eat the more complex things, such as bagels and peanut butter early. They take longer to break down. If you are beginning to bonk or need an extra boost to get up a hill (make sure you take it before you get on the hill!), use a gel shot, sports jelly beans, gummies, or something similar.  Basically, it’s a quick dose of carbs, mostly sugar. Keep a few of whatever you like on hand for emergency purposes.  Keep in mind that many of these products (not all—read the labels!) contain caffeine for a short brst of energy. Therefore, whichever you choose, make sure you take it with a lot of water.  Also, follow it with a substantial snack (like something listed above) since the shot will fizzle quickly.  

Recovery is very important; more than most people think.  Recovering well will mean the difference between being able to get up the next day to ride and not being able to move.
The first 60 minutes following your activity (riding) is known as the “glycogen window.”  This is the time period when your body will turn nutrients into muscle glycogen (stored energy from carbohydrates) up to 3 times faster than normal.  It is the time most crucial to your recovery.


Immediately after your activity, refuel yourself. A bottle of recovery drink (like Endurox, Gu, Cytosport, etc) is the best because they have the right ratio of carbs to protein (4:1). We don’t supply this on the Ride in June, so if you use it, bring it yourself! 

Other options:

  • regular electrolyte replacement drink
  • "Emergen-C"
  • instant breakfast drink
  • chocolate milk (we will have chocolate milk at dinner on the Ride).

Continue to drink electrolyte replacement drink and water throughout the evening. Before you go to bed, make sure your bottle is filled with water. Take a few sips every time you get up to use the bathroom (if you’re well-hydrated, it’ll be at least a couple of times).


If you prefer to recover using food instead of liquids, eat something high in carbs immediately after you get off your bike (within the glycogen window). 

Suggestions are:

  • granola
  • energy bars
  • brown bread
  • brown rice
  • bananas
  • juice
  • bagels

Within two hours after your ride, you should have a 500-1,000 calorie meal (the meals on the Ride will have this). You might need to eat twice to get that many calories, and that’s okay! Make sure your meal is made up of 65-70% carbs, 15 % protein, and 15-20% fat. This means having the salad, some extra pasta, adding salt to your meal, and having dessert (again, the meals on the Ride are balanced for these purposes).

Snack for the rest of the night, or at least for 4 hours from the time you get off your bike. Make sure to have a snack before bed.


  • Vitamin C is an important anti-oxidant that can help prevent muscle and immune system damage(food sources: broccoli, citrus fruit, parsley, peppers, potatoes, strawberries).
  • Vitamin E is an important anti-oxidant that improves circulation, relaxes leg cramps, and helps repair tissue (food sources: almonds, corn, egg yolk, nuts).
  • B-Complex Vitamin will help break down carbs, fats, and proteins (food sources: cereal, rice, nuts, eggs, meat, leafy greens).

Diffrent Examples of Food Groups


Complex Carbohydrates

  • Whole grain bread
  • Pasta
  • Vegetables
  • Brown Rice
  • Cereal
  • Low-fat dairy
  • Veggies (corn, peas, carrots, onion, beets, tomatoes, kale, mushrooms, peppers, eggplant, cabbage, broccoli)

Simple Carbohydrates

  • Fruit
  • Fruit juice
  • Candy
  • Pure sugar


  • Lean meats
  • Tofu/soy/TVP
  • Low-fat dairy
  • Fish
  • Beans

Unsaturated Fat

Yes, these foods are high in fat but are also nutrient-dense.

  • Olive oil
  • Nuts
  • Nut Butter
  • Avocado
  • Seeds