Race day nutrition plan

  • 21 Nov, 2023

The day is almost here when all your training will come together, and you get to hurtle down a mountain over 4 stages all in one big day.

Last week, I touched on carbohydrate loading and how important it is to keep those fuel tanks topped up before race day. Today, I’ll cover what you should be trying to do to keep the energy high.

First, you’re going to need a good breakfast. You should aim to eat about 2-3 hours before the race starts; this allows the food to be moved from the stomach into the intestine for absorption and ultimately turned into energy. Breakfast should consist of easy-to-digest carbohydrates, oatmeal topped with banana and some honey (my favourite), 2-3 slices of toast with peanut butter and banana with Nutella is also a good option. The meal should be around 300 cal or 60-90g of carbohydrate. I would stay away from milk or yoghurt as the upcoming intensity can cause stomach issues. Rice, pasta, vegetables and fruits are also a good choice.

You should be drinking water (500ml) along with your meal to aid digestion and hydration; it’s best not to mix a carbohydrate drink as this can be far too much for your gut to handle.

CAFFEINE….yes, definitely. If you have a cuppa before your rides, then do so; a cup will NOT dehydrate you; however, it can cause your bowels to get agitated, and that is not pleasant.

About 30 minutes from the start, if you wish, you can consume a gel with some water; if you have tried this in training, then all is well and good. Now is not the time or place to try something new.

So, now you’re in the zone, and the flow is strong.

DO NOT forget to get some calories in.
A combination of sports foods and whole foods can be included depending on individual preferences and tolerance. The aim here is 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour, that is, either two gels, four bananas or two jam sandwiches. If you use gels, you must aim for 200-300ml of water only, avoid other mixed sugar drinks as they can cause stomach distress.

You can take on calories with a carbohydrate drink mixed with a 6% glucose solution. Poweraid, Gatorade and pre-mixed solutions like that are perfect. Depending on heat and altitude, aim for a minimum of 500 ml up to 1000 ml if it’s hot or you are a big sweater; during the race, it is not possible nor necessary to replace 100% of fluid losses during the event. Understanding individual sweat rates will help to determine an appropriate fluid intake plan for racing.

There you have it; keep it simple, easy to digest and carry. Do not panic and start throwing food down if you forget to eat; your body will be under enough stress; remember that a lot of blood will be used in your arms and legs, so there will not be a lot to digest solid foods in your stomach.

Plan your race and race your plan.

Good luck, Coach Derrick