Kate Perry is back, this time with her tips on fuelling your body during long rides or races.
With a little under four weeks until race day, I thought it would be a good time to share some of the tips I have on fuelling for the race, but more importantly, making sure there are no nasty stomach surprises on the day!
Last post when we touched on exactly how much to eat on a long training ride, I eluded to the fact that I probably didn’t eat enough. We are all guilty of it, riding to hunger, thinking to ourselves “it’s okay, I only have about an hour to go, I will wait until I stop to eat” or “I only had breakfast an hour ago, I don’t need to eat that bar yet”. But when it comes to getting the most out of yourself, on both race day and those long hard days in the saddle, it is important to make sure you are putting enough in the tank to get you to the end, but equally, to be able to ride hard when it counts!
With a plethora of information out there on what to eat, when to eat, what brand of gel should I be using, to caffeinate or not to caffeinate (I could go on for days) I thought I would put together a short list of “tips” for you to start working through, in the weeks leading up to the race. Why now you ask? Because it is so important that you practice your nutrition plan before race day. Why haven’t I just given you a plan? Because there is no cookie cutter approach when it comes to fuelling, and everyone is a little different. Guidelines yes, one size fits all? Most definitely not.
What I will also say is this, I am not a qualified nutritionist, nor a dietician, so the following recommendations are tips only, more so ideas rather than gospel! There are plenty of people out there who have written some very useful articles on fuelling, nutrition 101’s and books on good ride snack foods, so if you are hungry for more, by all means, start browsing! Sports Nutrition Brand Websites are always a good place to start for more information too!
Tip 1: Make sure you eat enough
As a general rule, on long hard training rides where I am riding at an intensity of “tempo” or with efforts spread out throughout the ride, I try and eat approximately 60g CHO (carbohydrate) per hour. Now some of you are probably thinking “what on earth does that mean?” but to put it into context this would equate to 2 x Energy bars, or a piece of fruitcake and a bidon of sports drink (a very rough gauge). It is always handy to read the nutritional content of gels and bars to make sure you are getting enough, as some will have 20g CHO, whilst others 30g. In terms of when to eat, I always try and eat consistently, rather than hold out until I am hungry, with the idea being that you don’t get to the end of a ride hungry.
Tip 2: Carbohydrate (CHO) is your friend
Yes, it is possible to survive a long endurance ride on not a lot of food, or foods that are not necessarily the highest CHO content, but it is important to remember than as soon as the intensity gets above 85% VO2max, your body needs CHO! It is a bit like a switch in that you will get to the point in which in order to fuel the effort, carbs will need to be accessed. So if you don’t have any in the system, then your body is going to set off a few alarm bells and make some changes to make sure you can get home (usually the feeling of not being able to hold the intensity of an effort).
To make sure you are well fuelled, a meal ¬2h before which is higher in CHO is a good idea (porridge for breakfast for example, or some crumpets with honey, fruit toast etc.), but it also means following tip 1 and snacking along the way!
Tip 3: Train your gut
I don’t think I need to go into too much detail here, but I am sure we have all been there in a race or long endurance event scenario that you don’t usually consume gels on a training ride, but then come race day you are jacked up on gels and caffeine and then your insides go, nooooo thank you! This is why it is important to practice race day fuelling strategies before the big day. Start taking a mixture of gels and solid foods on your long training rides, aiming to eat the food early on and then gels in the second half. But really, as long as you are training your gut to eat the right amount of CHO, how you do this doesn’t matter too much (in my experience anyway). Oh, and if you can mix up savory and sweet options, then that always makes it easier too (even if you do have a sweet tooth!)
Tip 4: Remember to drink
Easier said than done but remember to keep your fluid intake up. Not only does this help with hydration, but it also helps with CHO ingestion and digestion. Try and have a mixture of Sports Drink/Hydration mixes (electrolyte and CHO) as well as bidons with water. Hydro tabs in the bidon are always a good idea, and if you are out on the road for a long day in the saddle, chuck a few in the back pocket wrapped in foil and then when you stop for a top up, you can pop one in a fresh bidon, rather than start with one and end up with none!
Tip 5: Eating on the fly
This tip is not so much about what to eat, but more so, how to eat. Depending on your riding ability, you might find it easy or difficult to unwrap a bar, open a sports gel, peel back the foil on a rice cake. If you find it tricky or are thinking to yourself that this might be something to cause you mild anxiety in a big bunch, then the following tip is for you. Simple things like pre-tearing a gel or wrapper before it goes into your pocket means that you can open it with your teeth, rather than fumbling around. If you have hand-wrapped a snack, folding it in such a way that it just folds back, is super handy too (here is a link to how to wrap rice cakes like a pro)!
There are probably another 500 tips I could give you, but to me, I personally think it is best to keep it simple. Practice your race nutrition, aim to not finish a ride hungry, and don’t worry about “is this too much?” If you are hitting the numbers, getting in the kms, and completing the training sessions without issues, then the answer is probably no. Eat around your training rides, pre-during-and post, and the rest takes care of itself!