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Thomson Bike Tours: Nutrition For Mountain Rides
On a typical Thomson Bike Tour trip, riders can climb 2 or 3 cols in one day, so proper nutrition is key to enjoying cycling in the mountains. TBT’s Andrew Ward looks at the results of years of research by Hammer Nutrition and its relevance to performance cyclists riding in the mountains on a Thomson Bike Tour trip.

– Special Travel Feature By Andrew Ward of Thomson Bike Tours –

Nutritional tips for riding in the mountains

The ever-present Thomson Bike Tour support to help you finish your cycle challenge

The distances and the demands of riding in challenging terrain means that special attention should be paid to, amongst other things, fuelling your body. On a typical Thomson Bike Tour trip, riders can climb 2 or 3 cols in one day. Proper nutrition i.e. energy, recovery and hydration is key to the enjoying your cycling in the mountains. In this article we take a look at the results of many years of research by Hammer nutrition and its relevance to performance cyclists riding in the mountains on a Thomson Bike Tour trip.

Nutrition strategies are important on a climb like the Stelvio (15.1 miles, 9049 feet)

Replacement vs. Replenishment Theory

Approaching the top of Col de La Bonette – nearly 75 miles into Day 6 of the Trans-Alpine Challenge

Hammer Nutrition determined the following ranges as ideal for most athletes the majority of the time for maintaining optimum cycling performance:

Fluids: 20-25 ounces hourly (560 grammes – 710 grammes)
• Sodium chloride (salt): 300-600 mg hourly
• Calories: 240-280 calories hourly (1 kJ – 1.17 kJ)

There are some basic principals that are useful in organising a nutritional plan and can be summarised as follows:
• Performance cyclists cannot replace everything we expend during exercise, but we can keep ourselves going all day long if we replenish appropriately.

• Replenishment is supplying the body with what it can absorb and utilize. Using absorption/utilization factors instead of expenditure parameter gives us practical guidelines for refuelling.

• Not only is the “replace your entire expenditure” strategy (e.g., 800 cal/hr) physiologically poor, it is costly and unnecessary.

• As a rule of thumb, calorie/ water/electrolyte intake will run approximately one-third of expenditure during endurance exercise.

• Over-consumption maladies include a variety of Gastro-Intestinal and muscle system problems that could impair performance.

Energy Requirements
Steve Born of Hammer Nutrition suggests some simple strategies for fuelling the body for a Thomson Bike Tour trip:
• During a Thomson Bike Tour, it is not unusual to expend between 600-900 cal/hr. The limiting factor in fuel replenishment is gastric emptying and liver metabolism of carbohydrates. For most performance cyclists, this is in the 240-280 cal/hr range, and this, by and large, sets the limit of caloric intake. If you consume more than that, you will only get stomach issues.

• Fuelling and supplementation strategies can increase your fats-to-fuels conversion capability.

• For a cycle ride of up to two to three hours it is possible to rely on carbohydrates alone for fuel. Anything longer, and add some protein to your fuel, or your body will begin to digest its own muscle tissue for energy.

• Use complex carbohydrates as your principal source of energy for your fuel. Your body cannot absorb adequate calories in the form of simple sugars. Also, simple sugars are a poor fuel source as they cause energy spikes and crashes.

The support vans are well-stocked to help you with your nutritional requirements

It is fundamental to consume water – dehydration will severely impair performance; however, excess water intake is probably more common and can cause problems. Overloading with water can lead to a variety of issues such as bloating, and in extreme cases, water intoxication, which can be lethal.

So what are the recommendations by Steve Born of Hammer nutrition for a typical ride in the mountains?
• For the majority of cyclists, an intake of roughly one water bottle per hour (21-24 oz; 0.6-0.7 Litres) will serve. Lighter weight athletes may not need that much, while some larger athletes on a hot day might need to go higher.

• If you end a long ride with up to a 2% weight loss, you’re okay. More than 3% and you’re into noticeable dehydration. No loss, or worse yet, weight gain, would indicate over-hydration.

Appropriate fluid intake in necessary to maintain hydration for a ride in the mountains

A ride in the mountains puts stress on your muscles and cardiovascular system. So, when you’ve finished, you need to replenish the depleted body with the nutrition it needs. You need to supply your body with all of the necessary nutrients so that it has the raw materials to reconstruct muscle, repair tissues, and replace energy sources and other nutrients. Effective recovery addresses three general areas: (1) carbohydrates for energy re-supply, (2) protein for muscle repair and rebuilding, and (3) vitamins & minerals for micronutrient replenishment. The main principals for recovery, according to Steve Born, are as follows:
• Timing is crucial to get the maximum benefit for the above physiological work. Shortly after you finish your ride, you have a brief period during which your body absorbs and metabolizes nutrients most efficiently: within 30 to 60 minutes after the ride is optimal.

• In general, you want to get about 0.35 – 0.71 oz. (10-20 grams) of protein and 1.06 – 2.12 oz .(30-60 grams) of complex carbohydrates into your body.

• A ride in the mountains greatly increases your oxygen consumption and metabolism; therefore it is desirable to incorporate a comprehensive range of antioxidants into your recovery plan.

• Re-hydration time is important too. A recovery drink will provide the proper balance of carbohydrate and protein, along with plenty of fluid to wash down your recovery supplements.

TBT Riders using the support vans in the mountains

We hope the advice contained in this article will help anyone contemplating doing a Thomson Bike Tour ride prepare their nutritional strategies and enjoy their time while they are riding in the mountains with us. For more information on Thomson Bike Tour rides consult:

More information on Hammer Nutritional products can be found on

For more information on how to participate in our legendary European rides consult for further details.


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