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Ted Munson

Performance Nutritionist

Cycling Nutrition Guide

Our helpful nutritional guide to help you prepare, perform & recover from your training and races, whatever distance you're cycling.

Train as you race!

No matter what distance of sportive you decide to tackle, there are certain elements you need to give serious thought to; your training and your nutrition. Don’t let those hard earned miles go to waste with poor nutritional strategies.

Your nutrition will be the make or break when it comes to not just surviving the miles in the saddle but actually enjoying the event when race day comes and being able to train without fatigue.

We’ve put together the key nutritional considerations to help you fuel your training days and chosen sportive itself.

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FUELLING YOUR TRAINING

Key Consideration: Train as you race!

Testing nutrition strategies before race day is essential for the following reasons:

  • Morning fuel: Your breakfast will be one of the most important meals you consume and will set you up for the first bout on the bike, so make sure you are comfortable with it and it works for you.
  • On the go feeding: Fuelling on the bike is key, so get confident at consuming food and fluid whilst cycling at speed.
  • Carbohydrate intake: Since your body can only store enough carbohydrate for up to 90-120 minutes you will need to intake up to 60-90g of carbohydrate per hour during prolonged exercise (over 90 minutes) to maintain carbohydrate supply to your muscles(1). If you’re not used to consuming this much carbohydrate during exercise it is a good idea to test it out to ensure the body is capable.
  • Sweat rate: How much you sweat will dictate how much fluid you need to take-in. Aim to not lose any more than 2-3 % of your body mass to maintain hydration and be ready to train the next day(2).

Below is an example nutrition guide to follow around your training:

Pre Training During your rides Post Training
Hydration Ensure you are fully hydrated. Drink 500 – 1000ml of fluid at least 4 hours prior to your training ride. Use SiS GO Electrolyte or SiS GO Hydro to increase fluid retention Work out how much you are sweating (per hour). Try not to lose more than 2-3% of your body mass through sweating. This usually means drinking 500 ml of SiS GO Electrolyte per hour depending on temperature. For shorter rides, use SiS GO Hydro to focus on replacing electrolytes lost through sweat To ensure that you are fully recovered to train again, aim to replace 150% of the fluid volume lost through sweating(3). Always make sure to weigh yourself before and after your training rides.
Energy Fuel for the work required throughout your training weeks(4). During short or low intense sessions, reduce carbohydrate intake. However, it’s important to practice your race-day fuelling plan during longer sessions, so that your body adapts to the work. Here, have a carbohydrate-based snack 3-4 hours before such as porridge, breads and yogurts. A SiS GO Energy Bar 30 minutes before can help top up your energy stores For shorter training rides, focus on electrolyte and fluid intake. For longer rides, aim to take on 60-90g of carbohydrate per hour using a combination SiS GO Isotonic Energy gels and SiS GO Electrolyte. Find out the combination that works for you during training. If you’ve had a tough session, replenish your carbohydrate stores with 1.2 g/kg of carbohydrates, starting within 30 minutes of finishing your ride.
Recovery Ensure that you rest well between rides as this is where adaptations take place. Overtraining is common in endurance athletes. Aim to get the same amount of sleep throughout your training period. N/A Post-training recovery starts within 30 minutes of finishing your ride. Take SiS REGO Rapid Recovery to replace glycogen and electrolyte stores and rebuild lean muscle. Finally, ensure that your post training meal contains a mix of carbohydrates, protein and vegetables.
Caffeine A pre training SiS GO Caffeine Shot can help decrease your perception of fatigue and increase concentration during your rides. Take 30 minutes before your session. N/A N/A

 

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RACE DAY

Key Consideration 1: Build up Strategies; the Importance of carbohydrate

Our muscles can store up to 400-500 g or around 2000 kcal of glycogen to be used as energy. Glycogen is the main fuel you will use during your race and is stored when you eat carbohydrate. To make sure these stores are fully loaded, reducing the onset of fatigue, you can step up your overall carbohydrate intake in the 48 hours before the event(5).

To do this, increase your carbohydrate portions at meal times, including foods such as rice, potatoes, pasta and cereals and add carbohydrate snacks in-between, such as cereal bars, fruit, or carbohydrate drinks such as SiS GO Electrolyte. Aim for 8-10g of carbohydrate per kilo of your body mass, per day.

