A century ride is a big achievement for cyclists of any level. After all, riding for 100 miles is no small feat.
To accomplish such a ride, you must train hard to gain the fitness and ability required to pedal a bike for so long. The time required to complete 100 miles will vary based on terrain, weather conditions and training. Trained cyclists can expect to take 4.5 hours or less, while amateur cyclists could be pedaling for more than 7. Completing a century goes beyond fitness: It requires a focus on fueling the body to sustain hours of physical activity.
Sports nutrition guidelines advise athletes to consume roughly 45–60 grams of carbohydrates per hour of endurance activity along with 10 grams of protein per hour for events lasting longer than 3 continuous hours. Hydration needs are more conditional and individual, but can generally be met by taking several sips of water or electrolyte beverage every 15 minutes throughout your activity.
Following those guidelines is roughly equal to consuming these combinations per hour:
- 1 fruit squeeze pack + 1 maple bacon rice cake (SkratchLabs)
- 2 sport gels + 1 ounce beef jerky
- 1 peanut butter, banana & jelly sandwich
- 2 fig ‘cookies’ + 1 chocolate milk box
- Dark chocolate almond plant-based PowerBar + 1 banana
- 25 gummie bears + 1/2 turkey sandwich
FUELING TIPS FOR 100 MILES
Here are tips from a sports dietitian on how to fuel your century ride.
On a ride of this epic duration, it is more important to eat when you can and what your body and taste buds will tolerate. Nobody wants to eat three sport gels an hour for 7 hours. Experimenting with simple-to-digest but whole foods (PBJs, salted roast potatoes or rice cakes) will help deliver more balanced nutrition without reaching food fatigue.
Endurance events are best fueled with a mix of simple carbohydrates and complex nutrient sources. This helps balance the need for immediate and sustained energy while keeping hunger levels in check for such a long event. Aim to alternate simple carbohydrate choices (gels, chews, fruit, honey, etc.) with complex, whole-food options (sandwiches, bars, trail mix, etc.).
It is also important to eat at regular intervals throughout the ride to keep energy levels consistent and avoid fatigue and bonking. Aim for bites of food every 20–30 minutes with sips of fluid every 10–15 minutes.
Many century rides include aid or sag stops that provide riders with water refills and food choices that typically include trail mix, bananas, cookies and chips. Use these stops to replenish water bottles and grab an extra bite of food if needed, but do not rely on them for all your nutrition needs. The stops might be out of the food you like or want or be spaced too far apart to keep you adequately fueled.
Following a practiced nutrition plan should get you through your event with energy to spare! If you’ve been struggling with energy levels and proper food intake during training, contact a sports dietitian to help develop a fueling plan that will get your body to the 100-mile mark feeling great.