For the purposes of this article I will assume that you have a good handle on your DAILY NUTRITION. By this I mean you are eating a diet composed of the three macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) in the right proportions. Let’s assume the athletes in this article are starting off with a full tank of glycogen stores(carbohydrates are stored in the muscle and liver as glycogen). This rider can likely store approximately 1800-2200 calories of glycogen in their muscles and liver (varies by fitness and musculature).
Let’s play this out with rider A and rider B. Both riders are males weighing 160lb (72.7kg). Let’s assume this ride or race (I will refer to this as a race for simplicity) isfull gas and aggressive with tough terrain. It’s a 2 day race: approximately 4-4.5 hours each day. Day one, fueled up and ready to rock!
Rider A – not OK!
Rider A feels good at first. He is drinking 500 ml an hour. One bottle has his sport drink the other has just water. He is 1 hour and 45 minutes into the race and hasn’t started eating. By hour 2 he is feeling some fatigue and realizes he needs to eat. He starts eating 30-50 grams of carbohydrates an hour (example: 1 e-load gel and ½ a package of Honey Stinger chews). By hour 3 he isn’t feeling quite so strong and his legs are feeling a little “flat”. Hour 3.5, he is feeling more like he is hanging on than being part of the race. Closing in on hour 4, his calves start to twitch. He takes another gel (30 grams of carbs). His focus is waning. He starts drinking more. But this bottle is water and only 500ml. He didn’t take a feed. His fuel stores are low; he is now looking at his odometer to see how much mileage is left. He is also drafting well to hang on, knowing he doesn’t feel very powerful. He is low on glycogen, a feeling he knows too well. He finishes OK. He burned 3,200 calories. He ate 520 calories, 2 gels (60 g x 4 calories =240 cals), 1x500ml sport drink (120 calories), 1x Honey Stinger chews (40 g x 4=160 calories), plus 1 bottle 500 ml of plain water. He has lost a few pounds due to dehydration.
Be Like Rider B!
Rider B on the other hand started fueling in hour one and kept eating/drinking properly right through the last hour of the race. Let’s say rider B was fueling with 90 grams of carbohydrates per hour (sport drink (30gr) + 1 eload gel (27gr) + 1 package of GU Chomps (39 g) every hour) and drinking 750 ml of the 4-7% sport drink solution every hour, right until the end of the ride (he took 2 bottles in the feed). Rider B had pop at the end for the sprint points, and felt just as good at the end as when he started. He was tired, but he had power and snap. He could attack, respond and be “on top” of his gears. Rider B isn’t cramping or twitching. He feels confident. So far I want to be rider B ☺. For the purpose of this article we will say that this rider burned 3,200 calories as well. He ate 96 grams of carbohydrates per hour or 384 calories per hour (96x4calories per gram) for a total of 1,536 calories for the 4-hour race.
If you are rider A, this is the beginning of where things go wrong. If you are rider B - nice job!
Post-Race Recovery Nutrition
Rider A gets off the bike. He feels a bit…hammered. Rider A sits around at a café splayed out on his chair, has a coffee, maybe a muffin, a chocolate milk or pastry of some sort. He isn’t really hungry as he is likely down on fluids. But he eats the pastries anyways. He spends that first hour after the race sitting around with friends, just chilling and not really paying attention to recovery. The muffins are high fat, the pastries are high fat and the coffee is not helping with hydration. There are no electrolytes coming in. This scenario is all too common. The rider then drives home, showers and eventually eats a real meal like a sandwich and maybe he has a glass of water and a beer. He snacks a little, has a normal sized dinner of steak, race and a salad; but not in quantities required to replenish glycogen stores. He heads to bed later that night not having replenished enough carbohydrate stores, fluids or electrolytes after burning 3,500 calories.
Rider B hangs out with friends too (don’t worry you don’t have to be a total loser to recover well ☺). However rider B brought a recovery drink. He gets off his bike, walks to his car, grabs the recovery drink from the cooler and joins his friends. Rider B composed the drink of 1.2 gr/kg of carbohydrates and 0.25gr/kg of protein for optimal recovery in the first 30-60 minutes post workout.
• If rider B weights 160 lbs (72.7 kg) that means he would have 72.7 x 1.2 = 87 grams of low fat high glycemic carbohydrates and (72.7x.25=18grams) 18 grams of lean protein within the first hour off the bike. Both carbohydrates and protein have 4 calories per gram, therefore this meal would have 420 calories (88 g carbs x 4 cal/g = 348, 18 g protein x 4cal/g =72, for a total of 420 calories).
