We are getting close to the annual Coronation Double Century and a number of our athletes will be competing.
Choosing the right nutritional plan to fuel your body at high intensity for 5 – 7 hours is tricky and all your training will mean little if you don’t get this right.
Eat normally the day before but pay particular attention to hydration. You want to make sure you are hydrated in the 24 hours leading up to a ride rather than having to try and play catch-up in the morning which will tend to result in more toilet stops than is necessary. Stay away from alcohol and too much coffee.
The evening before the race. Don’t eat too late as it might affect the quality of your sleep. There is also no need for a huge pasta meal. Your body can only store a certain amount of energy in the form of glycogen. Avoid food that is difficult to digest like red meat. Rather go for a lighter option like chicken or fish. Stay clear of spicy food. Yes, you need some carbs in the form of pasta, rice or potatoes, but don’t overdo it. A glass of red wine might relax you, but make sure you stick to 1 glass only.
Race day Breakfast
The rule is to have your breakfast 90 to 120 minutes before your race start. But if the start is not going to be too hard, you can push it out to around 60-90 minutes before the start.
Porridge is the perfect pre-ride breakfast (we are a fan of Oats with peanut butter and a banana) but, for longer rides, an additional 2-3 egg omelette will give you some more slow release energy. Many cyclists can’t function without coffee, but ensure you keep hydrated and sip at a 500 ml water bottle or isotonic sports drink in the time leading up to your ride.
And then the race starts
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour of exercise, but few athletes understand the reason for this amount. The average person can process, or oxidize, only about 1 gram of carbohydrate per minute, no matter how much is consumed. The bottleneck isn’t your muscles: it’s your intestines, which can transport glucose from food you eat into your bloodstream only so fast. Dumping more carbohydrate into your gut doesn’t necessarily increase the absorption rate, and it can increase your chances of an upset stomach.
It’s easier than you think to overload on carbs, especially if you are “forcing” yourself to drink complex “energy” drinks and consuming gels all the time.
One of the easiest ways to optimize your carbohydrate intake during rides is to drink a low-carb, electrolyte hydrating drink while you’re eating light, digestible snacks, like fig bars and bananas. Simply separating these two categories—hydration and solid food—typically brings people back into the range of 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour, while also ensuring they’re getting adequate sodium and fluids.
Our favorite electrolyte drinks are DripDrop or Powerbar’s Electrolyte Tablets. Both these products have a great neutral taste and you won’t get tired of drinking them.
Also, new research suggests that by consuming energy foods that contain a mix of sugars (such as glucose and fructose, or glucose and maltodextrin) instead of just one type, you can bump oxidation to as much as 1.7 grams per minute.
- Primary Concern: Carbohydrate and electrolyte replenishment; food boredom
- What to Drink: Regular sipping of low-carb, electrolyte hydration drinks. This is important … set an alarm and take a sip every 15 minutes. Don’t drink half a bottle when you are thirsty … this is too late.
- What to Eat: 30 to 60g of carbs per hour, total.
- Digestion can get harder as rides get longer, so eat more solids at the beginning of the ride, and switch to blocks, chews, and other easily digested foods during the final part of the ride. Just be sure to drink plenty of fluid to chase down gels, so you don’t get GI upset.
- If your body can handle caffeine … use caffeinated gels. Our favorite gels are Powerbar. Have a look at these Hydra PowerGels this new formula makes it even easier to get them down. https://www.powerbarsa.co.za/products/harvest-energy/powergels-hydro-cherry-41g-x-24/
Our favourite on-the-bike solid foods:
- I am Superbar https://www.iamsuperbar.co.za/product/i-am-training/
- Farbars https://www.racefood.co.za/product-category/farbar/
- Small white bread sandwich with peanut butter, jam or Bovril
- Small boiled potatoes with a bit of salt
- And bananas, off course.
At the stops:
- Don’t overeat and keep it simple. You can use the same food as on the bike. Focus on cooling down and have a fruit, like an apple or some grapes.
What we suggested is not necessarily the right strategy for everyone, but when it comes to food, consider that your body is under stress. If you eat foods that don’t absorb easily, like full grains and red meat, you are adding to the stress and this won’t make you go faster for longer.