Nutrition: Getting the Last Discipline Waxed for the Absa Cape Epic (or any stage race)
As the biggest stage race in Africa fast approaches you would have fined tuned your body, your mind, your equipment and hopefully, also your nutrition strategy. Ultra-endurance stage racing requires a fined tuned nutritional plan which is just as important as your physical training program. Each element of pre-race, during the event and also post-event nutrition should be planned and followed.
Here are our tips for riders to ensure you are fuelled correctly for the Absa Cape Epic or any endurance mountain bike stage race.
Eating correctly while training for the Absa Cape Epic is just as important as what you eat during the event. Ensuring a well-balanced diet and a successful hydration plan will ensure your body can endure the increased stresses of heavy physical training you are starting to do. Start using any new nutrition drinks or gels you may want to use on the event well before the race. Select the best for you and stick with it. Use these products during training so that you know how your body reacts to the products.
If your aim is weight loss pre-event, try and do this in the very early months of your training and not closer to event as this will have an impact on the quality of your training. Dieting while increasing physical stress on the body is a tough balance to get right, and it takes time to find that balance. Make sure you are still fuelling the body for exercise and keeping yourself hydrated.
As you reach the taper period the two weeks prior to event, illness and stomach issues are common. This is the time to remain focused on hydration and to keep eating those healthy nutritious food items. Take care when handling food and also increase your personal hygiene during this time. A slightly higher intake of carbohydrates will ensure your energy levels are maximized going into the event. Start adding a probiotic to your vitamin routine to ensure gut health is also strong going into the event. Again, hydration is key at this time. Keeping your electrolyte and hydration levels correct will ensure your body is at it's best to perform.
It’s important to find the right balance during the Absa Cape Epic. Under-or overdoing your nutrition may be harmful to your performance. So firstly, understand the basic principle that stage races requires regular fuelling and hydration throughout the event. Both on and off the bike. Fatigue can cause you to loss your appetite but just keep pushing yourself to take in food. You will need regular carbohydrate intake, along with protein (for muscle breakdown and repair). Every two to three hours is a good time frame to eat something, however small it is!
Start with a good breakfast, combining carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Include some caffeine for that energy boost to calm your pre-race nerves. On the bike, high carbohydrate foods including gels and bars but also some real food must be taken in during every stage. As a basic guide 90g of carbohydrates are needed for every hour on the bike in an endurance event. Recovery meals/shakes are a great source of replenishing lost nutrients as you get off the bike. Enjoy the recovery meal provided by Woolworths in the recovery tent and try to eat and drink most of what is provided. It will help get nutrients into your body for recovery to begin as soon as possible.
Lunch should follow once you are cleaned up and should be a nutritious combination of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. And have the dessert on offer, it will compliment your protein and carb intake. Dinner should be protein focused, but not restricted to, so that your body can repair and restore itself. Also try to fit in a pre-bed snack for that extra nutritional intake before bed. Pancakes are a great yummy option.
Another important point is to hydrate continuously. Drink fluids throughout the day once you are off the bike. There are a variety of hydration drinks available which will replace lost electrolytes from each day and rehydrate you for the next day's stage.
Our most important piece of advice on event is twofold. Firstly, don’t try any new items or fueling strategies that you don’t know. Stick to what you know and eat as you would normally. Don’t decide to try foods you have never eaten. There is great variety in the dining hall, and you will be spoilt for choice. Choose wisely!
Secondly, listen to your body. It will tell you what it needs. Don’t’ over do anything because you are scared you haven't done enough etc. If you feel full and can’t finish meal, just ensure you eat again soon so that your body gets its daily intake. Even if it’s a small quantity, at least you are continuously fuelling. Don't force anything to the point that you feel uncomfortable.
Give yourself a break. Recovery is a beautiful time filled with all your favourite things. Let yourself have that glass of wine or the dessert on the menu. In a few days you will feel adequately recovered and you can return to your routines and eating plans. But for now, enjoy the good life and savor the flavors of completing the Absa Cape Epic.
***All images credit: www.cape-epic.com/SPORTZPICS
Follow the Absa Cape Epic at www.cape-epic.com from 17-24 March 2019