The most important thing is that we don’t leave our nutrition strategy until the day, or even a few weeks, before. Our bodies need to get used to what we are doing and so the same approach we have with our training must be applied to our nutrition.
Following a quality, structured training plan means you will reach your event in great physical shape which will, in turn, give you real mental strength.
The biggest failing to complete endurance-based events is nutrition and hydration! Therefore, we develop our eating and drinking alongside our training. We form positive habits when we train by eating to set times rather than when we feel like it and this teaches our body it is about to get some fuel and so will allow our bodies to work more efficiently.
Now the training part comes in… We need to find out what foods/drinks work for us as we all have different tastes and tolerances. We don’t want to sit at home and eat gels while watching a movie, even though some are very tempting, we need to be out on the bike when we try our different brands of energy products. I would recommend 1-2 gels an hour or a bar an hour or half a bar and a gel if using energy products.
You may find that you cannot cope with energy products’ sweetness and this can cause an upset stomach or sickness. If this is the case then we can look at bananas, flapjack, rice cakes, Mars bars, etc. The list of products I just mentioned again needs to be practised with, as these take more energy to break down and our stomachs do not always like doing that while we are exercising! So practise.
Using caffeine products does help BUT if you take on a caffeine drink or gel you can experience a drop in energy around 30 minutes later and this is due to the increased speed in which the energy has been used. Caffeine not only wakes up the mind but it increases the amount of energy we can absorb, which is approximately 30%, so in effect the flood gates are open… This is great if we need a quick fix but we must also take normal nutrition just after as this stops the drop after… This is a really important point.
Practise and practise, make sure you are happy with what you can use and that it gives you the energy you need.
Over the time of your Sportive, you will find you will crave different food types, make sure you have a good variety in transition.
Slow-release energy in the form of porridge mixed with honey and banana will be a great start approximately 1-1.5hrs before you start your race… You may be able to leave it until later or you may need it earlier depending on your metabolism so practise this. Coffee or tea and fruit juice with a couple of pieces of toast and you are away!
Keep an energy drink with you to sip on while waiting for the start and a banana or bar to eat 20 minutes before you start.
If you have taken on board a good breakfast, similar to what we have mentioned, then you will get approximately 1hr of ride time on this nutrition, so no need to hit straight into your gels or bars. Your personal nutrition plan will start after the 1st hour but some people will be up to 1.5 hours. We now get on with what will be our first gel, bar or homemade product and remember to take a sip or two of drink with this. Your next fuel will be in-between 20 and 30 minutes after the first, and so it goes on through the ride. Make sure you consume a 750ml bottle of either electrolyte and energy or just electrolyte, around every hour.
If you are getting close to the end of your Sportive, still stick to the timings on nutrition as the food you eat towards the end will, in fact, be helping your recovery that night.
When grand tour riders were asked when they took their last gel/bar, the answer was around 15 minutes before the finish, not much help for that race, but gave their bodies some nutrition to help recovery.
Make sure all of the above has been practised in a local Sportive or two before your big day as this will help you have confidence that you are eating the right amount to get round your big day.
People sometimes think that they will try and not eat on the bike while training to lose weight!? Not a good idea, we burn what we eat while exercising. What we put in gets used; if we deprive the body and stress it with no fuel while riding, once we get off the bike anything we eat will be stored in our body. Our bodies are clever and will try and store energy if it feels it has not had enough during the session, thus we gain weight!
As mentioned in number 1, our bodies are super clever and they will store carbs, but we cannot do it the night before! Our bodies will just remove it as a waste product because you are flooding the system. We carb load at the start of the event week, 5-7 days before the event, and we add a small amount of carbs into our diet each day so the body can store it.
You are an individual who requires specific nutrition to you, so go and practise what they have suggested and see how you do. If it does not work for you then move on and try something new and keep going until you find your answer.
Drop us an email if you have any specific questions on your riding nutrition or any other training questions.