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Fueling for the Big Ride

Krista Leonard is currently completing a Master of Science in Nutrition degree at National University of Natural Medicine. She is an avid cyclist and Cycle Oregon participant, with a passion for fitness and sports nutrition. In this series, Krista will focus on nutrition, lifestyle, and training advice to help make your Cycle Oregon experience even more enjoyable.


Once Classic is over that doesn’t mean it’s the best idea to curl up on the couch for a week (even though you’ve earned it). Following an epic week of riding is the perfect time to help your body along the path to recovery. Here are some tips to help you reap all the benefits from a full week of full-on endurance cycling.


Although the thought of doing nothing for the next few days might sound pretty sweet, it would actually hinder your body’s long term recovery process. Studies have shown that participating in active recovery (continuing to stay active after a workout), helps the body to recover faster.

Here are a few ways to get your active recovery on:

  • Light Exercise – go for a walk, take a slow spin on the bike, or do a light upper body workout.
  • Light Stretching & Using a Foam Roller – Try a 10-minute walk to get the muscles warmed up, then roll and stretch away. Avoid rolling on cold muscles.
  • Yoga & Massage –  Yoga can help increase strength, flexibility, and balance while massage can increase blood flow to the muscles and help reduce pain.


What you consume after several days of working out can impact your recovery time. Focusing on clean eating after you get back home is very important to keep you happy and health after Classic.

 Healthy eating –  Make sure to incorporate both  Macronutrients   (complex carbohydrates, quality proteins, and healthy fats) and Micronutrients (foods high in Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Zinc, Magnesium, and Calcium) into your diet. Also, load up on foods from their whole source like whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and high-quality protein sources. These will provide you with the highest nutrient density and you’ll glean the most benefits.

After prolonged activity, it’s also wise to Increase your protein intake to help with the recovery from the constant tearing of muscle tissue that happens during exercise. This rebuilding process leads to stronger muscles.

Eating right is important, but don’t forget to drink lots of fluids to replace net water loss over the week. Water is crucial during the rebuilding process and improves muscle function.


You’ve been sleeping in a tent all week, so once you’re back in your own bed, be sure to catch up on those Zs. Sleep is an essential time for your body to rebuild and recover. Aim for 7-9 hours a night (depending on the individual). And try to focus not only on sleep quantity but, sleep quality as well. As you sleep, muscle building hormones increase. These hormones are important for repairing muscles damaged during hard exercise.

If you have a hard time sleeping, try avoiding screen time an hour before bed and stop drinking caffeine 4-6 hours before bed time.  Did you know that certain foods can help promote sleep? Pistachios, almonds, kiwifruit, bananas, and oatmeal are all supposed to do the trick. And last but not least, try a simple yoga or light stretching routine.


As someone who rides often, I understand that staying hydrated while on a long ride can be challenging. But doing so can make your ride a better experience and help keep dehydration away. Here are some tips and tricks to help you stay hydrated on the Classic ride in September!

Don’t wait until Day 1 to start drinking fluids. Begin upping your fluid intake the day you arrive in camp. Carry a water bottle around with you as you pick up your rider packet and sip away while you set up your tent. Hydrating before Day 1 can help to keep you from starting out dehydrated. Also, drinking lots of water or fluid the morning of Day 1 to catch up can lead to unplanned rest stops early in the ride or leave you feeling sloshy.

The best way to take the hassle out of remembering to hydrate is to drink from your water bottle at regular intervals through the days ride. If you reach for your water bottle call it out to your friends if you are riding in a group. This is a great way to keep each other accountable. Remember to drink early and drink often. Once you become dehydrated it can be hard to catch back up. To avoid dehydration, drink small amounts (3-8 fluid oz) every 15-20 minutes. To help break this down one gulp is about 1-2 fluid oz. Try to make it a goal to finish at least 1 water bottle before each rest stop. Don’t rely on thirst as an indicator of when to drink. If you are already feeling thirsty chances are, you’re already dehydrated. This is especially true for long days in the saddle.

Be on the lookout for signs of dehydration. Dehydration can slow down performance, impair mental concentration, decrease muscle endurance, and increase your chances of overheating (which leads to a whole bunch of other serious problems). Take care and look out for each other during the week.

Signs to look out for include:

  • Dark-colored urine
  • Lightheadedness
  • Headache
  • Decreased appetite
  • General fatigue and muscle fatigue

If you (or any of your riding group) start to see or feel the symptoms of dehydration, increase your fluid/ water intake. If these symptoms become severe, seek medical attention right away.

Another concern that you could face during these long days on the Classic could be linked to the loss of electrolytes due to all the hard work you are putting in, and the sweat you are producing. Electrolytes are minerals (sodium, potassium, chloride, and other minerals) found in the body that help with a wide variety of functions including water regulation. Sweating during exercise can lead to increased loss of these minerals. If they are not replaced, this loss can lead to a decrease in both physical and metal performance. Carrying a sports drink or electrolyte tablets that can be added to your water would be beneficial especially on the days that involve large amounts of elevation gain (Hint hint – Days 2, 5, and 7).

