Stage races span the duration spectrum. Shorter stage races that are done over a weekend might feature a time trial and road race on Day 1, for example, then a criterium on Day 2. These points on fueling for stage races are culled from several sources — cycling books, cycling magazines, websites, and my coach.
Ideal fueling starts with Body Recalibration — not my term, just a fancy name for conditioning your body for recovery. Recovery should begin at least 6 weeks before race season. (An even better practice is to eat well year-round, but we have to start somewhere — and I”™m well aware that this post is late in the season).
Start by eliminating junk — assuming any of you ever indulge in such stuff! Junk includes alcohol, sugar, caffeine, high-fat chips, and such. If you”™re in the habit of fueling with sugar before and during trainings, it”™s a good idea to eliminate that as part of this process.
My coach always said that endurance athletes never mind expending energy, but don”™t want to waste it. Wasted energy refers to anything without a performance payoff. Having to detox from chemicals and junk like sugar wastes energy.
Next, add the good stuff. Eat foods in a natural state whenever possible (whole foods, rather than processed). Stress vegetables (3-6 cups a day), rather than fruit. Fructose is associated with lots of health issues and isn”™t good fuel for training.
If it”™s possible to eat organic, do. That”™s less important if we don”™t eat the skin. So organic nuts matter less, but organic apples are a big deal. At least stay away from The Dirty Dozen — the foods with the highest pesticide levels: apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, bell peppers, imported nectarines, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas, potatoes. Three foods recently added to the list are kale, collards and hot peppers, so it”™s a Dirty 15.
Eat the same types of foods that you eat during your training. Race day is not the time for nutritional surprises. Believe it or not, if you”™ve been junking out all the way up to race day, you might as well eat that way for the races.
Don”™t deplete carbs or skip meals, especially race-day breakfast. Eat some extra starches 1-2 days before the event.
The primary nutrition concerns in training and racing are:
- Replacing water. Dehydration reduces blood volume; increases heart rate and perceived exertion; impairs thermoregulation, mental performance, and endurance.
- Replacing sodium. Low sodium can result in disorientation, nausea, fatigue, seizures, or collapse. Salt your food instead of using salt supplements.
- Saving glycogen during the race so it”™s there at the end when you need it. (This may be a good place for Dr. Joan”™s Potato Goo…)
- Replacing glycogen after the race so you can perform well in the next stage. High GI starch and protein in a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio replace glycogen better than sugar, including fruit. Don”™t eat fats right after the race. They slow carb absorption.
Eat 3 hours or more before the start of the race. If you”™re not adapted to that, consider it part of Body Recalibration. Avoid eating 30-60 minutes before the start, which may be too close to the effort. Find a food combination that works for you, but avoid all-carb (especially all-sugar) meals. They can lead to reactive hypoglycemia in some athletes and cause bonking. Instead, include protein and fat.
Refuel within 30 minutes after your race. Always. Be fanatical about it. Glycogen replacement is maximized during that 30 minutes because glycogen synthetase is in its active form and facilitates peak storage. Eating within 30 minutes counteracts cortisol”™s breakdown of muscle protein for energy and will reduce soreness — very important for the next stage. If you miss the 30-minute window, your muscles may be temporarily insulin resistant for several hours. That prevents best glycogen replacement and may interfere with your performance in the next stage.
Eat again 2 hours later and 4 hours later — or 3 hours prior to the next stage. If you race twice that day, stay aware of how many calories you”™re expending and consuming. Many convenient devices are available that are worn on your wrist and provide this information.
Racing at over 20 mph while drafting may burn roughly 12 kcal/kg/hr. Without drafting, that could increase to 15 kcal/kg/hr. Gender, size, and muscle mass all affect those values. Cycling efficiency (good technique) can lower them. The more you ride overall, the less you may burn.
The goal during racing is to postpone fatigue, not replace all of the calories you”™ve burned. Full calorie replacement should occur during recovery.
Refuel within 30 minutes after the last race of the day, especially if you have to race again the next day!
And keep in mind that these points may also help on days that you teach several classes.
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