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  Last updated: 5/20/2018

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:

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.


The 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)

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.

  1. Solid versus liquid - liquids are emptied from the stomach more quickly than solids.
  2. Fat content of the food - fat slows the digestive process and delays the availability of any Calories in thefood to the muscles.
  3. 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.)
  4. 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.
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.

4 days prior to the event
4 hours prior to the event
4 minutes prior to the event


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