2018 Cycling Nutrition

I discussed the advantages of upgrading my bike equipment in preparation for the 2018 Hotter n’ Hell race in my previous post.

Upgrading my bike, footwear, pedals, and clothing made a definite improvement, however adjusting my nutrition has made just as much of an impact, if not more.

I need to be clear of one subject, eating for cycling was a foreign concept to me for quite a while.

I have been a professional fitness trainer and strength coach since 1995 of which I have had the pleasure of working with multiple collegiate and professional athletes over this time span, but I had never worked with an athlete whom would be competing upwards of 6+ hours per event.

This is where getting professional assistance was necessary.

Last year I competed in the HH100 just under 220 lbs. I had been preparing simultaneously for a powerlifting meet, and my lifts were pretty good for a guy who was 43 years old. I was pressing 325 lbs for doubles, my best squat in training was 460 lbs, and I pulled 497.5 a few days before my birthday.

This all changed when I partially tore a quad muscle during a heavy squat workout 4-weeks from the race unfortunately.

My orthopedic surgeon advised against surgery, opting instead for a regiment of physical therapy and massage therapy, but commented I had simply putting too much stress on my body preparing for both events.

The powerlifting meet was out, but the race was on… painfully.

Fast-forward to February of this year, and I realized after looking at my notes from the previous year not only was I placing too much stress on my body, but not providing the correct level of nutrition to optimize performance most likely contributed to my injury.

I consulted with a sports dietician who completely revamped my nutritional plan.

My meal for a training ride (30+ miles) would have consisted of 12-16 oz skillet potato’s, 3-4 whole eggs and some type of fruit. I would take an energy gel usually once an hour during the ride and drank plenty of water for those brutal Texas afternoon’s.

I found my energy level for the first 10-15 miles excellent, but then would notice a substantial drop after about 90 minutes.

I would take an energy gel, and would have a slight burst of energy, but this was short lived. This was essentially our nutritional strategy, and not knowing any better, my riding partner and I performed the same race day.

Our pre-race breakfast was stopping at an IHOP in Wichita Falls, then stopping at each of the rest stops to grab what was available and fill our water bottles.

Photo Credit – IHOP; https://www.ihop.com/en/menu/combos/split-decision-breakfast

The dietician explained this process was ineffective because I would burn 800-1000 kcal each hour at my current training level, and I would be unable to adequately replenish at one of the rest stops.

The first change was to incorporate a nutritional strategy both at and between rest stops.

Every 20 minutes I was to rotate between a bar or an energy gel during the ride, then grab a few pickle juices with a bit of fruit at the rest stops. This measure allows a consistent stream of calories to be delivered to the muscles (close to 500 kcal) keeping energy levels stable and maintain an optimal level of electrolytes for the ride.

My gel of preference is Chocolate Outrage and Expresso Love flavors from Gu Energy and Chocolate Peanut Butter from CLIF Bar btw.

The second change was to adjust from a large breakfast consisting of upwards of 800+ kcal, to a more modest level of a bowl of oatmeal with some almond milk and a few pieces of fruit.

My wife makes a European muesli which proved to be amazing as a pre-ride meal.


Photo courtesy of groceriesreview.com

Just one bowl of this will set you up!!!

The final adjustment made was instead of restricting fluids to water during long rides (3 hours+), I would fill my bottles with ½ water and ½ Pedialyte.

The battle of Pedialyte vs. Gatorade has been going on for years, which I am not going to get in the middle of, but here is a video you can watch and make your own opinion on.

The first attempt at this style of eating was June 3rd on a 44 mile training ride. I consumed an gel or an energy bar every 20 minutes during the ride, and quickly realized my energy remained high during the ride. My riding partners both noticed when quite frankly I left them in the dust ha!!!

On a side note, I found opening and discarding the containers to be the only source of difficulty during the ride. I simply placed my energy bars in my left pouch, gels in my right pouch and I placed the wrappings in the center pouch when I was done with them.

So how did I feel afterwards you might wonder?

My legs would usually feel heavy and slow for a few days post ride and my knees would feel quite weak. Not a good combination for a guy missing a PCL since 1992.

Since implementing this style of cycling nutrition my legs actually felt fresh the following morning, and I was able to jump on the bike with the same level of strength and stamina as the previous day which has been both refreshing and exciting.

The final benefit has been weight loss.

Let’s be honest, the lighter I am on the bike, then less I have to lug around for 100 miles so getting rid of excess pounds has proved beneficial. Last year I entered the course around 220 lbs. Today, I am down to 215 lbs exactly 7 weeks out from the race, and I’m on track to being sub 200’s come race day without minimizing strength or performance.

Let’s do this Baby!!!!

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