Below is an example plan for a typical 70kg cyclist providing 3500kcal, loading with 600g carbohydrates- great the day before a race:

Breakfast 3 Cups Granola with milk; 1 medium banana; 250ml fruit juice
Snack Blueberry muffin; 500ml SiS GO Electrolyte
Lunch 2x Panini (choice of filling); low fat yoghurt
Snack Smoothie: Banana; yoghurt; honey; granola
Dinner 3 cups brown pasta with tomato sauce; 3 slices garlic bread
Snack Toasted muffin with peanut butter; 500ml SiS GO Electrolyte

 

Key Consideration 2: Pre Race

Breakfast: Have breakfast 3 hours before the race. This should be mainly carbohydrate based as our liver glycogen stores decrease over night. Don’t leave breakfast too late as this could cause stomach cramps once you jump on the bike. This should involve normal breakfast foods that you’re accustomed to such as toast, cereals and juices.

Hydration: Pre race hydration is key. Aim to drink 500ml-1000ml of fluid in the build up to the race, ideally 500ml 2-3 hours at breakfast and 500ml in the build up to the event. Don’t drink just water, SiS GO Electrolyte or SiS GO Hydro can increase fluid absorption and retention, meaning there will be less stops for the toilet during the race(5).

Snacking: A pre race snack is perfect to ensure we don’t eat everything at once for breakfast, which could cause stomach discomfort. An SiS GO Energy bar, 30 minutes before you start will help ‘top up’ your energy stores.

Key Consideration 3: During the Race

  • For shorter rides less than 90 minutes, focus on hydration and electrolyte intake. If you have trained using a caffeine product such as SiS GO Hydro + Caffeine, this should be taken just before the ride to kick in and last you short length of the race.
  • For longer rides over 90 minutes, focus on hydration and carbohydrate intake. Our bodies can absorb around 60-90g of carbohydrate per hour so know how long you’ll be riding and pack enough nutrition to see you through to the end(5). Here, caffeine should be taken towards the end of your race to give you increased mental stimulation.
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The tables below provide an example nutrition plan during the race. Most importantly, don’t try this nutrition plan on race day for first time.

Shorter Races (<90 min)

Event Day (<90min) During Race
Hydration
  • Aim not to lose more than 2-3% of your body mass throughout the event. This usually means consuming 500 ml of fluid per hour depending on sweat rate and temperature/humidity
  • Rehydrate using an electrolyte drink: SiS GO Hydro provides a precise 30mmol of Sodium, which will help retain the fluid
  • For an extra lift at the start of the race, consume an SiS GO Caffeine Shot which may increase concentration and endurance performance
Energy
  • Focus on hydration and electrolyte intake
  • SiS GO Electrolyte can be consumed throughout shorter races which contains added carbohydrates for energy, but will also help absorb the electrolytes into the system.

 

Longer Races (>90 min)

Event Day (>90min) During Race
Hydration
  • Aim not to lose more than 2-3% of your body mass throughout the event. This usually means consuming 500 ml of fluid per hour depending on sweat rate and temperature/humidity
  • Rehydrate using a carbohydrate - electrolyte drink: SiS GO Electrolyte provides both carbohydrate and electrolytes for energy and hydration
  • Towards the end of the race consume an SiS GO Hydro + Caffeine (75mg) which may increase concentration and endurance performance
Energy
  • As we are working for over 90 minutes, focus should be on hydration and carbohydrate intake
  • After 20 minutes of the race, aim to take on 60-90g carbohydrate per hour. This can be achieved through food and fluid sources; energy bars and/or energy gels
  • Along with appropriate hydration and fluid intake, this could come from: 3 x SiS GO Isotonic Energy gels or 1 x 500ml SiS GO Electrolyte & 1 x SiS GO Isotonic Energy gels
  • A good strategy is to consume solid foods during the flatter, less intense parts of the race and gels during more intense, steeper sections of the race
  • Use caffeine gels before a tough section of the race and/or towards the last hour of the race

 

POST-TRAINING / RACING: RECOVERY

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After training or racing the body will be in a state of depletion; to reduce fatigue, the risk of injury and promote physiological adaptations it is important to recover well by refuelling and getting enough rest. Consider these three key points for the ultimate post-ride recovery:

  • Refuel: The capacity of your muscles to absorb and store nutrients is increased 30-60 minutes post-exercise, so it is important to replace carbohydrates and provide protein and electrolytes within this time. This can be done with “real food” such as carbohydrate (e.g. rice, pasta, breads etc) and protein options (e.g. greek yoghurt, chicken, fish etc), however this is not always possible or palatable immediately after training or a race. SiS REGO Rapid Recovery provides the body with 23g of carbohydrate, 20g of protein and 1 gram of salt, which is what the body needs to begin the adaptation and recovery process after training and competition.
  • Food: Take on a full carbohydrate based meal within 1 hour of finishing a tough training ride or race. This should also include a source of protein and plenty of vegetables.
  • Always plan ahead: Pre-planning your meals or snacks after training ensures that you can take advantage of the 30-60 minute recovery window. If you have to drive back from a race or are heading out to training straight after work, ensure you have the appropriate meals with you. Have SiS REGO Rapid Recovery pre-mixed in your kitbag for when you finish training and competition.
  • Don’t forget protein before sleep: Sleep is one of the most important aspects of recovery. During sleep, it is also important to have the muscles to have a supply of protein (i.e. amino acids) to help the muscle recovery. Consuming 40 g of SiS Overnight Protein prior to sleep can help to deliver a sustained supply of amino acids during the overnight period. Mixing with milk (as opposed to water) can also deliver more carbohydrates to help with recovery of glycogen stores.

