Fueling to race the Amgen Tour of California
Special to the Sun
TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; Professional bike racers not only to train to bike race; they train their bodies to fuel for energy and fast recovery. In order to push physical limits for 4 to 5 hours straight, optimal fueling is a critical part of each riderand#8217;s regime. When spending a significant amount of time in the saddle, the logistics of eating adequate calories becomes a race unto itself. In addition to simply eating enough are the challenges of meal planning, packing food, and negotiating restaurant meals. For pro riders, an organized team of support staff, soigneurs, and perhaps a chef help each cyclist fuel for performance. Nutrition for this level of sport goes beyond the general carbohydrate calculations. Here are a few insights into some nutrition practices from inside the peloton to try on your next big training ride.
Even with extremely high energy requirements you wonand#8217;t find these riders loading up on the buffet breakfast at the nearby casino. A breakfast, about three hours before race time and will be composed mostly of carbohydrates with moderate amounts of high quality protein and fluids. Riders, with pre-race jitters may opt to supplement with liquid meal replacements and most will top up with juice, sports drink or gels. To get in extra carbohydrate, one trick is mixing maltodextrin into coffee. Some riders will also take a dose (3 to 6 mg/kg) of caffeine about one hour before the race as an ergogenic aid. Researchers have yet to definitively determined whether the performance enhancing effects of caffeine are physiological or placebo, however it has been shown to provide a two-three percent improvement in performance for some.
Fueling on the fly
For those of us who have had experience reaching for bottles and food from a moving vehicle while riding shoulder to shoulder with 100 or so of your closest rivals, it takes practice and precision. A carefully planned combination of fuels are taken to get in approximately 60 grams of carbohydrate/hour of racing in addition to one-two fluid bottles per hour. Newer research shows ingestion of a specific glucose fructose ratio increases carbohydrate uptake in the small intestine and hence delays fatigue caused by low carbohydrate availability. Boosting carbohydrate up to 90 grams/hour is suggested for events greater than three hours, typical of many stages. Available products have incorporated this research. In addition, riders who are heavy sweaters or tend to cramp may choose a sports drink with higher electrolytes or choose to add their own prescription of electrolytes with products such as Elete Electrolytes. Factors such as gastrointestinal tolerance, taste preferences, fatigue, and ease of use will affect individual fueling strategies; but trial and error will help determine what works for you.
Itand#8217;s not over yet
After several grueling hours the race doesnand#8217;t end when you cross the finish line and step onto wobbly legs. The fundamental race to recovery has just begun. The ideal regime consists of at least 1.1 to 1.2 grams per kilogram body weight of carbohydrate, 15 to 25 grams of protein and enough fluids to replace 150 percent of losses and needs to happen as soon as possible after the race. Soigneurs will hand off recovery nutrition to riders as they cool down. For the aggressive recovery nutrition necessary to perform in multi-day races, the type of carbohydrate and protein eaten is important. High-glycemic carbohydrates, such as sports drink, bagels, banana or sucrose, or smoothies with added maltodextrin mixes are good options for immediately after. For protein, not any protein source will do for top athletes. Studies show high quality protein with higher leucine (amino acid), such as whey, aids in more effective for muscle protein synthesis. Recovery nutrition continues with a series of snacks and meals in approximately two hour intervals until bedtime.
With a team depending on each rider to execute a race plan there is very little room for error in nutrition. Many athletes work with a high performance sport dietitians to develop optimal nutrition strategies. When watching the upcoming Tour, pay attention to the nutrition tactics as well as race tactics. You may learn a thing or two for your next ride. Remember sport nutrition is not one size fits all. Train your nutrition to find the right fuels and timing that makes you faster, stronger and ready to attack.
and#8212; Dana Lis (B.Sc, RD, IOC Diploma Sport Nutrition) is a high performance sport dietitian and a graduate of the renowned IOC diploma in sport nutrition with extensive experience in endurance sport including several years as a category 2 cyclist. She is dietitian to several Canadian National and Olympic athletes and has recently developed the and#8216;Performance Cookingand#8217; program, which aims to close the gap between nutrition theory and making it happen. Visit http://www.summitsportsnutrition.com