When cycling any distances, nutrition can be key to unlocking your potential and gaining the performance benefits you deserve! Here at SIS, we’ve put together a cycling nutrition plan to help you fuel your training sessions and perform your best on race day.
Fuelling your training
Key Consideration 1: Train as you race!
Before race day arrives, it’s key to practise your cycling nutrition strategies. This doesn’t just mean what you’re consuming on the bike, but also what you’re consuming beforehand. When considering your race day nutrition its important to consider the following:
- Morning fuel: In regard to race day fuelling ensure you have a meal you are used to consuming and have regularly before training to avoid any gastrointestinal stress, ideally your last big meal before the race should be 3-4 hours beforehand, and then you can consume a further carbohydrate snack, such as our energy bars or bakes, 30-60 minutes before.
- On the go feeding: Fueling on the bike is key, so get confident at consuming food and fluid whilst cycling at your race pace and also ensure your food is accessible. It is also worth checking out if your race has nutrition stops on the course and familiarising yourself with what’s available.
- Carbohydrate intake: If you consume a healthy balanced diet, your body can store enough energy for ~90 minutes, after this we need to consider supplementing our energy stores on the go!. An intake of around 60-90 grams of carbohydrate per hour for exercise over 90 minutes or 80-120 grams of carbohydrate per hour for exercise over 180 minutes, check out our Beta Fuel range for some high carbohydrate options. The aim of consuming carbohydrate during exercise is to maintain blood glucose and hopefully prevent fatigue. . It is a good idea to build this up gradually during training, therefore allowing your body to adjust to consuming this much carbohydrate.
- Sweat rate: During a ride you should aim not to lose more than 2-3% of your body weight. You can calculate this by checking your body mass pre and post ride. Step 1, Check your weight before and after training and calculate weight loss. Step 2, convert any weight loss to ml of fluid. Step 3, check or measure the amount of fluid consumed during exercise (using one of our 800ml or 500ml bottles can be a good way of keeping track). Step 4, add the amount of fluid lost to the amount of fluid consumed to get total fluid losses. Step 5, divide the total amount of fluid lost by the number of hours you were on the bike for, to get fluid loss per hour of training. Note; temperature will also affect sweat rate so it’s often best to calculate this on an indoor trainer where the temperature is more controllable.
Here is a cycling 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. For shorter rides, use GO Hydro to focus on replacing electrolytes lost through sweat. For longer rides, add carbohydrate by using our GO Electrolyte powder.||To ensure that you are fully recovered to train again, aim to replace 150% of the fluid volume lost through sweating.|
|Energy||For high intensity or long training sessions ensure you consume enough carbohydrate pre exercise. This is to maintain session quality. However during short or low intensity training sessions, you can train on lower carbohydrates or even fasted depending on your preferences. 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.
|Post-exercise carbohydrate often isn’t prioritised as protein becomes key, but it’s vital to replenish your glycogen stores so you’re prepared for your next session.
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 and 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.|
Key Consideration 2: Build up strategies; the importance of carbohydrate
Carbohydrates are stored as muscle glycogen and these are used as your primary fuel source at a high intensity. In order to be your best on race day, you need to ensure that your muscle glycogen stores are fully loaded. To do this you will need to increase your carbohydrate intake in the 48 hours prior to the event. This is known as carbohydrate loading.
In order to increase your carbohydrate intake, you can increase your carbohydrate portions at meal time and choose carbohydrate snacks. Rice, potatoes, pasta and sports drinks like GO Electrolyte are all good sources of carbohydrates. You need to aim for 8-10g of carbohydrates per kg of your body mass, per day.
Here you can find an example cycling nutrition plan for a typical 70kg cyclist, which provides 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: You will need to eat breakfast 3-4 hours before the race. This should be carbohydrate based, as our liver glycogen stores can decrease overnight. Try not to eat breakfast too late as this might cause stomach cramps once you jump on the bike. You must include normal breakfast foods that you’re accustomed to, such as toast, cereals and juices.
Hydration: Pre-race hydration is key. You should aim to drink between 500ml to 1000ml of fluid in the build up to the race. Drinking electrolyte solutions can also help you be hydrated before the race starts. SiS Hydro or GO Electrolyte are great options for this. Ideally, 500ml3-4 hours before at breakfast and 500ml in the build up to the event. During warmer weather having 500ml of 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
- 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.
- 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).
Race nutrition plan
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||You can rehydrate using an electrolyte drink: Hydro provides a precise 30mmol of sodium, which will help retain fluid. You need to aim to not lose more than 2-3% of your body mass during the event. To do this you need to consume 500ml of fluid per hour, depending on your sweat rate (how to calculate this is discussed above) and the temperature/humidity.|
|Energy||Aim to focus on hydration and electrolyte intake
GO Electrolyte can be consumed throughout shorter races. It contains 36g of carbohydrates per serving 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|
Once you have finished racing or training your body will be in a state of depletion. In order to reduce fatigue and injury you need to ensure that you recover well. Keep these three key points in mind for the ultimate post-ride recovery:
- Refuel: the capacity of your muscles to absorb and store nutrients in the 30-60 minutes post ride is maximised. For that reason you need to provide your body with protein, carbohydrates and electrolytes during this period. 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.
- Always plan ahead: if you pre-plan your meals or snacks after training, you can ensure 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, you need to ensure you have the appropriate meals with you. Have REGO Rapid Recovery premixed with water 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 for the muscles to have a supply of protein (i.e. amino acids) to help the muscle recovery. Consuming 40g of Protein20 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.
- Jeukendrup, A. (2014). A step towards personalized sports nutrition: carbohydrate intake during exercise. Sports Medicine, 44(1), 25-33.
- 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 Training, 50(9), 986-1000.
- Baker, L. B., & Jeukendrup, A. E. (2014). Optimal composition of fluid‐replacement beverages. Comprehensive Physiology, 4, 575-630
- 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 reports, 4(10), e12803.
- 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 Dietetics, 116(3), 501-528.