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Train as you race!

No matter what distance you decide to tackle, nutrition in cycling is vital for both your training sessions and race days.

Your nutrition will make all the difference in not just surviving long rides but actually enjoying them.

We’ve put together a nutrition plan to help you fuel training days and race day itself.

 


Fuelling your training

Key Consideration 1: train as you race!

Make sure you test your nutrition strategies before race day. It is essential for the following reasons:

  1. Morning fuel: breakfast will be one of the most important meals each day. What you eat and drink at breakfast sets you up for your first bout on the bike. Make sure you are comfortable with it, and it works for you.
  2. On the go feeding: fuelling on the bike is key, so get confident at consuming food and fluid whilst cycling at speed.
  3. Carbohydrate intake: your body can only store enough carbohydrate for 90-120 minutes. Therefore, you will need to intake up to 60-90 grams of carbohydrate per hour during prolonged exercise (over 90 minutes). This maintains carbohydrate supply to your muscles. It is a good idea to test this out in training to ensure your body is used to consuming this much carbohydrate.
  4. Sweat rate:  during a ride aim not to lose more than 2-3% of your body weight. Check your body mass pre and post ride to determine whether you have met your hydration needs. High intensity sessions will require you to drink more.

 

Here is a nutrition plan to use in 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 GO Electrolyte or GO Hydro to increase fluid retention. Try not to lose more than 2-3% of your body mass through sweating. This usually means drinking 500 ml of GO Electrolyte per hour depending on temperature. For shorter rides, use 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.
Energy During short or low intensity sessions, reduce carbohydrate intake. However, it’s important to practise your race-day fuelling plan during long rides. Have a carbohydrate-based snack 3-4 hours before such as porridge, breads and yogurts. A GO Energy Bar or Go Energy Bake 30 minutes before can help top up your energy stores. For shorter training rides, focus on electrolyte and fluid intake.

For long rides you will need to consume more carbohydrate per hour. The new Beta Fuel range at 1:0.8 ratio of maltodextrin to fructose allows you to increase your carbohydrate intake to around 80-120 g per hour.

After a high intensity session you should aim to have around 1.2 g/kg of body weight of carbohydrates.

A carbohydrate drink such as GO Electrolyte  is a good way to replenish your carbohydrate stores.

Recovery Make sure you rest well between rides. This is when adaptions take place. Overtraining is common in endurance athletes. Aim to get the same amount of sleep each day throughout your training period. N/A Recovery starts within 30 minutes of finishing your ride. Take REGO Rapid Recovery to replace electrolyte and carbohydrate stores. This helps to rebuild lean muscle. Finally, ensure that your post training meal contains a mix of carbohydrates, protein and vegetables.
Caffeine A pre training 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

 

 


Race Day

Key Consideration 2: build up strategies; the importance of carbohydrate

Carbohydrate, stored as muscle glycogen, is your primary fuel source at a high intensity. To meet the demands of race day, you need to make sure your muscle glycogen stores are fully loaded by increasing your carbohydrate intake in the 48 hours prior to the event.

You can do this by increasing your carbohydrate portions at mealtimes and snacking in-between. Rice, potatoes, pasta, and sports drinks such as GO Electrolyte are all good sources of carbohydrate. 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 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 GO Electrolyte

 

Key Consideration 3: 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. Include 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. During warmer weather having 500ml of GO Hydro can help promote hydration and increase fluid absorption and retention, meaning there will be fewer stops for the toilet during the race.

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

Key Consideration 4: during the race

  1. Shorter events (Less than 60 minutes): although carbohydrate stores won’t be depleted, there may still be benefits to having a few swigs of a carbohydrate drink such as GO Electrolyte. Studies have shown that swirling a carbohydrate solution in the mouth before swallowing can improve performance in shorter duration races. It is sensed by a receptor in the mouth which sends a signal to the brain.
  2. 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).

 

Planning when to use caffeine

Caffeine should be taken towards the end of the race to give you increased mental stimulation and reduce feelings of fatigue. Take it 45 minutes before your final push or major climb, to allow the caffeine to “kick in”.

The tables below provide example race nutrition plans. Don’t try this nutrition plan on race day for first time. It is important to practise your nutrition strategies during training, to find what works for you.

Shorter Races (<90min)
Event Day (<90min) During Race
Hydration
  1. Aim to not 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
  2. Rehydrate using an electrolyte drink: GO Hydro provides a precise 30mmol of sodium, which will help retain the fluid
  3. For an extra boost consume a GO Caffeine Shot
Energy
  1. Focus on hydration and electrolyte intake
  2. GO Electrolyte can be consumed throughout shorter races. It contains added carbohydrates for energy, but will also help absorb the electrolytes into the system. For short races (<60min) swilling Go Electrolyte around the mouth for a few seconds may lead to a cognitive performance benefit.

 

Longer Races (>90 min)
Event Day (>90min) During Race
Hydration
  1. 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.
  2. Rehydrate using an electrolyte drink. GO Electrolyte provides both carbohydrate and electrolytes for energy and hydration.
  3. 45 minutes before the end of the race consume a SiS Caffeine gel to increase concentration and endurance performance when fatigued.
Energy
  1. After 20 minutes of the race, aim to take on 60-90g carbohydrate per hour. Aiming for 20g every 20 minutes is a helpful target. For example, 3 x Go Isotonic gels in 20-minute intervals
  2. 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
  3. Use caffeine gels before a tough section of the race and/or towards the last hour of the race
  4. If your race is longer than 2 hours, Beta Fuel will provide you with fast carbs in either a gel, chew or drink. For example, 1-3 Beta Fuel gels every hour will allow you to intake enough carbohydrate and increase your power output.

 


 

Post-Training/Racing: Recovery

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

  1. Refuel: the capacity of your muscles to absorb and store nutrients in the 30-60 minutes post ride is maximised. It is important to provide your body with protein, carbohydrate, and electrolytes during this window. Solid foods such as rice, pasta and chicken cannot always be possible or palatable immediately after training or a race. 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.
  2. Food: eat 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.
  3. 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 REGO Rapid Recovery pre-mixed in your kitbag for when you finish training and competition.
  4. Don’t forget protein before sleep: sleep is one of the most important aspects of recovery. During sleep, it is also important for the muscles to have a supply of protein (i.e. amino acids) to help the muscle recovery. Consuming 40g of Overnight Protein prior to sleep can help to deliver a sustained supply of amino acids during the overnight period. Mixing it with milk (as opposed to water) can also deliver more carbohydrates to help with recovery of glycogen stores.

 

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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.
Written By

Ted Munson (Performance Nutritionist)

Ted is a Performance Nutritionist here at Science in Sport.