Keep drinking water and other fluids even after you get off your bike for the evening. You want your body to recover and still be hydrated for the next day’s ride. If you are headed to the beer garden, try drinking a glass of water between each drink or at least a glass of water before bed. Alcohol can have a dehydrating effect on the body. An extra glass of water can help you to avoid dehydration the next day.

Days that could use extra thought when it comes to staying hydrated during the 2019 Classic:

Day 2 – Rainbow to Tumalo (Miles: 67.3 (65.8 w/ Gravel Option), Elevation gain: 4,786’ (5,109’ w/option))

Today includes the first major hill of the week, (meaning you are more likely going to sweat, a lot!) Keep your fluid levels up by drinking water or an electrolyte containing drink between every rest stop. Don’t wait until right before the big hill to drink a bunch of water. Also remember to fill your water bottle before heading up. Take sips as you go!

Day 4 – La Pine to Diamond Lake (Miles: 94.1 miles, Elevation gain: 3,951’)

Although this day may not involve a lot of elevation gain it does have a lot of miles to cover. You may not be sweating a ton, but you will still be losing fluids and electrolytes. Keep drinking!

Day 5 – Crater Lake Option (Miles: 58.8, Elevation gain: 6,470’)

If you are taking the option to ride around the majestic Crater Lake remember to keep drinking along the way. This optional ride has the most elevation gain out of the entire week. You have to earn all those downhill portions of the day with all of that uphill riding.  Drinking water and/or an electrolyte drink along the way will help to keep your energy level strong and keep you from getting dehydrated.

If you decided to stay at camp or adventure off, make sure to continually sip water or fluids throughout the day. You still have 2 more days of riding ahead of you. Your body is also trying to recover from all the work you have done so far this week.

Day 7 – Dorena Lake to Oakridge (Miles: 56 miles, Elevation gain: 5,227’)

This may be the final day but that doesn’t mean you can slack on drinking fluids now. Today contains a large hill climb to make it home. Be sure to fill all of your water bottles before ascending this final stretch. Drink early and drink often, don’t get behind the curve on your last day.

To aid in recovery from your amazing week of riding, keep up your hydration efforts for the next several days after you arrive home. Your body will need the extra fluid to replenish and build back up.


The 2019 Classic is just around the corner! You are probably starting to plan out your gear and ramp up your training in the upcoming weeks. While you are completing all of this preparation, have you considered how you are going to fuel your body for this week long adventure. Keeping healthy while you are active for long periods of time can be a challenge. How you fuel during the week can keep your energy levels strong for the miles you have ahead of you. This will help you to avoid hitting the wall or losing energy while out on the route.

Here are 4 nutrition tips that can help you fuel your week long adventure:

1. Don’t skip breakfast

Breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day. It plays a large role in providing the energy needed to power your ride each day. As you sleep your metabolism slows so that the body can start its recovery process. Eating breakfast in the morning helps to jump-start your metabolism. This will provide fuel for your body, brain, and muscles, allowing you to function at an optimal level. When you wake up in the morning your energy stores are low. This can lead to the body feeling fatigued just hours after waking. Eating breakfast before you head out for the day’s route can help provide you with the energy needed to start your day off right.

2. Eat a balanced diet

Your daily eating habits have an impact on how you feel both in camp and out on the route. Eating a wide variety of foods can help to ensure you get the proper range of macro-nutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) as well as micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals). While you may indulge a bit this week, remember to add a few nutrient dense foods (i.e. whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, legumes) to your plate as well. These foods will provide you with added nutrition that will aid in the next days ride.

3. Eating while out on the route

Maintaining your energy level each day you are out on the route is essential. You need to replenish the energy you are using to make it up those hills every day. If you do not replace or maintain all those calories you are burning you could run out of energy, also known as ‘hitting the wall’. Aim for eating something every hour you are riding or at least eat a small snack at every rest stop. Eat a variety of foods– eating the same snack the entire day or week can lead to food boredom. You do not want this to keep you from eating while you are out on the road. It can be hard to get your energy level back up once your fuel stores run out. If you find that you are getting tired, reach for a snack that contains carbohydrates. Your body has an easier time breaking these nutrients down to use as fuel. Also, if you plan on using gels or other energy bars, remember to eat them with water. This will help to aid in digestion and reduce your chances of GI issues down the road.

4. Foods can help boost recovery

Eating a small snack once you arrive at the next camp can help to speed up your recovery and ensure that you get the most out of all that work you just did. The optimal window for eating is up to 1-hour after you get off of your bike. This is the time when your body needs nutrients the most to start the repairing process. If you do not have access to a small snack right after riding, make sure not to skip dinner. The foods you eat hours after your ride will aid in the body’s recovery process. Re-hydration during this time is also key. Carbohydrate-rich foods and beverages offer the most benefit right after an activity. For long term recovery adding in protein will help to repair and build muscle.

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