Nutrition Strategies for the Event Build Up
There are some basic nutrition practises that you can do in the lead up to the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge that will help your enjoyment and performance. It is important that you trial these during training though, as mixing up your pre event routine can cause stomach issues. Give them a go in the lead up to your long rides over the next month, they will not only promote a good quality training session, but will help prepare you for event day.
Carbohydrate loading has been shown to be a successful approach for a range of different types of athletes, and several of my clients have reported that is has worked well for them. Others have not found carbo loading to sit well with them, so I recommend that you trial it prior to the event to make sure you tolerate it. The use of carbo loading in recreational athletes is not so well studied, but the same principles apply as to well-trained athletes. Increasing your carb intake to 8g of carbohydrate per kg body weight, per day, for the final three days before the event day is the standard protocol. I recommend tapering this down on the last day to minimise gastro discomfort, so having a standard portion of carbs at each meal on this final day. The Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge is on a Saturday, so start carb loading on Wednesday. Friday is a ‘travel day’ for a lot of you, so while you don’t need to panic about stuffing in the carbs, making sure that you have some practical carbohydrates available is important. Have your favourite breakfast cereal at breakfast, choose something easy to prepare for dinner such as a pre-made spag bol, lasagne, or macaroni cheese, and pack some sandwiches for the car trip. Consuming a sugary sports drink or fruit juice is not usually recommended, but could be done during the day to provide easily digestible carbohydrates. Choose low fibre foods that you are familiar with such as white bread, banana, muesli bars, sweetened yoghurt, and even a dessert such as cake to snack on between meals and before bed.
This is where it is very important not to stray to far from what you’ve been doing in training. Studies have shown that having a high carb meal 1-4 hours prior to exercise will help with performance. Science says 2-3g of carbohydrates per kg body weight is optimal. I’m 80kgs, so for me that is 4 weetbix with a banana and milk, plus 2 toast with honey and a glass of juice. You can see this is quite a large meal, and the reality is that a lot of elite athletes will have less than this. This is why it is important to trial this in training. Have a go at high carb meals before your next long training session, and see how you tolerate it. Keep practising it before the big day so that you are used to it. Before a big race, if it is possible, I aim to wake up and eat exactly the same food, at exactly the same time for a week prior. This helps me feel confident in what I am doing and my body knows what to expect.
If you are the nervouse type, practising is particularly important, and you may even consider a liquid meal such as a smoothie, Up n Go, Sustagen etc.
The final hour before the event
Some science has shown that 25g of carbohydrates (a gel, banana, flapjack) in the last 30 minutes prior to exercise improves performance, while other studies have shown that this can result in lower blood sugar levels and potentially limit performance. It seems to be a case of some people not reacting well to it, so trial it yourself and see how you go. Sip on water in this last hour or so. Don’t overdo it, unless peeing on the bike is your thing.