When it comes to stage racing an athlete’s nutrition needs to be very carefully planned ahead of time. It’s important to remember this is not a single day of racing where you can wake up race on minimal nutrition and then recover. Every day you wake up during your event you will be grinding the gears, burning the calories and using those muscles over and over again. If your nutrition is not properly catered for and understood from the onset you will see yourself falling short. When it comes to stage racing there are a few critical elements to consider and by keeping these in mind you will definitely have a good experience.
Proper nutrition plays one of the most crucial roles when it comes to sports performance. What you put into your system consistently through the day will influence your ability to perform. We always tell athletes it does not matter how fit, fast or strong you are, if you do not eat correctly you will never reach your full potential.
With this in mind the question often asked is what should you eat before, during or after training or racing session? However a step needs to be taken back here, because how you eat from the time you wake up in the morning until you go to sleep at night plays the most critical factor. It does not help to eat well only before a training or racing session when most of the time you are not eating well at all.
Here are a few guidelines to eating healthily in order to benefit properly from pre, during and post training nutrition.
Eat Foods that Agree with you
A lot of people indulge in foods purely because they enjoy them even though in the back of their minds they know it impacts them negatively. Examples of this are foods which cause digestive discomfort such as dairy, wheat or gluten foods which can cause intolerance in a variety of forms. If you do suffer from digestive discomfort or allergies you need to analyze your nutrition first and cut out certain types of foods until you discover what is causing the issue. Your body speaks to you constantly and when food impacts you negatively you will feel it. Listen to those messages and avoid those food types. Types of food impact could be in the form of lactose intolerance, fatigue, immune system weakness, cholesterol, blood pressure or even blood glucose issues to name a few. Find the foods that agree with you and your body type.
Eat Consistently for Energy
Eating too few meals or skipping meals because you cannot eat in the mornings, or you want to lose weight actually has the reverse effect. It activates fat cell production as the body enters a starvation mode, and this can eventually lead to adipose tissue build up and an undesirable and unhealthy body. In the same token energy levels are completely unbalanced because the body will be sitting in a fatigue zone. Eating consistently of course with the correct foods will enable you to have balanced energy levels, better mental focus and a stronger immune system allowing you to perform at your best. Amount of meals you eat will depend on the unique type of diet that you follow. Higher carbohydrate consumption in a diet will usually require more frequent eating as the satiety of carbohydrates is limited. In this case rather stick to lower GI healthy carbs to provide more sustainability. Those adopting a low carb higher fat and protein diet, generally eat less frequently because the satiety of such eating is prolonged. Fat of course contains more than double the amount of calories of protein and carbohydrate so it’s a given it will keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Avoid excessive indulgence and stimulant foods
Eating and drinking too many indulgent foods sends your body into a spiral. Stimulants such as caffeine can have a benefit but excessive consumption will be detrimental. You should try to limit coffee or tea to a cup a day preferably in the morning, or after a workout. Alcohol actually impacts the body’s ability to recover properly and at the same time it will impair performance if consumed anywhere from 48 - 72hrs before an event. Sugar loaded foods such as chocolates, pastries and breads also cause blood glucose issues and can affect your energy cycles negatively. Fast and processed foods are also a complete detriment to one’s health and should be limited as much as possible. Look at your eating over a period of a week assess the quality of the foods you have consumed and then let that be a deciding factor as to whether you deserve indulgent meals.
The Percentages Game
Eating healthily is a percentages game. As an example if a person consumes 60 healthy meals a week and 5 of the 60 meals are considered to be indulgence or treat meals, it still means that over 90% of the diet is very healthy. However if you only eat 20 meals a week and 5 of them are indulgent meals it means that a quarter of your diet is out the window. Monitor your eating on a weekly basis in order to get a good snapshot of where your percentage level of healthy nutrition lies.
Drink Plenty of Fluids
It is recommended drinking at least 30-40ml’s of water per kg of bodyweight. That is for an average person who does not train. Add training and stimulants such as coffee into this equation and this need climbs drastically. For every cup of coffee you drink, add 2 additional glasses of water. When you train you need to replace lost fluid, always drink to thirst when exercising. As a good practice we would recommend trying to drink around min 30 - 40ml’s of water per kg of bodyweight.
