Eating to Suffer - Big Day in the Saddle

Sufferlandrians rejoice! Spring in the northern hemisphere is in full swing, which means that Sufferlandrians are emerging from their bike torture chambers, ready to unleash their newfound speed and power onto the world. Sportives, group rides, crits and solo forays into howling headwinds will never be the same! Now, a chance to truly show the world what we’re made of. A chance to spill holy water like a burst water main, to void the warranty on your cycling knicks and shred some chamois.

But how will you get the most out of your hard work? Sports nutritionist Alan McCubbin has some advice on how to properly fuel your body for the best Return on Suffering.


  • The slow, undignified suffering that comes about because your body is not physically prepared. We call this a poor Return On Suffering (ROS). Couchlandrians are famous for it.
  • The Sufferlandrian form of suffering: not just experiencing pain and misery, but developing maximum physical output at the same time. This, my friends, is maximum ROS.

We introduced the concept of ROS in Eating to Suffer and today I’ll briefly summarise the concepts needed to maximise your ROS during your big days in the saddle.

From a nutrition perspective we need to consider three things:

  • How to fuel your furnace for maximum ROS over three hours
  • What to do about that pool of Sufferlandrian Holy Water that’s quickly going to flood your torture chamber; and
  • What nutritional supplements might I consider to absolutely wring every last watt out of my legs


At high intensities, carbohydrate is the predominate fuel source. The reason is that carbohydrate produces energy more quickly, and with less oxygen than fat.

If your goal is weight loss, or managing diabetes, or for another reason you can’t or won’t go near starch and sugar, then this may indeed be a legitimate approach. But for those who want to truly maximise ROS, then carbs will be your friend on the 23rd of August.

So carbs are good, but how many carbs, and when? Let’s talk carb-loading:

  • Big ride set off in the morning? Fuel up the day before by consuming 7-10 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight. 7 if your body fat is at the higher end of the scale, and 10 if you’re a lean machine.
  • Your big ride kicks off in the afternoon or evening? Fuel up on the day, but start at least 12 hours out and aim for 7-10g/kg of bodyweight as above.
  • Keep the fibre low – it’ll fill you up without any benefit.
  • Remember it’s carb loading, not carb and fat loading. So chocolate and doughnuts are not the best idea.

Of course your nutrition on the bike will also make a big difference here too. We’ve all seen the pros blow up on a climb in a grand tour, admitting afterwards they forgot to eat. Don’t be that rider.

Plan your carbs to consume during the workout. Big rides mean MAXIMUM carbs on the bike. That’s about 60-90 grams an hour if you can tolerate it.

  • The foods and drinks you choose should be things you’re used to, and be easy to open, chew, swallow and digest when you’re in the depths of misery.
  • Planning ahead becomes really important here – bring everything you can fit with you and plan stops along to the way to fill up water, grab a quick coffee and some food. For things like energy bars you can even open the packaging beforehand, so it’s easier to do when Suffering into a head wind or punching up hills.


It’s no secret that you’re going to shed holy water, and lots of it. It’s a beautiful thing. So the question becomes – how much Holy Water do you need to replace?

Here are my top tips for maximum ROS:

  • If you’re thirsty, drink. If you’re not thirsty, don’t worry about it.
  • Have enough fluid on hand to satisfy your thirst.
  • Drink small mouthfuls often, not large mouthfuls infrequently.
  • Aim to have at least three litres of fluid available and ready to go. You may not need to drink it all if you don’t get thirsty, but it’s there if you need it.


There’s a whole range of dietary supplements on the market that claim to improve cycling performance. We’ve provided a run down on the ones that have scientific support in Eating to Suffer. One thing to note is that some of these supplements like beta-alanine take weeks of “loading” before they’re of any use to you. So if you haven’t taken them yet then there’s no point in starting now.

Others however can be used as a one-off, or with only a few days notice. These include nitrate (contained in beetroot juice), caffeine and sodium bicarbonate. All of these supplements have potential side effects however, so my advice here would be to only use supplements that you’ve used before and you know you will tolerate.

So remember, maximise your ROS by

  • Fuelling up with carbs.
  • Having enough fluid to satisfy your Sufferlandrian-sized thirst.
  • Using supplements only if you’ve been there before. 

Eating to Suffer by Next Level Nutrition’s Alan McCubbin is a 27 page guide to helping you achieve the maximum Return On Suffering by making the right dietary choices. With chapters on preparing for specific workouts, weight loss, how to eat for a Knighthood Quest and more, Eating to Suffer is a key part of any Sufferlandrians high intensity, low volume training regime. Eating to Suffer is $9.99 USD.

Jared McClintock
Jared McClintock


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