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Nutrition and Safety

Safety Corner logo


by Crystal Myers


What does Nutrition have to do with Safety? When you are not fueling correctly on the bike, it is easy to become tired or sluggish. This can cause you to become less focused on road conditions and more prone to crashes. I have recently dived into the sport of triathlon. Most people think triathlons consist of three components: swimming, biking, and running. This past year, while training for an Ironman in Louisville, KY, I realized that there were actually four components of a triathlon: swimming, biking, running and NUTRITION!

Have you ever bonked while cycling? It's such a strange sensation of being dizzy, disoriented, weak, and you may also be tempted to take unnecessary chances to get your ride over with. Once while riding around Hanscom Air Force Base, I thought I saw a cow on the side of the road. As I got closer, I realized I must need nutrition—what I thought was a cow was actually a large boulder!

Based on my weight and metabolic rates, I need about 200 calories/hour. This number will vary depending on your weight and metabolism (men are typically closer to 300 calories/hour), and it may take a little experimenting to figure out what works best for you. There is a balance between eating enough calories to keep you fueled and eating too many, which might make you feel sick or bloated. Here is a good article about specific nutrition needs on long rides:

I use a Bento Box so I can eat from the saddle. A Bento Box is a nylon box that sits on the top tube behind the stem, attached with Velcro straps. The box is open at the top, with a mesh cover that attaches with Velcro. The mesh cover is adjustable and can conform to different shapes. It is amazing how much food it can hold. The Bento Box is less distracting than retrieving food from a back pouch or a jacket pocket. Plus, if your nutrition is sitting right in front of you, you will likely remember to eat it!

Taking in calories while on your bike, whether by drinking or eating, is a learned skill. Practice this beforehand, rather than trying it for the first time in a race or group ride. If you drop a water bottle or fuel, do not abruptly stop in the middle of a group of riders. Also, littering is a crime, so dispose of your wrappers either back into your Bento Box, in a back pocket, or down the front of your jersey.
Stop to eat if you can't access your food easily, or if road or traffic conditions are questionable. Select a safe spot that is out of the way of traffic. Parking lots and gas stations work well, as long as you find a spot that won't block traffic that is entering and leaving.

Before every ride, prepare a nutrition plan. How many bottles of fluid do I need? (About 1 bottle for every 15 miles or 45 minutes of riding) What should go in my bottles? (If rides are longer than an hour, consider an electrolyte-rich drink such as Gatorade® or Powerade®. On a hot day, you may need additional electrolyte supplements.) How/where will I get more water/energy drink along the ride? (Gas station, Bento Box, loops to refuel at a car/house?) How much and when should I eat? These things are as important as bringing your helmet to a ride. If one person bonks because he neglects proper nutrition during a ride, it not only affects that one person, but the group must also make adjustments by sharing nutrition or making stops to stock up. Worse, a bonking cyclist not only puts himself at risk, but also those riding near him. Don't be that person!

Here are some of my personal favorites while riding on the bike: dried pineapple, trail mix, peanut butter mini RITZ® crackers, Cliff Shot Bloks®, GU Energy Gels®, Powerade and red Gatorade. What is your favorite snack to eat or drink on the bike? Send your ideas to, and we will put together a top-ten food preference list in a future article! Happy eating...I mean cycling!


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