Last season, we’ve had kids show up to our morning rides without having eaten breakfast. While many professional athletes can forgo breakfast before a big ride, most of our kids can’t.
Our rides usually last 3 hours. In those 3 hours, our kids will easily burn through one or two meals worth of calories. So, what do you think happens when they ride with us on an empty stomach or almost empty stomach? Many of them bonk — as would many of us.
Meal before ride
Just like other sports, you’re going to want to feed your child before their event. If your child normally doesn’t like to eat breakfast, maybe talk with them about how they might feel if they don’t. Most kids who bonk will feel too fatigued to continue riding. This will not only make them feel bad, the rest of their group might be affected as well. As for what to eat, I’m not a nutritionist so I’ll leave that to you, but generally high protein/carbs an hour or two before a ride should suffice.
Snacks during rides
Our coaches usually carry snacks for the kids as motivators to get through really challenging parts of our rides. It works! However, we don’t usually have enough to continually feed everyone. So, your child should pack a snack with them. The best snacks are the ones they like to eat and are easy to pull out during a 2-5 minute ride break. Snacks with minimal packaging and can fit in a CamelBak or bike bag is ideal.
The other reason we bonk is due to dehydration. It’s very easy for kids to get dehydrated and when they do, it usually comes without warning. Pre-hydrating before a ride is ideal. Having a water bottle or hydration pack (like a CamelBak) is also ideal. If they’re into it, hydration drinks are also helpful, although many pack lots of sugars and other bad ingredients (like Gatorade) — so do your research first. There are a few hydration drinks that have few ingredients and are very effective. One of them is Osmo. Nuun (available at WholeFoods) and Skratch are others. But for our type rides, plain old water is fine too.