CYCLING PERFORMANCE TIPS
Last updated: 5/20/2018
NUTRITION FOR TRAINING AND PERFORMANCE
Developing your own nutrition program
(Training, Pre-event, during the ride, and post-event)
The following basic nutrition plan for the competitive athlete is based on an understanding of the principles of the physiology of nutrition covered elsewhere.
To review, the most important of these concepts include:
- a high carbohydrate training diet is a must to maximize your internal (liver and muscle) glycogen stores.
- there may be a slight increase in daily protein requirements, with training, but replacement needs can be met with 1 gram protein/kg body wt/day.
- When training regularly, or riding multiday, endurance events, Caloric expenditures need to be consciously replaced to counteract the appetite suppression that follows from long hours of training.
- a 3 day, pre event, carbohydrate loading program gives you an edge in maximizing muscle/liver glycogen storage.
- A good breakfast the day of the event.
- a 4 hour pre event meal should be utilized to top off glycogen stores.
- some riders experience intestinal distress or symptoms of hypoglycemia if they eat in the 2 to 4 hours immediately before an event.
- Calories must be taken during an event of greater than 2 hours duration to avoid depleting your internal energy (glycogen) stores. Solid foods may offer some advantages in longer events, ridden at slower paces, butin high exertion (> 70 - 80 % VO2max) liquid supplements minimize problems from delayed gastric emptying.
- be particularly sensitive to your overall fluid balance (loss vs replacement) as the risks of OVERHYDRATION as well as DEHYDRATION increase with longer events. The best strategy is to weigh yourself regularly during training as well as after/during longer events.
- salt replacement beyond that in a normal diet (ie commercially available sports drinks) is necessary only under extreme conditions or in events lasting 8 to 10 hours or more .
Having a plan and then sticking to that plan is the formula to ride at your best. It has been shown that if you wait until you feel you need to drink or eat, you are already behind the curve - and then will never catch up. So you should aim for at least 1000ml of fluid per hour and, if you are riding more than 2 hours, 90 grams of carbohydrate supplementation as well. You can read more on replacement at Sports Drinks.
RECOMMENDED NUTRITION PLANThe following comments are intended for maximizing glycogen stores for competitive events and long distance recreational rides. They are NOT meant as a general prescription for 1 to 2 hour weekend outings. Specific recommendations based on type of ride can be found elsewhere.
First, let's review a few tips that can be of benefit in a nutritional training program.
BASELINE TRAINING DIET (the weeks and days before the event)
- Eat a good breakfast each day - and work to balance your Caloric intakethroughout the day. This tantalizingarticle from Medscape.com suggests that even an afternoon ride is compromisedby skipping breakfast even after eating a slightly greater than normal lunchto compensate.
- Practice eating while cycling - your stomach needs to get used to handling food while exercising. You cannot "train" your digestive system to get bigger or stronger, but you can define your own limitations and personal digestive quirks before the day of the big ride.
- Don't switch foods on ride day - stay with the on the bike foods you are use to eating.
- Make it simple for your digestive system - use processed breads rather than whole grains, liquids rather than solids, cooked vegetables instead of raw ones, and minimize fat.
- Don't fill up before the finish - anything you eat in the last 30 minutes will probably still be in your stomach, and if you sprint at the end, it increases the incidence of nausea and vomiting.
- Train more - the best way to improve digestive system functioning is to get in better shape improving your cardiovascular training. As you raise your peak level of performance, you widen the range of exertion within which your stomach functions normally.
- determine your daily Caloric needs as outlined in the section on energy requirements of cycling.
- calculate your body weight (BW) in kg (Wt in lbs x .455 = BW in kg)
- eat a baseline daily diet of:
- protein - 1.5 gm x BW in kg (multiply x 4 to get daily protein Calories)
- fat - 70 gm fat (the avg. American diet); at 9 Cal/gm = 630 Calories
- carbohydrates - the balance of your total daily Calories (total requirements as calculated above minus protein Calories minus fat Calories)as starches, etc.
- modify that diet for the specific periods noted below
- Pre-event interval (4 days to the event)
- During the event
- Post event
PRE-EVENT INTERVAL (4 days to the event)
Your pre event nutrition will be a key factor inavoiding RED-S or the Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport. To do so will mean estimating yourCaloric needs for a competitive event (or day's training) and then activelyreplacing them to avoid the fatigue associated with chronic glycogen depletion.
Although a good breakfastwill keep you headed in the right direction, a well planned pre ride nutrition program is key toavoiding RED-S.
You can estimate how many Calories you will need. For the first 90 minutes,they all are supplied from internal muscle and liver glycogen stores. But for longer rides you will needadditional supplemental carbohydrate Calories from snacks on the bike (or on their way toward the muscles from a pre ride mealworking its way through the digestive tract), or risk bonking.
Let's review the physiology behind choosing what to eat and the four most significantfactors that impact an athlete's digestion.
The optimal food for a rapid,high energy boost during a ride is a semi-liquid or liquid carbohydrate with minimal if any fat.On the other hand, an endurance athlete, competing at a lower VO2 max., might prefer complex carbohydrates withsome fat added to improve taste (generally in a solid form), to slow emptying fromthe stomach and even out absorption over a longer period of time.
- Solid versus liquid - liquids are emptied from the stomach more quickly than solids.
- Fat content of the food - fat slows the digestive process and delays the availability of any Calories in thefood to the muscles.
- Sugar concentration - especially in liquids, a sugar content of more than 10% will slowstomach emptying. (The use of complex carbohydrates, due to the decreased osmotic effect,will offset this to some degree and offers an alternative strategy to maximize Caloricintake to offset the metabolic needs of exercise.)
- Physical activity level of the cyclist - the mechanical activity of digestion is slowed byany vigorous activity, usually starting at 70% VO2 max. Except in short, all out events, thisis rarely an issue, and it is much less so for cycling than for running where the additionalcomponent of mechanical stimulation of abdominal contents from the sport itself slows digestivetract functioning.
4 days prior to the event
- 9 gm carbohydrate/kg BW/day (approx. 600 grams/day)
- limit exercise to minimum needed to maintain flexibility
4 hours prior to the event
- eat a 300 gm complex carbohydrate meal (rice, starch, pancakes, etc.)
- a high Caloric density glucose polymer sports drink may be ideal here
- define your own physiologic limits if you are accustomed to eating in the 4 hours interval before a ride - many riders get a psychological boost from eating a low fat meal or a liquid carbohydrate drink/gel during this interval (and as a bonus can supplement their internal glycogen stores for a ride of more than 1 to 2 hours)
4 minutes prior to the event
- 45 gm carbohydrate (candy bar for example)
DURING THE EVENT
- regular carbohydrate replacement - start immediately
- 60 gram of carbohydrate as a minimum per hour
- liquid preferred (i.e. sports drink)
- 10% concentration optimal (equivalent to a cola drink)
- start with half a water bottle (300 ml) in your stomach
- complex carbohydrate drinks permit additional Calories
- 800 ml/hour (a std water bottle = 590 ml)
- drink at 10 - 15 min. intervals
- 3 to 6 gm carbohydrate/ kg BW over the immediate 4 hours post event (100 grams per hour) - start immediately
- a high Caloric density glucose polymer sports drink may be ideal here
- protein appears to expedite glycogen replacement
- 600 gm carb/day for 2 days to optimize repletion of muscle/liver glycogen.
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Cycling Performance Tips
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