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FoodCoach talks: Tim van Dijke about nutrition on the bike

"Have you seen that in cartoons, where stars spin around someone's head? Well, I have had that too. But with sandwiches, pastries, and candy bags." Tim wondered in those moments whether he would make it to the next village, and according to him, "that’s really not much fun”.

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Written by: The Athlete’s FoodCoach, on 17-04-2024
Tim van Dijke showing his strong arms

What is your relationship with 'eating on the bike'?

"For me, this was the big change when I joined the team. Initially, I always took my first energy bar and first sip of my drink when I was already riding for two hours. Well, then you'll definitely pay the price later in your ride. I often experienced hitting the wall. I didn't know what I actually needed at that time. I think many fanatic cyclists can relate to this."

How did the shift to eating more on the bike happen for you?

"When I joined the team, I got introduced to the FoodCoach program. In conversations with the FoodCoaches, I learned about carbohydrates, proteins, and fats and where they are stored. But above all, I learned what these nutrients are for and when you need each of them."

"One of the most important insights was that I had to start eating in the first hour already. Not after two hours, as I always did. Especially during long rides and races, this becomes even more crucial."

Can you elaborate on that?

"Of course, when you start cycling, you burn energy, and some of it is stored in your muscles and a bit in the liver. At some point, these reserves get depleted. You feel it; you start getting hungry and feel weak. If you start eating at that point, you're already too late. I think this is one of the biggest and most common mistakes in amateur cycling."

"Let me tell you, I was training with a friend in Spain. We were going for 4 or even 5 hours of cycling, and he was so exhausted, especially in the last hours. I told him the next day, 'today we're doing it differently. You're going to start eating from the first hour.' 'Why?' he asked me. 'Just do it,' I told him, 'and you'll notice the difference.' The result? He managed to stay in my wheel for the entire 5 hours and actually enjoyed it!"

Two bottles of Team Visma Lease a Bike in a Cervelo bike

The nutrition worked out for him?

"Yes! Quickly consuming some carbohydrates with an empty body is a short-term solution. You'll never feel fully energized again for the rest of the ride. You simply can't catch up. Most people think at that moment that the exhaustion is because of their fitness, that they're not good enough. But actually, it's just about their nutrition on the bike, too little or too late.”

Great anecdote, do you have a specific tip for the amateur cyclist?

"If your plan is to go on a cycling tour, bear in mind that it will inevitably get tougher. If you wait until two hours to eat, you'll definitely be presented with the bill, and it will not be cheap. Start replenishing energy in the first hour, and you'll see: you'll go much further."

And what quantity would you recommend to this person for a first cycling tour?

"I would say aim for 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour. For example, one bottle with syrup and a small energy bar per hour. It can be that simple."

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