Gravel riding nutrition: What to eat for a gravel race

Take a look at the best energy sources and foods to eat for a gravel race. As official nutrition and hydration partner to the Dirty...

Beau Smith
By Beau Smith


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Gravel cycling has been on a strong upward trend in the UK since its migration from the popular 'gravel grinder' style of long distance event in the USA. Endurance events such as the Dirty Reiver lead the way when it comes to UK gravel riding routes, but considering what to eat for a gravel race can make or break your day out on the trails.


As official nutrition partner to the Dirty Reiver gravel race VOOM bring you some tips and advice to take on a long day on the trails. The tips are equally applicable for a gravel race as they are for taking on your own gravel adventure.


Nutrition for gravel riding


Your bike, tyres and clothing are likely to be the first considerations, but when it comes to gravel riding nutrition, it’s worth being well-prepared. If you’re looking to conquer a gravel race, or cover the tracks and trails at any real intensity, you will need to replenish your body’s carbohydrates as you go.


Several gravel riders take on a corner on a dry trail


At a lower intensity the body will utilise predominantly fat for fuel, of which the human body has a large supply, but as the pace picks up the working muscles run on predominantly glycogen stored in the muscles and liver. The body’s glycogen stores, which come from the carbohydrates we eat, will not typically last for more than two hours, and topping up energy for gravel riding is important if you want to stay sharp, enjoy the ride or perform at your best!


What to eat for a gravel race?


In the early stages of the event you probably have time to take on and digest some slower release carbs. Ideal sources are oats or brown rice so home-made rice cakes or flapjacks are ideal, or for convenience any flapjack will do – we obviously prefer the VOOM Raspberry and Beetroot bar! Along with bananas and possibly even peanut butter sandwiches this can form the ‘real food’ element of your nutritional strategy. At VOOM we advocate a mixture of both enjoyable real food options and fast-acting energy products such as the VOOM Pocket Rocket range to keep your energy flow going.


Two cyclists sprint up a hill during a gravel ride with a large expanse of forest behind them


In the latter stages of an event, or before a particularly tough section of the route such as a big climb, you may want a secret weapon in your pocket! With 175mg of caffeine, equivalent to a couple of strong coffees, and 100mg of taurine, the VOOM Caffeine Kick is ideal to give you a mental and physical boost and fight fatigue. Get going and get home with VOOM!


Easy to eat foods for on the gravel bike


As your gravel event or adventure ride goes on, your body is going to thank you for easier to digest, faster acting carbs, typically simple sugars. Energy gels, chews and bars are the common options, with varying ease of use. The VOOM Pocket Rocket range of energy bars offer fast-acting carbohydrates and the melt in the mouth texture makes them easy to consume but also means that some energy can be absorbed through the gums whilst it is held in the mouth. They also have a natural taste which comes from freeze-dried fruit which means you can actually look forward to eating them.


Looking through the trees to four gravel cyclists descending a fast and straight hill


Little and often is usually the best option for fueling an endurance ride. If a bulk of carbohydrates hits the stomach at once, the body draws water in to dilute the high concentration of carbs, and this can cause bloating or stomach discomfort. Taking on a smaller chunk of energy every 10 or 15 minutes will keep your tummy happy and energy stores firing!


VOOM Pocket Rockets are ideal for dosing energy regularly and we recommend one piece every 15 minutes. Remembering to eat frequently is far easier when your chosen nibbles are enjoyable and something to look forward to, so bear this in mind before packing your jersey pocket full of foul-tasting ‘energy products’ off the internet!


Hydration for a gravel event


On warm days, or even in cooler conditions where you’re layered up, its easy to underestimate the body’s sweat loses. Prolonged sweating will deplete both your body’s water and electrolytes, so replenishing both is crucial to maintain performance. We recommend trying to take on anywhere between 400 and 800ml of liquid per hour to maintain hydration, so its worth using the water/aid stations on the course.


Ideally you should drink something which also has an electrolyte content to aid hydration, but if not you can sneak some electrolytes in through your food, for example in the Electro Energy bar. Each 500ml serving of VOOM Hydrate has 460mg of full-spectrum electrolytes balanced in a ratio that closely matches what your body loses in sweat. This replaces those electrolytes to aid hydration and the hypotonic formula hydrates up to 40% faster.


If you're taking on the Dirty Reiver we look forward to seeing you at the event!


VOOM's range of sports nutrition products superimposed on a range of hills with the words Explore the VOOM range.


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