The Race Winning Glycogen Refueling Chocolate Nutrition and Hydration Plan of an Elite Virtual Cyclist.
Race nutrition is a HUGE topic…and for good reason. It’s a struggle to balance the fuel your body needs to finish a race with the load that your stomach will accept during a race.
It can also be a struggle to reconcile a focus on simple carbs with what we, as athletes, have come to accept as a healthy day-to-day diet.
It can be a struggle to figure out what to eat AFTER a race when you’re too tired to do anything but sit in front of the fridge and stare blankly at leftovers, wondering if dipping miniature bagels into cold mashed potatoes is a terrible or brilliant idea.
My (Honest) Race Winning Nutritional Diary
Here is an honest diary of what I ate in a day…before, during, and after winning the fourth stage of the BC Cycling Cup to secure the overall victory. Depending on the distance of the race and the time of day it is held, I will vary the formula below to fit but Nuun, coffee and chocolate will always make an appearance.
Nuun for hydration. Coffee for energy. Chocolate for happiness.
What I Ate Before the Race
7:30 am: Oatmeal with peanut butter & frozen berries followed by chocolate protein (casein) powder mixed with cocoa powder.
The last part sounds weird, but I am essentially making chocolate pudding. Casein and plant-based protein powders work well for this. Whey is too soluble.
7:45 am: Decaf coffee.
John (my new husband of one week at this point) is a coffee lover and has been experimenting with a pour-over V60. Since he’s not up yet, I open his lab notebook and follow the instructions, hoping to surprise him. I accidentally use the decaf beans. >.<
8:00 am: REAL coffee.
John is awake now and teaches me proper pour-over technique while we sip on the low-octane stuff I made previously. I love coffee but I try to reserve the good stuff as a race day treat. Caffeine makes me feel GOOD.
11:15 am: Breakfast part II.
Second verse same as the first! With two hours to go before the race, I still have time to adequately process fats and proteins.
Since this is a longer race, I want to err on the side of being totally topped up. Race day is NEVER the time to worry about future weigh-ins.
What I Ate During the Race
12:45 pm: Having finished warming up, I eat the first of my chocolate (Moser Roth Salted Caramel Dark Chocolate).
My 20 minute warm-up includes some high intensity bursts so my muscles are primed and ready to suck up any and all sugar I give myself. Again, I don’t want to start depleted and I know that chocolate sits well in my stomach. Because of the fat in the bar, it will also sit with me a little longer than a straight-up gel.
1-3 pm: Sooo… I’m racing!
During the course of the race, I polish off 2 Nuun Sport, 1 packet of Nuun Endurance, 1 Dove promise and 2 energy gels (about 350 kcal total).
This is less fuel than what I would aim to take in during a triathlon but:
Hydration is Also a Key Focus
Because today is a long race, I wanted to make sure that I had easy access to hydration. One of the biggest reasons I use Nuun is that I like the taste. I will always drink more Nuun than plain water or other sports drinks and that means I stay better hydrated!
Figure 1. Race nutrition aftermath. Note the empty wrappers and water bottles. The nice thing about virtual cycling is I can always have extras ready! Furthermore, chocolate will never melt in my back pocket.
Figure 2. Over 2h of racing at near 4w/kg means that I have a lot of work to do with “catching up” in terms of hydration and nutrition for the rest of the evening. There’s no way I could eat enough calories during the race to make up for that!
What I Ate After the Race
3:30 pm: Post. Race. Chocolate.
This time I’m going high class with some of the chocolate we got for our wedding (less than a week ago! Please. Chocolate doesn’t last THAT long in our house.)
It’s easy to snack on while I play DS for the end of John’s race. It also does a good job providing an immediate glucose bump to avoid the post-race hangries and it’s something I always want to eat.
Racing hard can make me lose my appetite, so it’s important that I motivate myself to replenish immediately.
4:00 pm: John is done racing.
Now it’s time to eat recovery carbs and protein while we prep for dinner. Today, this looks like chocolate, milk, and fruit.
5:15 pm: Dinner consists of brown rice with mushrooms, chicken, cauliflower, and onions.
For John, this also means a post-race beer while we Zoom chat with friends.
For me, this means more Nuun because I’m still dehydrated from the race. During competition season, I find my alcohol tolerance is really low so I tend to avoid it altogether.
6:30 pm: Dessert is a parfait with Greek yogurt, peanut butter, frozen berries and (off-brand) Honey Nut Cheerios.
Since I am being honest, I eat this every night. Sometimes I eat it in the morning for breakfast too. It’s my version of an ice cream Sundae.
John makes more coffee. This time it’s intentionally decaf.
9:00 pm: Another parfait?
I’m hungry again and my sweet tooth is demanding more Cheerios. I figure…why not?
It was a tough race, plus the protein and fat will keep me fed until tomorrow morning’s ride. I have some more water too because I’m still just so thirsty.
My Honest Personal Race Nutrition Disclaimer
Of course, now we get to the obvious disclaimer that this is my personal race day and that this plan doesn’t necessarily work for everyone.
Bigger racers may need more fuel. Smaller riders might need less.
Lots of people drink coffee on a regular basis and might be appalled that I even OWN decaf. To each their own.
The important themes I follow when creating my nutrition plan are:
1. What WILL I eat?
Whether it be hydration during a race or fuel after, I ultimately need something. I need to eat and drink and it’s not worth letting “perfect” be the enemy of the good. Also: I like chocolate.
2. What does my body NEED for fuel?
Generally carbs. Some fats and proteins before the race will also ensure I get a more even supply of fuel. During the race, pure carbs and fluids are about all I need.
3. What does my body need for RECOVERY?
Immediately, carbs to replenish glycogen stores.
Later, fats and proteins, in addition to more fluids.
4. What will make me HAPPY?
Let’s face it, we are humans and we do this because we enjoy it.
After a big race, we all deserve a little chocolate!
What do you do for your race day routine?
Are there other chocolate fans out there? Or are baked goodies like fresh sourdough more your style? Please drop comments (and post-race celebration recipes) below.