Cycling Nutrition: Fuelling for Training and Racing Events as a Female Athlete
Nutrition is the one thing that everyone knows is key to successful performance. Your body works as an engine whilst pedalling out on the bike, whether that be a training ride or a race. The engine must be fuelled correctly with the correct fuel to keep it running and to make it as efficient as possible.
There are key elements to fuelling as a cyclist. You need enough energy available in stored reserves to be ready to ride your bike, as these reserves will become depleted after a period of time dependent on the intensity and duration of your ride, so it is essential these stores of energy are topped up so you can continue to train at the desired intensity. Recovery and adaptation are also essential for making ‘gains’ and this is where nutrition post riding is important, to replenish the energy stores and help muscles repair so they can come back stronger.
The ŠKODA DSI Academy share their top tips for nutrition and fuelling for both training and racing events as a female athlete below.
Morgan Newberry: Fuelling for a training ride
When it comes to fuelling for a training ride, I eat as I would generally, as even on days where there is no training it is still essential that I fuel my body properly. A lack of nutrition on days off from training usually comes back to haunt my legs and body when training. Here is an insight into what my general nutrition might look like for a training session, such as a few hours out on the bike…
My favourite meal of the day. Without a good breakfast I never feel great moving into the rest of the day. I love a bowl of porridge, made with about a 50/50 ratio of water to milk, a handful of blueberries and a squirt of honey on top once cooked. Along with the lovely porridge, I have a big glass of water, small glass of orange juice and a cup of strong tea! That sets me up for a good day.
Being organised makes it easy to ensure you do not forget things if rushing out the door on the bike. I always get my bottles and ride snacks ready before I get changed for the ride. For a three-hour ride I would take two bottles, one with an electrolyte tab and the other with squash. For longer rides popping into a café to fill up your bottles and grab a cheeky coffee (and maybe a cake 😊) is important to reduce the likelihood of ending up dehydrated, which is never fun! The all-important ride snacks are best when varied. I usually have a banana, a few cereal bars of different varieties and that handful of sweets just in case ‘you need moral’.
Once I get back from a ride I always try and re-fuel as soon as possible. This is not something I always used to remember to do, so to combat this I started to make sure I had meals in the freezer that are ready to go within a few minutes. My go-to meal prep for post ride is a sweet potato curry with chickpeas and butter beans, and then rice or a naan bread to top up the glycogen stores and help your body recover and adapt successfully. Hydration is also key; I always have a hot drink and a big glass of water when back from a ride. I often supplement the recovery and adaption phase of the training cycle with a protein shake as it is easy and helps get enough protein into the body. A good dinner makes sure I am ready to train again the next day.
As a woman, iron is an essential mineral in my diet, and an effortless way to supplement this along with eating iron rich foods, is to have an extra handful of spinach with lunch and dinner. Training rides are more fun when you fuel properly, lots of fruits and vegetables throughout the day make sure your body can operate effectively.
Listen to your body when it comes to fuelling, it is personal to everyone.
Rebecca Richards: General fuelling for race day
I absolutely love carbo-loading as an athlete, as it gives me an excuse to eat a lot more pasta than I normally would and who does not like pasta (especially pasta bake)! I’ll start thinking about taking in more carbohydrates a week prior to the race to top up the stores for race day, especially if I’ve had a stressful day of travelling prior to the race.
Come the morning of the race I love a big bowl of porridge either with blueberries or a little chocolate spread (or both…). It helps make it that little bit easier to eat, especially if you are trying to eat at 5am! I will normally try to stomach this 3 hours before a race, but it can be quite tricky if you have early start.
Ahead of the race, I will typically have a gel before I start my warm-up. I will make my bottles up, one with a strong carbohydrate mix and the other with an electrolyte mix, as these allow me to stay hydrated and keep on top of fuelling the legs, particularly if it’s quite a technical circuit.
During the race
My go-to snack to consume in the first half of a race is a flapjack, as they’re not too hard to chew whilst breathing heavily. Then in the latter stages of the race I mainly use gels. I try really hard not to let my body get hungry during a race, because the feeling just gets worse. There’s nothing more annoying than being in the bunch with the final 5km to go and nothing left in your legs for the sprint. Trust me!
One of the most important parts of racing is recovery and fuelling that recovery. Hydration after a race is key, especially if you want to ride well the next day. Another must in my opinion, is a protein shake with carbohydrates as this allows the body to absorb protein more effectively. I will normally have some something like chicken and peppers with rice post-race, as it calms the stomach down after all that adrenaline!
The key to nutrition is listening to your body, there isn’t a one size fits all approach to the perfect diet to ensure maximal performance, nutrition is personal to yourself and you must find what works best for you.
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