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Event Guide to Cycling Nutrition

October 11, 2016
Event Guide to Cycling Nutrition

With help from SIS, below is a quick and simple nutritional guide to help you get the most out of your ride, whether that’s a race or just a challenging ride with mates.

Train like you race

No matter the distance of event or ride you’re planning to tackle, your training and nutrition require proper thought. Smart choices in nutritional strategy will ensure those hard-earned miles are not wasted.

As rides get longer, nutrition becomes all the more crucial to ensure you don’t just finish the ride, but that you enjoy your time in the saddle too. This guide will help you fuel that chosen sportive and the training days leading up to it.

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Fuel your training

Just like your bike setup and choice of clothes, testing and proving your nutrition strategy prior to the big event is essential.

Breakfast time: This is more involved than figuring what energy bars and gels to use on the ride, and starts with your choice of breakfast. As the most important meal, you need to make sure what you eat works for your stomach, is easy to digest in the early hours of the morning and provides long burning energy.

On the bike: Once riding, it’s crucial to maintain your hydration and energy levels. You’ll want to get comfortable with refueling while on the bike, so practice drinking from your bottles and find a food that you can open and consume easily on the move.

Carbs: Your body only stores enough carbohydrate for up to 90 minutes and so you’ll need to intake up to 60g of carbs per hour of exercise to keep the muscle glycogen topped up. If you’re not used to this, it’s important to test it out to ensure your body will handle it.

Sweat it out: How much you sweat will dictate your fluid requirement. The goal is to not lose any more than 2-3% of your body mass after a hard training session. Weight yourself before and after, and be sure to drink a fair bit more if your weight magically drops after a few hours.

Basic nutrition guide during training:

Pre Training During your rides Post Training
Hydration Ensure you are fully hydrated. Drink 500 – 100ml fluid in the build up to your training ride. Use SiS GO Electrolyte or SiS GO Hydro to increase fluid retention Work out how much you are sweating (per hour) and aim to replace this. This usually falls within 500-1000ml per hour depending on temperature. For shorter rides, use SiS GO Hydro to replace electrolytes lost through sweat To ensure that you are fully recovered to train again, aim to replace 150% of the fluid volume lost through sweat. Always make sure to weigh yourself before and after your training rides.
Energy For longer training rides, aim to increase carbohydrate intake on rest days and in the build up. Use SiS GO Electrolyte between meals to increase glycogen stores, practicing for pre race carbohydrate loading. For shorter training rides, focus on electrolyte and fluid intake. For longer rides, aim to take on 60g of carbohydrate per hour using a combination SiS GO Isotonic Energy gels and SiS GO Electrolyte. Find out the combination that works for you during training. N/A
Recovery Ensure that you rest well between rides as this is where adaptations take place. Overtraining is common in endurance athletes. Aim to get the same amount of sleep throughout your training period. N/A Post-training recovery starts within 30 minutes of finishing your ride. Take SiS REGO Rapid Recovery to replace glycogen and electrolyte stores and rebuild lean muscle. Finally, ensure that your post training meal contains balanced carbohydrates, protein and vegetables.

Build up strategy: 48-hours before

Our muscles store up to 300g or 2500kcal of glycogen to be used as energy, this is the main fuel you will use when racing. Fully loading these stores helps to reduce the onset of fatigue and so it’s important to increase carbohydrate intake in the 48 hours leading up to the event.

This is often best done naturally at meal times with foods such as rice, potatoes, pasta and cereals. Between meals, snack on fruit, cereal bars and carbohydrate drinks.

Below is an example plan for a typical 70kg cyclist providing 3500kcal, loading with 600g carbohydrates. Perfect for consumption the day before an event.

Breakfast 3 Cups Granola with milk; 1 medium banana; 250ml fruit juice
Snack Blueberry muffin; 500ml SiS GO Electrolyte
Lunch 2x Panini (choice of filling); low fat yoghurt
Snack Smoothie: Banana; yoghurt; honey; granola
Dinner 3 cups brown pasta with tomato sauce; 3 slices garlic bread
Snack Toasted muffin with peanut butter; 500ml SiS GO Electrolyte

Pre Race: The day of the race

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Breakfast: Try to have a carbohydrate-rich breakfast 2-3 hours before the race start. Leaving breakfast too late could cause stomach cramps once on the bike. Stick to foods you’re accustomed to.

Hydration: Hydrating beforehand is key. Aim to drink 500-1000ml of fluid, ideally 500ml with breakfast and another 500ml in the hour before the start. Using electrolyte-rich products such as SIS GO Electrolyte or SIS GO Hydro will help increase fluid absorption and retention – meaning less toilet stops.

Snacking: Although optional, a pre-race snack helps to relieve the stress of having to eat too much at breakfast.

During the Race

For rides under 90 minutes:

Focus on hydration and electrolyte intake. Aim to consume 500-1000ml of fluid every hour depending on sweat rate/humidity. If you have trained using a caffeine product, such as SIS GO Hydro + Caffeine, this should be taken just before the ride to allow time for it to kick in.

For rides over 90 minutes:

Focus on hydration, electrolyte and carbohydrate intake. Continue with 500-1000ml of fluid every hour. Our bodies can absorb around 60g of carbohydrate per hour, so be sure to plan accordingly based on the ride length. It’s suggested that you begin consuming carbohydrates 30 minutes into the race. This carb intake can be achieved with fluid sources, energy bars and/or energy gels.

A good strategy is to eat solid foods during the flatter and more controlled parts of the race, and use gels where the intensity is higher, such as when climbing. Save caffeinated products till the later stages of the race for help in mental stimulation.

Post Event Recovery

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Proper rest and recovery is crucial after any training or racing as the body will be in a state of depletion. This will help fuel physiological adaptions and avoid the risk of injury and fatigue.

Your metabolism will stay lifted for around 30 minutes after exercise, leaving an important window to replace carbohydrates and provide your body with protein and electrolytes. Real food such as chicken and white rice can be consumed, however, you’ll likely want something that’s easier to prepare and more palatable following a hard session. A recovery-specific product such as SIS REGO Rapid Recovery offers the body everything it needs to adapt and recover.

Whatever recovery method you choose, it’s important to prepare your meals and snacks beforehand so that you’ll hit the 30-minute window without stress when your body craves it the most.

Shop for Science in Sport nutrition and get your nutrition dialled in for race day.

This article is designed as a general guide and everyone's individual needs are likely to vary. The key takeaway from this is that it’s important to trial what works for you before the big day. This is a sponsored piece by Science in Sport.

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