It's as important to eat and drink before and after the event, as during the event. Without fuel, your body will struggle with long distance cycling and the event will become more of an ordeal than a challenge.
To ride far and to finish strong you need to:
- Maximise carbohydrate intake during the event
- Minimise dehydration
- Load with an exact dose of caffeine
Carbohydrate is the fuel that lets you ride fast and far. 70% of the effort required for any endurance event is fuelled by carbohydrate and not fat. Unfortunately, your body can only store a limited amount of carbohydrate â€“ typically 400g for a 75km rider when rested. Ride anything over 90 minutes and your carbohydrate store will be depleted. Any carbohydrate that you can consume during the event (drinks, gels, etc.) adds to your body's store of carbohydrate.
Particularly in warm conditions it's hard to drink enough to keep up with sweat loss. You can easily sweat 1.5 litres, which is enough sweat to fill two large drinks bottles every hour! While water is often an ideal thirst-quencher, sweating while exercising will deplete electrolytes and other minerals in your body which are not replenished by water. We recommend you use one of the many available sports drinks to aid you through the event.
Caffeine in moderate doses can substantially increase the absorption of carbohydrate and fluids. Caffeine also stimulates the body's nervous system: reducing fatigue, making you more alert, increasing your concentration and reducing the feeling of effort during sport. In the right amount (3mg to 6mg caffeine per kg of body weight), caffeine is an affective performance enhancer. A moderate dose of caffeine has not shown to significantly increase dehydration during sport.
If you are sensitive to caffeine and experience symptoms such as tremors, palpitations, etc., then stop using it immediately. If you have a heart condition do not use caffeine, instead switch to a caffeine alternative.
Seven Principles for Nutrition
The Night Before
This is your last chance to top-up your body's energy reserves. LOAD-UP on carbohydrates and fluids and enjoy your dessert tonight! Suggestions: Rice, potatoes, cooked veggies, protein, and hydrate. AVOID oily/spicy food and get a good night's rest (7+ hrs)
The Morning of the Challenge
Eat a light breakfast, 1hr+ before the ride. Suggestions: white toast, cornflakes, oats, juice, coffee, are all good (but not all together!). Hydrate, by drinking one 750ml of sports drink or water with a spoonful of sugar. Do NOT start the ride on an empty stomach!
During the ride: Eat
Eating CONSISTENTLY is essential to finishing. Take in 200-300 Calories/hr in mainly carbohydrates. As a rule of thumb, that's a fistful size portion of food. If you are using energy gels, try to use these in the latter part of the ride for quick absorption. Suggestions: Energy bars, energy gels, dried fruit and nuts (in a zip lock bag), peanut butter-jam sandwiches are magic!
During the ride: Drink
Drinking CONSISTENTLY is also essential to finishing. It is recommended that you drink 600ml - 1 litre/hr of water with a little sugar or a sports-hydration drink, which will include electrolytes, potassium and magnesium. The latter being very useful to reduce muscle cramping.
Muscle CRAMPS are associated with dehydration, electrolyte deficit and muscle fatigue. It is essential that you replace electrolytes lost through sweat. Suggestions: Bananas, Sports-hydration drinks and energy gels work well.
This is a great chance to reboot your energy systems. Take this opportunity to HYDRATE! Drink at least 600ml of water or a sports drink while you have some food. Eat carbs, fruit, coffee (for a caffeine boost), and something sweet isn't going to hurt. AVOID spicy/oily food. Do NOT eat too much, as this will draw blood flow to your stomach and away from your legs. Do NOT stop for too long as you do not want your muscles to cool down too much, or you will find it harder to get started again!
Recovering after a ride is very important, you've used up a lot of your carbohydrate store, minerals and vitamins by riding Nic's Cradle Challenge. To rehydrate and refuel, to develop lean muscle faster and improve fitness drink a protein based drink as soon as you finish and eat a balanced protein-based meal within 30 minutes of finishing. Suggestions: Tuna sandwiches, dried mango or my favourite a tuna-cheese melt toastie.