Eat a variety of Healthy Foods
Vary your foods in order to give yourself a wide range of nutrients. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables at least 5 - 6 servings a day. If you are on a low carb diet you will need to limit your fruit intake, however, there are plenty of nutrients available in vegetables which are suitable for this kind of eating. Rather opt for healthy complex low GI carbohydrates such as quinoa, wild rice and unprocessed oats which provide more blood glucose stability meaning healthier energy levels. Ensure you consume healthy unsaturated fats with a focus on Omega-3 and easily digested proteins such as lean meat or vegetable proteins.
Medium chain triglycerides such as coconut oil are very beneficial for energy level maintenance and satiety.
Many people tend to put a focus on dinners as the meal of the day. The truth of matter is that the biggest emphasis needs to be put on breakfast or post training recovery meal. Eating a solid healthy meal within 30 minutes of waking up is the best way to get your day started and the easiest way to lose weight, maintain balanced energy levels and mental focus. It sets the precedent for the rest of the day. Skipping breakfast will only lead to health concerns and weight gain eventually. If you are of course training first thing before breakfast then you would need to put the emphasis on your post training meal (discussed in detail in recovery nutrition)
Eating fast and processed foods is a definite way to create health issues for yourself. This type of food should be limited as much as possible if not avoided at all costs. Try to eat foods that are more natural and require as little cooking as possible. Keeping your diet simple and clean is the true key to controlling a healthy nutrient intake.
There is no chance you can go into a stage race not having properly practiced your nutrition during training. Our recommendation is to choose a day where you test out your race nutrition. This means waking up in the morning eating a pre-training meal as if it was your pre-race meal going out for a few hours at a fairly intensive pace (slightly slower than race pace) and checking the following: • Digestive Comfort
• Energy Levels
• Ability to Perform
If you can finish that session strong and feeling good with all the check marks in the boxes you are definitely on the right track. This does not need to be done too often as you would not want to try and mimic race day efforts too much, but you need to find a winning formula.
Once you are happy with day nutrition, move on to testing your stage racing nutrition. The critical area of stage racing is recovery in order to be able to keep consistent performance’s each day and keeping those energy levels constant. It would be highly recommended to do at least 3 repeat performances each day including pre, during and post racing nutrition which will give you an idea of exactly how you feel day to day and whether your nutrition strategy is working for you. If it’s untested do not try it on race day.
Stage Race Nutrition
The most critical aspect of stage race nutrition is the ability to truly recover from one stage to the next and put in a good performance or at least a consistent performance each day. In a stage race many riders go out hard on stage one and by stage 3 or 4 they are suffering quite badly from fatigue. Each stage requires pre, during and proper post nutrition requirements to ensure that the body’s energy system remains stable and recovers well.
Pre Stage Racing Nutrition
If you are thinking of waking up in the morning and riding on an empty stomach you need to completely re-think your strategy. The pre-race meal is critical to the success of your event and should never be skipped. A meal size of at least 300 – 400 Calories of, low to medium GI, to provide sustainability and balance, tends to work best for most athletes.
If you are an athlete that is attempting the low carb fuelling route in a stage race, it is difficult but not impossible. In this case it would be highly recommended to stock up on medium chain triglyceride fats, such as coconut, as it’s a non-stored but more easily accessible fuel source in the form of fat. The pre-race carb eater would also benefit from the fat consumption. Adding some protein into the mix will ensure hunger is kept at bay for quite a while and it will assist in lowing any blood glucose spikes. Pre-race meals idea could be the following: - Rolled Oats (another low GI porridge), nut butter, berries, half banana, yoghurt (not if you are lactose)
- 32Gi Recover Protein with berries, half banana, nut butter coconut milk (hot or cold)
- Two slices of low GI seed loaf, sliced banana, nut butter and honey on top
- Low Carb Eaters can try an avocado/coconut omelette or scrambled eggs with salmon, pilchards or sardines made with coconut milk or oil or both (The above are just examples - there are plenty of options one can go with.)
During the Race
There is a period of time from the start of the race until you need to consume some form of nutrition and this is best to wait until your body is in a state of equilibrium. By this we mean that the aerobic engine is warm and you are in a rhythm. This could be anywhere from 20 – 30 minutes from the start. Once you are feeling comfortable it would be worth feeding frequently and not waiting too long. You want to try and keep your energy levels topped up and not wait for them to dip as a feeding signal. Generally, the more frequently you feed earlier on, the far more you will benefit from it later.
