I am re-posting this article with a few updates and tweaks after my morning chat with the folks at Smile 90.4 FM. Keep reading for some info and advice on getting your Argus nutrition right.
It is upon us. The weekend cycle race that for some is the culmination of a few months of training and for many is the first voyage on two wheels since this time last year.
I am going to give a quick guideline for your nutrition intake leading up to the day as well as some advice for fueling strategies on the bike.
2 Weeks to go: By now you should have most of your training behind you and hopefully you have been working on your feeding strategies both on and off the bike. Just as you are putting work into your power or cadence to train your body, you should be training your gut and fuel system to handle a successful feeding technique. There is still a little time to practice eating before and on the bike to work out what foods you tolerate best. If you still have a couple long rides in your training schedule make sure you play around with some good carbohydrate food or drink so that you are not trying anything new on race day. You should be having a carbohydrate rich breakfast (or pre-training meal) 1 hour before and then using carbohydrate options on the bike. Sports drinks, gels, powders, sweets, dried fruit, sandwiches, potatoes are all common options. You should be continuing with a nutrient and energy dense diet off the bike to match your training load too with plenty of quality carbohydrates, fruit, vegetables and protein.
The pre-race week: Your training over the last week should be tapered and as your training decrease you can look to maintain a high carbohydrate diet for 2-3 days before the event. A guide here is to aim for 7-10 g of carbohydrate per kg body weight. The aim is to maximise your stores of glycogen for race day. If you are 80 kg aim to get in at least 560 g per day split up throughout the day. Don’t skimp on your protein, fruit and veg intake along with this though! Some energy dense snacks may help in getting you there and foods like fruit (dried, fresh and juiced), confectionery like muffins, crumpets and cereal bars and carbohydrate rich meals can be used. You will most probably put on a little weight during the week as your glycogen stores increase and fluid is stored along with it. Do not stress as this weight will be lost during and after your race.
See my documents page for food portions that provide 30g of carbohydrate and use this to work out how many of these you need every day. Chat to a specialist if you need further advice or use a calorie counting app to monitor your intake.
This “carbo-loading” strategy can benefit endurance performance but don’t leave it for the night before pasta cramming dinner as this will just leave you feeling heavy and lethargic in the morning. If you cannot taper your exercise and increase your intake during the week then your pre-race and on-the-bike nutrition are vital and may negate the effect of carbo-loading anyway.
Race day morning: Aim to get in at least 1-4 g/kg of carbohydrate from your breakfast or pre-race snack. If it is 1 hour before the race go for a 60-75 g portion of carbohydrate in your snack (1 g/kg). If you have more time then you can repeat this every hour leading up to the race or have a larger breakfast and a small snack before you head to the start line.
The type of carbohydrate you choose is not too important but try to get it from whole foods rather than supplements/drinks. If you have not carbo-loaded for the week, getting enough carbs immediately before and during the race is very important. This pre race meal is something you should be used to by now so again, do not try anything new. Low fiber, low fat options are often better tolerated. For the nervous athlete a liquid option might be better too. Regardless make sure you are well hydrated too.
- breakfast cereal, low fat milk, a banana and a glass of fruit juice
- a white, crustless jam sandwich with a handful of grapes and a glass of fruit juice
- a fruit and low fat yoghurt smoothie (beetroot and apple smoothie – you can leave out the spinach here)
- 4-6 crumpets with syrup and berries with a glass of fruit juice
- add a strong coffee or espresso if you are used to using caffeine around exercise
During the race: This is the most important time for nutritional support. From 1 hour we start to rely on what we are taking in more than what we have eaten leading up to the event (i.e. carbo-loading). Start refueling early and aim to get at least 30-60 g of carbohydrate per hour while you are on the bike. Drinks and gels are easy but make sure you use options and brands you have tried before. A variety of other foods for anything longer than 4 hours may provide relief from all the sweet things. Sandwiches, dried fruit, potatoes are decent options.
As a guide most energy drinks will give you 35-40 g of carbs per 500 ml (my choice is Cadence Carbofuel), gels are about 25 g per sachet, coke is around 11 g per 100ml (mix this with a little water!). Choose options that you have used before on training rides or during exercise, DO NOT TRY SOMETHING NEW! Sport drinks and whole foods have an added bonus of providing electrolytes lost in sweat. Regular small volumes of carbohydrate (every 15-20 minutes) will help you in achieving enough and there is an added psychological benefit. Carbohydrate contact with the mouth appears to exert a positive central effect and reduce fatigue, a simple mouthwash has been shown to help exercise performance this way.
If you have used caffeine drinks, gels or tablets during training and at the start line then you will want to top up along the way too before the going gest tough. Caffeine can also assist performance during endurance events by blunting the perception of fatigue. See my caffeine post for more on that.
Post race. Before you crack open a beer to celebrate conquering Suikerbossie you will need to replace fluid and electrolyte losses and kick-start your recovery recovery. Within 30 minutes aim to consume at least 60-80 g of carbohydrate and 20 g of protein. Choose sports drinks, drinking milk or yoghurt, sandwiches with a protein filling, burgers, fruit or a specialty recovery product immediately after exercise. Sports drinks, milk and recovery products will also help replace fluid and electrolytes lost through sweat. It is important not to rely on water alone as this can actually cause a dilution of blood minerals with negative consequences.
I will be tucking into some breakky and watching you all come in on the Sea Point promenade. Good luck and most importantly have fun!
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