Some examples of post-race fueling:
• 1.5 large baked potatoes or 2 cups of white rice and 3 ounces of grilled chicken breast.
• Alternatively, a sport drink with the same ratios. For example 1.75 scoops of EFS Ultragen plus 1 cup of Oceanspray cranberry juice mixed with water will give you a sports drink with 88 grams of carbohydrates and 18 grams of protein.
Athlete B is now on the proper road to recovery. An hour later athlete B will eat this same size meal again. In each of hours 2, 3 and 4 he will repeat this macronutrient consumption. Each time the meal can be made up of different foods, or the third meal could be twice the size and it could be dinner. For recovery you want to eat 1.2 grams of carbohydrates and approximately 0.25 g/protein per kg of body weight per hour up to 5 hours after a hard race over 90 minutes.
The longer the race the more times you will need to replenish. You can also have recovery meals for 2 hrs and then have a complete dinner a little later on that is larger in size. Follow this with a carbohydrate snack before bed such as a piece of toast with jam or even some rice pudding. The rider may add a bit of fat to the third and fourth meals, adding calories. In total he will consume approximately 2100 calories after his race. What is key is that he started the recovery process within 30-60 minutes post-race.
The 30-60minute post-race/training recovery window is often referred to as “The Window of Opportunity.” As glycogen depletes in the muscles and liver, an enzyme in the body called glycogen synthase rises. This enzyme is responsible for helping to store glucose as glycogen up to 50% faster than normal. It is at its highest concentration 30-60 minutes after a hard training ride or race where glycogen stores will have been depleted. Therefore by eating the proper meal at the right time after your race, you can increase your recovery time by up to 50%. That is significant, especially when stage racing or doing big double days. So don’t waste any time - start recovering immediately.
Another reason to start your recovery within this window is to start muscle repair and hydration as quickly as possible. If you have lost a lot of fluid volume during your race, you want to rehydrate with a solution that has some sodium in it and be sure to salt your food for the rest of the day. A good guideline to follow is for every kg of weight loss; consume 150% or more of fluid to replace it. Example: 1kg (2.2lbs) lost = drinking 1.5 liters of water/sodium solution. Know your regular pre-race weight and make sure you are back at it before you go to bed. Intake of coffee and alcohol during this time isn’t ideal as they will not encourage hydration. Continue drinking regularly after you have re-hydrated until you go to bed.
Back to our riders:
Rider A gets up, feels groggy, sleeps in and has only 2 hours until the race. He stops at a drive through to get a bagel (310 calories) with light cream cheese (60 calories), and a large coffee with milk and sugar. This breakfast is far too small at 475 calories. He doesn’t drink any water upon waking. He takes to the start, legs a bit heavy at first which is normal. He feels OK for the first hour. Today he improves his on-bike consumption and has sport drink in both bottles and has 1 gel per hour. But by hour 2.5 he is in trouble. The pace is high, there are a lot of accelerations and he finally just BLOWS. He was burning 900 calories per hour again today. He just doesn’t have the power he has felt before. The pack rides away, and he rides in with the gruppetto.
Rider B gets up early. Yes, he misses a bit of sleep, but he eats and drinks 3.5 hours before his race to ensure good digestion. He isn’t hungry. But he eats. He has 2 cups of orange juice mixed with maltodextrin (160 calories worth) and some whey protein (18 grams) since they are easy calories to drink. He also has a large bagel with jam (420 calories) and 1 medjool date. His breakfast is 950 calories. He takes his time to eat slowly. He has had this exact meal before a long weekend training ride and knows it works for him. He times his coffee 60 minutes pre-race for it to peak at the start and he continues to sip water. HE eats a banana within the last hour leading up to the race. Rider B races hard, he suffers, he attacks, he eats and drinks a lot every hour as planned, he counters, gets in the break and he WINS!!!! (Happy ending ☺)
Want to be rider B? Make a plan. Pay attention to it. Follow the post-race guidelines rider B followed. Practice your plan during hard training rides. Execute your plan on race day. And leave Rider A in the DUST!
This article has been reprinted from Pez Cycling News Online. Anne Guzman is a regular contributor to Pez Cycling News Online.