Mountain biking is often an unknown because the terrain varies and it never allows for that exact moment when you are able to feed properly especially if it’s a very technical route. Try to consume something every 20 – 30 minutes and in this way you will limit the peaks and troughs of your blood glucose levels by ensuring more stability.
Hydration & Fuelling
When it comes to hydration during an event, it’s important that you hydrate to thirst. If you are dependent on calories in the form of liquid such as an energy drink you can make the mistake of taking in too few calories and landing up in trouble. Hydration amount will of course depend on temperature conditions and sweat rate. If it’s hot you will drink more if it’s cold you will drink less. If you are relying on calories in the form of liquid and it’s a cold stage you will most likely under consume the fuel required to keep your energy levels up. This is why we would recommend taking food solids on board so that you are able to take in calories without the need for drinking in order to get them.
A carbohydrate drink is not a bad idea in that the carbohydrates in the fluid help with the uptake of fluid, whereas water on its own takes longer to be absorbed.
However, there are many cyclists that cannot consume a sweet drink for a prolonged period of time and it also plays with the thirst trigger mechanism by making you feel that you are thirsty due to flavour and taste. Another recommendation would be to have plain water in some form to assist with mouth rinsing when required. An option would be to have as an example, plain water in a camel back and a concentrated sports drink solution in a bottle, or the other way around.
After the Race
The most critical part of completing the stage is without a doubt recovery. Recovery consists of 3 main elements
- Glycogen Replenishment
- Muscle Repair
- Rehydration The best way to assist with glycogen
The most critical part of completing the stage is without a doubt recovery. Recovery consists of 3 main elements - Glycogen Replenishment - Muscle Repair - Rehydration
The best way to assist with glycogen replenishment is to consume carbohydrates immediately post exercise, it will be quickly absorbed and utilised in order to get the recovery process started. Consuming protein is the other critical factor in order to assist with muscle resynthesis. The two are best consumed together within 15minutes after completing the stage where absorption rate will be at its highest. This is best done in the form of a protein/carbohydrate shake which is easy and quick to consume. Another recommendation would be to consume protein towards the end of the stage so that it’s already in your system at the finish and can be utilised immediately to start the recovery process. However if this is done remember the protein consumed would need to be digestive friendly and have a fairly good absorption rate not to mention taste good. Rehydration is really just ensuring you are consuming enough liquid post event to rehydrate your system especially for the next stage. Do this consistently until you go to sleep. Please try to avoid any stimulants through the day as they act as a diuretic and will be counterproductive in the hydration process. Keep the stimulants to pre- race. Once you have taken in your immediate post-race recovery nutrition, relax, shower, stretch and then plan to eat another balanced meal at least within 60 minutes of race completion.
replenishment is to consume carbohydrates immediately post exercise, it will be quickly absorbed and utilised in order to get the recovery process started. Consuming protein is the other critical factor in order to assist with muscle resynthesis. The two are best consumed together within 15minutes after completing the stage where absorption rate will be at its highest. This is best done in the form of a protein/carbohydrate shake which is easy and quick to consume. Another recommendation would be to consume protein towards the end of the stage so that it’s already in your system at the finish and can be utilised immediately to start the recovery process. However if this is done remember the protein consumed would need to be digestive friendly and have a fairly good absorption rate not to mention taste good. Rehydration is really just ensuring you are consuming enough liquid post event to rehydrate your system especially for the next stage. Do this consistently until you go to sleep. Please try to avoid any stimulants through the day as they act as a diuretic and will be counterproductive in the hydration process. Keep the stimulants to pre- race. Once you have taken in your immediate post-race recovery nutrition, relax, shower, stretch and then plan to eat another balanced meal at least within 60 minutes of race completion.
Fuelling Options: Solid Food
32Gi Chews are an awesome product for fuelling on a difficult terrain where a food solid needs to be quickly accessed. The main issue with a food solid is the need to remove from packaging and also the stability of the product while sitting in a cycling jersey or a bag in high temperatures where most foods spoil. 32Gi Chews have a high melting point of 90 degrees and will not melt. Even better they can be removed from the packaging before the stage and placed loose in a cycling vest or bike bag without worrying about them turning to liquid. This makes them easily accessible and environmentally friendly in that packaging will not be a concern.
