Stage Race Nutrition - Getting it right
Over fuel and you’re left feeling sluggish, weighed down and potentially dealing with GI problems. Under fuel and you’ll be running out of energy and watching riders ride away from you. Not consuming enough will also promote poor recovery and increased risk of injury.
Priorities are to FUEL + REPLENISH + RESTORE + HYDRATE:
Fuel your body’s energy needs for the current day’s race.
Refuel your body to recover from the current day’s race; replenish glycogen stores + tissue repair.
Fuel your body for normal health and metabolic functioning; balance, vitamins, minerals, nutrients.
Prepare your body for the next day’s energy demands.
Guidelines + Suggestions:
Breakfast – The most important meal of the day. Its good to have a standard large pe-ride breakfast. Eggs + oats + fruit + toast + juice is a pretty normal go-to for cyclists, but regardless of what you choose, make sure there is an easily digestible carbohydrate to give the body usable energy along with a bit of protein and fat to keep the body satisfied and prevent tissue breakdown from the start. Try to eat a solid 3 hours prior to starting your race to give yourself time to properly digest and put those nutrients to use.
While experienced racers might have this practice down, it can be tough for new racers to hold down food due to nerves. Also dont try food you have not eaten before race day.
During Race – This depends on how long the race is, but the general rule is to start eating early and often and aim for 60-90 grams of carbohydrate per hour. Forgetting or waiting too long to take in calories on any ride is a mistake, but on a stage race, you aren’t just hurting the current race, you’re digging yourself a hole for the next day’s race. Take along more than you expect to eat and include dense sources like bars or rice cakes and quick sources like gels and chews. Stick with what you’re comfortable with and have practiced with.
Post Race – Have something immediately available to you. Getting calories in the form of carbohydrates and protein needs to happen asap to replenish lost energy & glycogen stores to your muscles, and begin to rebuild torn muscle fibers.
Common problem here is races finishing at different locations than they started from; far from your car/ gear. If you don’t have finish line support to give nutrition to, carry extra fuel (a bar or recovery powder to add to water) in your jersey to consume immediately after.
Dinner – This is where focusing on your normal nutrition comes into play. Just because you’re racing for days in a row doesn’t mean you get to take in sport food or treats to get your calories. Neglecting your balanced, whole-food meals will put your body in an overly depleted, fragile state. Eat what you normally would with these two added thoughts: eat an extra portion and don’t skimp on the carbs.
Hydration – Drink all the time. All day whether you’re just waking, on the bike, or stretching out, you should be sipping water or an electrolyte mix. The longer and hotter the races, the more you’ll need to drink. Sugary sport drinks shouldn’t be used for off bike hydration. Instead replenish electrolyte balance with non caloric tablets or a pinch of salt and citrus to mineral water. Diluted juice, milk, unsweetened tea, coconut water can all be good beverages to hydrate along with water.