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Nutrition for Century Rides

Q: I’m doing my first 100km ride this fall. How do I know how much and how frequently I need to eat before, during and after the ride?

Nutrition for Century RidesBeth Mansfield: The Best Energy Booster for the event day is a Carbohydrate-Rich DIET!

  • * Prevent the need for quick energy
  • * Eat before you run out of fuel.
  • * Practice recovery nutrition

What you eat on race day (hopefully tried and finessed in training sessions) can make a huge difference in your ability to maintain your pace near the end of your event and recover quickly afterwards. The training for your 100 km ride is the practice ground for you to determine which foods/fluids work best for youbefore, during and after training. It will also allow you to learn how much of what foods and fluids you will need to eat/drink to keep you energized. Use these tips in your training sessions NOW to determine your needs for this fall’s 100 km ride:

Experiment with the nutrition you need  before the event. This will boost your confidence in the choices you make BEFORE, DURING and AFTER you cycle hard. Eating carbohydrates during exercise has the potential to delay fatigue and enhance your performance. Remember that everyone is different. What works for you is not necessarily the best choice for one of your training buddies! Make a list of potential “winning” foods and fluids to try out during training to see what works best for you.

Practice Tips

  • * Focus on fluids and easily digestible carbohydrate-rich foods and beverages before and during every training session;
  • * Experiment with foods and drinks in training and “test” races (like a long time trial) to determine the best timing and your tolerance for pre-exercise foods and fluids;
  • * Refuel, rehydrate and rest-up post-workout to be stocked up and ready to go for your next training session;
  • * Eat foods full of protective nutrients for long-term health that will also fuel your body for optimal training and race day performance.  

Choose Smart Carbs

Carbohydrate rich foods (e.g. fruit, milk, yogurt, veggies, rice, pasta, breads, cereals, legumes, cookies, and sweet desserts) are vital for boosting pre-, during and post-workout energy levels and mood. Carbohydrate-rich foods are the body’s preferred source of fuel for higher intensity activity (race-pace cycling), plus they keep you in a positive frame of mind. Lack of carbs before and during a workout leads to whining, cranky cyclists who quickly run out of steam. But pay attention…not all carbs are the same! If you have trouble with wheat-based foods, choose rice, quinoa and potatoes as your starchy carbohydrates of choice. These are gluten-free/low-gluten alternatives to wheat-based products such as pasta, breads and wheat/oat-based cereals.

PRE-WORKOUT

The amount of muscle glycogen (the storage form of carbohydrate in muscle cells) you have on reserve reflects your eating and exercise habits over the past few days; however, the meals you eat right before a competition can also provide additional energy. A strategy for pre-event meals will help you prevent hunger or fatigue during your race and provide your body with adequate fuel to keep performing well. Larger meals should be consumed 3 to 4 hours before training sessions and competitions to ensure that you’ve digested the food you eat and you are ready to perform. Sometimes you may not have a lot of time to eat a meal, so eat a large snack 1 to 2 hours before your training/competition to get the energy you need. For training sessions and competitions lasting more then 60 minutes, a small snack 15 to 30 minutes beforehand is a good idea to ensure that you are topped up and ready to go! Use the examples below to help you plan your own pre-workout nutrition program.

Meal Examples Pre-Workout

With milk, vegetable and/or
fruit juice or water

Large Snack – Pre Workout

With milk, vegetable and/or fruit juice, or water

Small Snack – Pre-Workout

With milk, vegetable and/or
fruit juice, or water

Omelet or potato frittata Hard-cooked egg or cheese with crackers A few crackers with fruit/vegetable juices, water
French toast with fruit and yogurt Fresh fruit with cottage cheese Piece of fresh or dried fruit with water
Low-fibre cereal with fresh fruit and milk, toast with peanut butter and banana Whole wheat bread or bagels with a slice of cheese or nut butter Small granola bar with water or fruit juice
Sandwiches with low-fat cheese, sliced roast beef/pork, turkey or chicken and veggies Date squares, sesame snacks or oatmeal cookies ½ small sandwich with fruit or vegetable juices, water
Grilled chicken and veggie kabobs on rice Low fat yogurt with granola Chocolate milk or fruit smoothies

DURING WORKOUT

  • Cyclists (especially masters aged 50-plus) need to ensure they are drinking enough fluids during their rides. Masters cyclists tend to have a diminished thirst mechanism so the drive to drink can be absent until dehydration becomes an issue. This can happen in younger cyclists as well. The bottom line is that drinking while exercising is a learned trait for many.It can cause digestive upset for some so it is important to not only figure out how much fluid your gut can tolerate at a time but to train it to handle sufficient fluid. Water is the number one choice for shorter distances (1 hour or less) but if you are looking for some extra energy, sports drinks have just enough energy to keep you going and also have added electrolytes (e.g. sodium and potassium). Adding sports drink crystals to your water bottle helps promote drinking and adds flavour.
  • For your long rides and on event day, eat small carbohydrate-rich snacks (approx 15-20 gms/60-80 kcal of carbohydrate) every 20 minutes or so.  Examples include dried fruits, fig newtons and oatmeal cookies, boiled potatoes, candies or sport gels.

POST-WORKOUT

It is important to remember that your body needs to be refueled after riding to help your muscles recover and repair. Eat a snack or small meal rich in carbohydrates within an hour or two of finishing your ride. Here are some ideas to get you refueled.

Recovery Meals and Snacks

Meal  + FLUIDS Large Snack  + FLUIDS Small Snack + FLUIDS
French toast with maple syrup, fresh fruit and yoghurt Hard cooked egg or cheese with crackers and cut up apple Snack bag – shredded wheat with raisins and almonds AND water
Grilled chicken and veggie kabobs on rice;

Lentil soup & salad

Low fat yoghurt with granola;

Berry smoothie

Granola bar with a fruit juice or fresh fruit and water
Multigrain cereal with fresh fruit and milk; Multigrain toast with peanut butter and banana Fresh fruit with cottage cheese;

Whole grain muffin with cheese

A few whole grain crackers with fruit/vegetable juices, water

Every cyclist is different, so experiment to find what foods and fluids work best for you. Remember that you need to practice sports nutrition as well as doing all the training you need to meet your cycling goals.

Elizabeth (Beth) Mansfield, MSc, RD, is a registered dietitian, CSEP-certified clinical exercise physiologist and sports nutrition specialist. Through her company, Peak Performance, she specializes in bridging the gap between the sciences of nutrition and exercise and the practices of healthy eating and active living.

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