Related Articles:

    References

    1. Jeukendrup, A. (2014). A step towards personalized sports nutrition: carbohydrate intake during exercise. Sports Medicine44(1), 25-33.
    2. Casa, D. J., DeMartini, J. K., Bergeron, M. F., Csillan, D., Eichner, E. R., Lopez, R. M. & Yeargin, S. W. (2015). National Athletic Trainers' Association position statement: exertional heat illnesses. Journal of Athletic Training50(9), 986-1000.
    3. Baker, L. B., & Jeukendrup, A. E. (2014). Optimal composition of fluid‐replacement beverages. Comprehensive Physiology, 4, 575-630
    4. Impey, S. G., Hammond, K. M., Shepherd, S. O., Sharples, A. P., Stewart, C., Limb, M., ... & Close, G. L. (2016). Fuel for the work required: a practical approach to amalgamating train‐low paradigms for endurance athletes. Physiological reports4(10), e12803.
    5. Thomas, D. T., Erdman, K. A., & Burke, L. M. (2016). Position of the academy of nutrition and dietetics, dietitians of canada, and the american college of sports medicine: Nutrition and athletic performance. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics116(3), 501-528.

Comments

  • Very interesting
    Wayne commented on April 19, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    I found your suggestions backed up what I do already. I do need to increase my water intake while cycling, thank you.

  • Longer challenges
    Lydia Franklin commented on April 19, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    Would be interested for a strategy for nutrition on a race such as the tour divide (which im aiming for next summer) or trans am.. where you carry all kit and have limited options at resupply

  • Fueling
    Jody Cantrell commented on April 19, 2016 at 4:49 pm

    Just getting into longer rides and more miles, your chart gives me a good idea into fuelling and recovery. I use SIS products and high 5 but I must say SIS energy bars/gels/ are far better easier to consume and better quality. I used to think SIS was expensive but since using your site and offers very competitive. Big thumbs up from me

  • Good reading
    Lyndon commented on April 20, 2016 at 3:24 am

    Very interesting article

  • DRINK MORE !
    Gavsdad commented on April 20, 2016 at 4:31 am

    I live part of the year in a very hot climate where fluid intake is important (to say the least). Having studied this article I now need to drink more. Very interesting and informative - probably the definitive for nutrition.

  • feeling better after a long ride
    ian reuby commented on April 20, 2016 at 6:54 am

    Have been using the Rego rapid recovery after my rides this year and I am feeling much better the day after my ride which has meant I am able to put together two good sessions at the weekend

  • Useful!
    Robert Davis commented on April 20, 2016 at 9:20 am

    I'd be interested to see how the fuelling and hydration strategies might change for and endurance ride of 24 hours or so.

  • Long Sportive
    Mark Windsor commented on April 21, 2016 at 6:19 am

    Thanks for this, I'm already doing most of it. Like a lot of others I probably need to up my water intake. One quick question though, I've got a 185 mile sportive coming up in three weeks and the pre race day meal plan looks great, I just wondered if you knew the weight conversions from cups to grams?

  • Informative
    Lucy Handley commented on April 21, 2016 at 7:39 am

    This is very useful. I'm planning a cycle to paris in July and knowing more about the quantities of hyration/energy pre/during/post ride is super handy. Thanks SiS!

  • 24 hrs cycle challenge
    Alan Betteridge commented on April 25, 2016 at 11:03 am

    Similar to the comments from Lucy and Mark, I have a 24 hrs, 300 mile cycle ride coming up. I am interested to understand what my meal plan should look like the day before the ride.

    Very good article though, v.useful for the shorter sportives.

  • Dehydration
    James commented on August 25, 2016 at 12:23 pm

    I drank a lot of water ,but still my body crashed. Changing up and adding electrolytes while riding and also I added to my daily drink to help me stay hydrated so it wasn't a last-minute thing when I ride and get caught short ajl 30 minutes before gels during and maybe a job after the ride with the electrolytes has made a world of difference.

  • Excellent advice.
    Dave lindsay commented on May 4, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    Once again SIS have excelled.free Nutrition advice .Great advice from the Proffesionals.

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