Keys to a Successful Cycling Race: Think Smart, Eat Smart

Cycling nutrition_eatingThere are so many things to pay attention to in order to prepare for a race. As a competitive cyclist, you have to be savvy in a number of different key areas such as cycling nutrition, bike maintenance, repairing or replacing bike parts, and knowing how to use various cycling accessories such as power meters and heart rate monitors to maximize performance.

If you also have a full-time job, it’s a lot to think about! In this article, we’re going to help take the load off your mind by focusing on a very specific aspect of race prep – eating before, during and after a race. Hopeful you can glean some useful information for you upcoming competition.

Keep in mind that eating changes depending on the distance and intensity of your race/workout. Not all suggestions may apply.

Before:

We typically find lots of articles that talk about what you should eat after a race, but not as many about what you should eat before. The key is, if you are already eating healthy and balanced meals, you probably don’t have to change much before a race.

One thing you want to make sure you are including in your pre-race diet the night before a race are carbohydrates. Carbs store glycogen in your muscles, which will be burned during the race the next day. Foods like pasta, breads, and rice are carb-heavy that could be on your dinner plate. Try to keep protein dense foods at a minimum.

If you have a long or particularly intense race the next day, you can do what’s called “carb-loading.” Cycling Tips explains that carb-loading typically takes place 2 days before your race. Male athletes can typically store about 1,500 to 1,900 calories of carbs in the blood, liver and muscles combined. And after two hours of exercise, glycogen levels will be depleted. Cycling Tips recommends eating 10 grams of carbs per kg of body weight daily in the two days before the race.

During:

There is no formula that stipulates how much you should eat during a race because different body types and habits cause athletes to have different eating patterns. Some of the variables that determine how much athletes should eat include: lean body mass, metabolic efficiency, intensity, race distance, and environmental conditions.

CoachLevi.com offers some valuable insights into what cyclists might eat during rides at varying distances and intensity.

If you feel that you should be eating differently, here are some questions from Training Peaks that guide your eating habits:

Do you find that you have enough energy for your workouts and races?

    • You should finish strong but spent, not crawling home or hitching a ride!
    • Eat more often if you bonk!

Do you ever get “grumpy” during a long session?

    • If so, you likely aren’t consuming enough carbohydrates.

Do you experiencing GI distress?

    • You might be consuming too much or need to combine different sources of carbohydrate (i.e., glucose, fructose, sucrose, maltodextrin).
    • You can try fewer calories or read labels to find products made with multiple carbohydrate sources and try different brands of products.
    • You might also work on metabolic efficiency to see if you can reduce the number of calories you need.

Do you seem to be able to eat whatever you want, even when the intensity is high?

    • No reason to back off if it is working for you!

After:

Right after a race you want to digest simple carbohydrates such as bananas, a bagel, or maybe even a slice of pizza. These things are often offered at the end of a race. Eating caloric-dense foods will restore your glycogen levels in your liver and muscles and getting some protein will help your muscles recover.

Stay away from the really fatty foods and foods high in protein. We know that some of you may be craving potato chips and whole pizzas, but its not the best thing for you.

See the article, “Maximize Your Post Race Recovery“ from Training Peaks for more information.

For more information, don’t hesitate to visit our website or stop into our store – Peak Cycles in Golden, Colorado. We have tons of advice, as well as bikesbike partscycling accessories, and cycling apparel.

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