How best to use the 32Gi Chews - The 32Gi chews are best split up over a period of time. We call this drip feeding. There are four blocks in a packet and an athlete can eat a block every 20 – 30 minutes providing his carb intake. If you feel you want to take in more calories in the form of chews you are welcome to shorten the feed time.
The 32Gi Foodbar can be used as an ideal snack on the bike. It contains close to 250 calories of carbohydrates, protein and fat. It will provide you immediate and sustainable energy in a long event. The bar won’t melt under high temperatures, and although it’s easy to remove from the convenient packaging while riding, it can be removed prior to the stage in order to allow for easy accessibility. The bar is soft, it is easy to chew and goes down well without getting stuck in one’s mouth. It’s specifically designed for meeting an athlete’s requirements, before and during a race.
How best to use the 32Gi Foodbar – We recommend splitting the bar into 3 pieces and eating them over a 80 – 90 minute period this way your feed is smaller yet more consistent and will provide you more stability. It also makes for easier storage.
32Gi Endure or Accelerate tablets are basically our energy drink pressed into tablet form. This is for athletes that don’t want to consume an energy drink and would prefer drinking water and then consuming the tablets while on route with water. The tablets are chewable and easy to swallow. Accelerate tablets provide a very quick release and are recommended for the high performing athlete whereas the Endure tablets are used for a pace controlled cyclist where one wants balance.
How best to use the 32Gi Tabs – The 32Gi tablets due to amount of carbohydrates per a tablet would need to be consumed frequently and this would mean at least a tablet or two every 15 – 20 minutes. We would recommend the tablet fuelling for a more fat efficient athlete who is looking for fat store reliance.
Although the name recover is on the tub, this carbohydrate/protein drink makes a perfect pre, during and post racing recovery drink. The ratio of the drink allows for a nice supply of energy to the system and the protein will provide stability. We use a vegetable protein which digests over a long period of time allowing for digestive system ease and also perfect for an endurance event.
How best to use 32Gi Recover
32Gi Recover can be taken as a pre-race drink. The phenylalanine content provides alertness and the vegetable protein also acts as a buffer in extending the rate of muscle exhaustion. During the event one can use it as a halfway bottle on a long stage instead of consuming a solid meal. The drink can be premixed and frozen, it won’t go off. Post racing, it’s important to consume a protein recovery immediately after finishing the stage, 32Gi Recovery will assist with immediate and longer term recovery. The carbohydrates inside 32Gi Recover will assist with glycogen replenishment so you are getting both the benefits at once. 32Gi Recover digests over a longer period of time, so it will keep you stable ensuring you don’t over consume calories post event and land up paying for it later with digestive issues.
Endure is a slow releasing carbohydrate drink. The purpose of the Endure sports drink is to ensure that an athlete does not get any blood sugar spiking and to provide a stable and consistent feed. With a variety of flavours and the ability to pre-mix and freeze the drink it has become a popular choice amongst many cyclists.
32Gi Endure is an excellent carbo-loading, training and racing drink. The low carb consuming athletes will benefit greatly from this drink in that it still allows access of the fat stores as a source of energy and will not mitigate it.
How to best use 32Gi Endure – It’s best to start consuming 32Gi Endure 60minutes before the start of the event to get it into your system and then from there drink to thirst.
32Gi Accelerate is 32Gi’s high intensity racing drink. Accelerate is a very fast releasing energy drink, which causes spiking without a sudden drop by using stage releasing carbs to taper the athlete slowly.
How to best use 32Gi Accelerate – Accelerate should be consumed during the race and to thirst when required. (Recommended to the athlete racing at a very high intensity).
It’s important to give thought to all these aspects of nutrition, plan it and practice it before your event in order to ensure you have trained your mind and your gut into a proper fuelling plan for your event. Once you have your racing nutrition strategy do not deviate it from it no matter what. Training is the time to play with your nutrition, racing is the time to stick to it.
The 32Gi team, spend a large amount of time working with and assisting a wide variety of athletes with training and racing nutrition. If you have any questions or need nutrition advice feel free to contact us and we will do our best to assist.
All the best Team 32Gi