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My favorite choice for long distance and endurance (2.5 hours or longer) is Hammer Perpetuem. I supplement with energy gels (e.g. Hammer Gel or GU).
On rides under 2 hours, I usually take most of my calories with energy gel, which is 80-90% maltodextrin (some brands are maybe only 70%, with too much sucrose). For hot endurance events, I tend to Hammer Perpetuem, and I also take electrolytes.
The body can take in no more than about 300 calories of carbohydrate per hour, so don’t overdo it. And to avoid cramps, minimize complex carbohydrates or fructose— these become serious no-nos (very uncomfortable cramps) as dehydration increases.
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In late 2011 and 2012, I’ve migrated more and more to Hammer Gel (instead of GU), because it can be purchased in 26-serving bottles, which I can use to fill a HydraPak SoftFlask with 5 or 8 servings. I often go through 4-5 servings on a training ride, so this cost savings and convenience is worthwhile for me.
GU Energy Gel
I still prefer GU energy gel for its wider choice of flavors and the right-sized single-serving packets with more choices of caffeinated flavors.
I don’t like carrying 5-8 single-serving packets, because they just make a mess of my cycling pocket, and it’s easy to litter unknowingly while reaching for a fresh packet.
It’s cheap and tastes good, but bulky.
Most breads turns rapidly into glucose, so it’s like using Gu (but generally avoid fatty or sweetened or high protein breads for endurance events).
There is a locally-made outstanding sourdough bread that I like: it doesn’t crumble, and when toasted it gets even more durable (and lighter). I found this worked terrifically well during the Mt Hamilton Challenge, and I’ll be experimenting with such bread more on future rides. It’s cheap, and tastes darn good, the only downside is having to chew it, but that’s also a bonus after swallowing Gu all day. Be sure to take fluid after eating bread, for digestion.
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Staying hydrated with some baseline calories
In endurance events with mileage from 80 miles to 155 miles per day, few things work well under the extremes of heat and exhaustion and dehydration.
While I like Accelerade, I have moved away from it. I now generally use plain water along with Hammer Perpetuem and energy gels and when on the bike, and Hammer Recoverite and Hammer Whey for post-workout recovery.
A few bad experiments have nearly ruined my day, but the one “food” that has never failed me is Accelerade, fruit-punch flavor:
- Tastes good all day long;
- Never causes cramping or bloating (diluted as I do);
- Has a mix of sugars and protein that work well for me.
For on-the-bike nutrition, I dilute Accelerade more than twice as much as the recommended dilution at one (1) scoop per liter of water, otherwise it’s too concentrated. That yields 100 calories per liter, and I drink that liter in 45-90 minutes.
After using Accelerade for 30,000 miles or so over 8 years both on the bike and for recovery, I can attest that it works great for endurance events, and for pre-race prep and post-race recovery. Other sports drinks have made me want to puke (literally).
For shorter and higher intensity races (2 hours or less), Accelerade is of minimal value; stick with water and a maltodextrin-based product, like Gu energy gel.