Eating And Drinking Your Way To A Successful Race

by Amy Garrett

For cyclists, eating correctly is just as important as proper training. If your body doesn't have the nutrients it needs to perform well, you won't perform nearly as well as you could. During a race, that means you won't achieve your time goal. With an endurance ride, you might not make it all the way.

Dietary preparations begin at least one day before an event. There are also nutritional considerations to make during and after your ride.

Before the Big Day

Your major dietary goal the day before a ride is to preload all of the essential ingredients that your body needs for optimum functioning. These include:

  • Adequate hydration
  • Sufficient carbohydrates for glycogen synthesis
  • Protein for muscle repair 

Hydration—The key with pre-race hydration is to make sure that you drink at least 8–10 large glasses of water on the day before your ride. If your routine includes any time on your bike, you'll also want to replace any fluids that are lost due to sweat during that time. You can also add a sports drink on the morning of your event.

Carbohydrates—The average person burns about 400 calories per hour of cycling. This number can go way up depending on your performance level. Since carbohydrates are the key ingredient in your body's energy production, you'll want to eat 500–1000 additional calories of whole-grain pasta or other carbohydrates before your ride.

Protein—While cycling isn't as dependent on protein as weight training, your leg muscles will go through stress during a ride. Your body will need protein available to repair any damage done. Consider adding a protein shake or other natural source of lean protein to dinner the night before.

Race Day

Even with proper preparation, your body will run out of gas during a long ride. The two major issues every cyclist must combat are:

  • Maintaining hydration
  • Calorie replacement

Hydration—Your body's thirst reflex typically lags behind a water shortage. That means you'll need to drink on your bike before your body tells you to do so. That's why most organized events have water stations every 15–20 minutes along the route. Don't skip these!

Calorie Replacement—It's not uncommon for cyclists to burn thousands of calories while riding. Even if you add 500–100 calories to your routine the night before, you're going to need extra calories during and after your race. Bring gels and nutrient bars to eat while riding, then make sure to eat extra healthy foods for two or three days after the event.

These steps will ensure that your body has all that it needs to perform well. Your ride will be a success, and your transition back into training will be as smooth as possible. For other tips, speak to cycling experts from a shop like Sarasota Cyclery Inc.