Race Day Nutrition Strategy for Cyclists
The annual Robert Cameron Law Cycling Series is almost here! How you fuel can massively impact your performance. Here are a few nutrition tips to think about:
Number one, don’t do anything out of the ordinary. The day of a race is not the time to test out a new gel or drink mix. No one wants to end up with a sick stomach 20 minutes into an event! Look at the course beforehand and plan what types of drinks and foods you’ll consume based on how much power output is needed. For example, in a straight section or at the top of a descent is a good time to consume some real food, whereas before a long climb would be a better time for a gel.
The day before:
Don’t wait until the morning of your race to fuel and hydrate properly. The day before you will want to make sure your glycogen stores (the carbohydrates stored in your muscles and liver) are filled by having solid meals including complex carbohydrates as well as quality protein. Make sure you are well hydrated. You can test this by making sure your urine is a very light colour.
Race day, 2-3 hours before start:
The morning of your race you will want to top up those glycogen stores again, this time with more easily digested carbohydrates and protein. Some good options are rice, yams or banana for carbs, and an omelette or smoothie with protein powder. Avoid very heavy foods (fried foods, high fat or excessive amounts of protein or fiber) in the morning as they won’t digest as easily and can cause bloating. Above all, stick to what you know works for you as everyone is different in terms of their favourite pre-race meal. Don’t forget to keep up your hydration game! Sipping on an electrolyte drink mix or coconut water throughout the morning is a great idea.
15-30 minutes before the start:
Once again make sure your energy stores are full. A small snack or drink containing simple carbohydrates will do the trick.
During the race:
Aim to consume 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour, and don’t put it off too long. You want to have some fuel BEFORE you feel hungry and run out of stores. As a general rule, in Zones 1-2 you should be able to digest bars and snacks without much trouble. During Zone 3 efforts, liquids or gels work best. In Zone 4 you may have trouble even with a carb drink. A trick is to just swish your mouth out and spit, since sugar is partially absorbed in your mouth and has been shown to have a positive neurological effect during those dark, painful times. Keep in mind that fructose has been linked to gastrointestinal distress, so experimenting and “training your stomach” is necessary to get the full benefit of fuelling during exercise.
For an extra kick during a race, look for products with some added caffeine- a stimulant and well known performance booster.
A natural alternative to store bought drink mixes is to make your own out of coconut water, real fruit juice, himalayan or sea salt and a calcium-magnesium powder.
Race hard, recover hard! Plan to have a recovery shake or meal containing high glycemic (simple) carbohydrates and quality protein within 2 hours of finishing your race to replenish glycogen and stimulate protein synthesis in your muscles. The pros have rice cookers on their busses for a reason! This is especially important in any multi-day event. And of course, don’t forget to rehydrate (ie. try to get some water in before that celebratory beverage) 😃
Kayla Friesen, RHN, RYT, PN1
Holistic Sport Nutritionist
Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence
For more information on how to work with me to optimize your nutrition strategy, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
EF Education First Team recipe: On-the-bike rice cakes
4 cups tap water
2 ¼ cups white short grain rice
2 ½ cups full fat cream cheese
2 Tablespoons granulated white sugar
2 Tablespoons melted coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a rice cooker, combine your water, rice, sugar and coconut oil. Turn it on (white rice setting, if your rice cooker specifies) and let cook. Once finished cooking, mix cream cheese and vanilla into rice. *Note that this is also the time to add any spices, fruit, chocolate, nuts, etc. you’d like to your rice cakes.
Spoon into a large zip-closure freezer bag. Flatten, smooth the air out and leave to cool on a flat tray. Once cool, transfer to the refrigerator to chill overnight.
In the morning, slide your tasty slab of rice onto a cutting board. Cut into approximately 20 squares. You can either keep them all together in an airtight container, or individually wrap them in foil, the way we do. Either way, they should be stored in the fridge until needed. Refrigerated, they will keep for about four days.