With a break in the Scottish weather and Spring well under way, it is the perfect time to get out on the bike and enjoy the countryside. For the last couple of years I have taken part in the Tour de Lauder, a charity cycle race in the Borders raising money for Chest, Heart & Stroke Scotland through the Steve Cully Tribute Fund. Its popularity is growing and with the beautiful border scenery, you can see why! There is the option of an 50 ish mile route and an 80 ish mile route and no time limit, so a little something for everyone. Even 50 miles on a bike is a tough ask so what to do about nutrition before and during the race?
Leading up to the event: practice your race day nutrition during your training. Decide what works best for you and what you can comfortably consume and carry on the bike. If you want to use energy gels then practice with these to get your timings right and to ensure that you can stomach them. During the week running up to the event, add some more carbohydrates to your diet for example honey or dried fruit in your porridge or some oatcakes as a snack. This will ensure that your muscle glycogen levels are tip top to prepare for the race. Hydrate well in the few days before and don’t make any drastic changes to your diet; stick to what you know. Cut back on alcohol as it dehydrates you and stick to home-cooked meals if possible.
For a little something extra, try having a glass of beetroot juice in the days running up to the event. Beetroot juice has been linked to improved performance through reducing the energy cost of exercise. You can find out more on one of my past blog posts.
The night before:
- have a home-cooked meal you enjoy and your body is familiar with
- hydrate well
- plan your food for the next day i.e. bars, gels, electrolytes etc. Some people make up sandwiches to carry on the bike or homemade flapjacks. Banana or peanut butter and jam sandwiches are a great way to boost your energy and carry you through the race. Try out this flapjack recipe for a sustained energy source
The morning of, 2-3 hours before:
- have a carbohydrate-rich breakfast for example porridge and a banana or berries
- have at least 500ml water (there’s a bit more info on hydration here)
- choosing low-fat and high-carbohydrate foods ensures that your body is getting the fuel it needs to prepare for the hours on the bike – fat slows down the release of energy from food so avoid too much fat or protein at breakfast
30-60 minutes before: top-up energy levels with a high-carbohydrate snack like a banana or banana bread or a healthy flapjack. Sip water often but allow time for toilet breaks!
While on the bike:
- carry 2 water bottles on the bike, one with plain water and one with a weak carbohydrate solution or electrolyte powder. One of the most important things is to stay hydrated and a concentrated carbohydrate solution slows down water absorption – you can make a 6-8% carbohydrate solution with some diluting juice or opt for an electrolyte powder on a hot day when sweat rate may be high
- aim to drink around 500ml fluid per hour
- carry a couple of gels or energy bars to see you through if you don’t want to make too many pit-stops on route (there is always fantastic home-baking at water points so you won’t go short on flapjacks and banana bread, big shout out to the supporters!). The most important thing is to carry something that you enjoy eating and you know will make you feel good on the bike
- aim for around 1g per kg body weight of carbohydrate per hour – so around 70kg carbohydrate for the average man and don’t wait until you are out of steam before fueling up, consume little and often
Recovery begins immediately! After crossing the finish line, make rehydration your first priority, especially in warmer weather. Consume a small snack within 30 minutes of finishing consisting of 3:1 or 4:1 carbohydrate to protein, for example chocolate milk, turkey sandwich, Greek yoghurt and honey, banana and almonds. Continue to support your recovery over the next few hours by consuming good amounts of carbohydrate and protein every 2-3 hours and drinking plenty of water.
The most important thing is to prepare well and pay attention to energy and hydration, oh and enjoy it of course!
Anyone looking for some more in-depth personalised advice on nutrition, whether it is for the Tour de Lauder, another cycle or a different sport altogether then email me at [email protected]