Make your own Energy Drinks
When out riding for longer than roughly one hour, you should provide your body with enough carbohydrates to keep your blood sugar high, and enough fluids to keep it well hydrated.
Interestingly, plain water is not the best option for staying hydrated. Fluid absorption in the intestines is a passive process, meaning that fluids will only be absorbed when they hit the intestine walls. The absorption of carbohydrates is an active process, meaning that carbs are actively "carried" to the intestine walls. If you combine carbs and fluids, the fuilds will basically be carried along, greatly increasing the fluid absorption rate.
Plain water has an absorbation rate of roughly 1ml per cm of intestine and hour, while a fluid with a 6% to 8% carbohydrate solution has an absorbation rate of 3 to 4 ml per cm of intestine an hour or more.1
Using a sports drink with 60g to 80g of carbohydrates per liter and a pinch of salt to compensate for sweat loss is therefore preferable to drinking plain water while riding from a hydration point of view.
The other advantage of using a sports drink is that it's an easy way to keep well fed. Don't worry about the calories - you'll still burn more calories than you're drinking, but the chance of you bonking will be significantly reduced, allowing you to finish your training session in form.
The disadvantage of this on-the-bike hydration and feeding strategy is that common sports drinks are rather expensive. So why not make them yourself? It's very easy, and if you buy in bulk, it's also very cheap. All you need is Maltodextrin, and salt.
A really simple, cheap and effective recipe for your own energy drink
|1 liter||Plain Tap Water|
|1-2 gram||Salt (Sodium Chloride)|
Divide the result into two small waterbottles. If you're using large waterbottles, fill them with water, and add 60g Maltodextrin and 1g salt each.
What is Maltodextrin?
Maltodextrin is a commonly available and safe nutritional supplement. It is used throughout the food industry to change and enhance food textures or change other qualities of food. Since it's nearly or completely tasteless, it's also perfect to enrich meals and make them more energy dense for people who have troubles eating enough (e.g. elderly people).
For cyclists, the advantages of Maltodextrin next to its availability and low price, are the fact that it is nearly or completely tasteless (depends on the product) and that it has a very low osmolarity, so you're less likely to get gastrointestinal distress from it.
Sometimes, you see similar recipes for energy drinks with simple sugars. Maltodextrin is superior to simple sugars because it is tasteless, while sugars are often unpleasantly sweet, and it has a lower osmolarity, meaning that it doesn't feel and taste as "sticky" as a sugary beverage maybe would.
Take one bottle of this drink with you on rides from 1 hour up to an hour and a half. For longer rides, take two bottles with you, and maybe some additional mix in a satchel. You should consume 60g carbs per hour on longer training rides (up to three hours), and using a sports drink is the easiest and most convenient way to do so.