Spring and summer brings not only warmer weather to Colorado but also the opportunity to participate in many fine local endurance events offered to challenge your fitness, and of course to promote worthy causes. Events such as the Bike MS 150 for multiple sclerosis and Tour de Cure for diabetes provide a physically challenging hurdle as well as a sense of fulfillment towards finding a cure for these diseases. However, embarking on a bike ride in excess of 50 miles on hilly terrain in a single day should not be taken lightly, and will require some forethought and proper planning on what nutritional strategies to employ. Read on to learn how to properly fuel your body in order to successfully complete these endurance events rather than suffer through them!
Address proper nutrition early on.
One common mistake weekend warriors often make is altering their diet too close to the time of the event. Just as your body acclimates to increased physical training, it requires a similar period of time to adapt to dietary changes. Relying on the obligatory night before “pasta feed” hosted by event organizers will offer minimal performance benefits and may leave you feeling bloated and flat the next day. Thus, you should plan on adopting a higher carbohydrate diet at least 2 months prior to your scheduled event. Focus on quality whole foods through the bulk of your training. As much as possible opt for whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean protein sources such as fish, skinless poultry, and lean red meats. By treating your body like a high performance race car and choosing high octane fuels your muscles will thank you and respond favorably on the day of the event.
Put weight loss goals on the back burner.
Although weight loss can be a convenient ancillary benefit from endurance training, it doesn’t happen to every athlete. Avoid the trap of “under-fueling” in an attempt to lose weight. You will impede muscle recovery and detract from the benefits of your hard training. After your event is completed you can resume your weight loss efforts.
Dial in your food and fluid needs.
In the final month before your event you should trial and error your food and fluid practices during longer rides. A good starting point is 16-20 fluid ounces of water or sports beverage and about 30 grams of carbohydrate per hour. Depending on your body size and physical effort these numbers can be adjusted in either direction. The key is finding what works for you and understanding that over-fueling can be just as detrimental as under-fueling. While commercially produced energy bars, gels, blocks, etc. offer convenience, know that foods such as bananas, fig bars, bagels, pretzels, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches can all work quite nicely as well!
There is no magic pill.
Resist the urge to spring for the latest dietary supplement to hit the shelves or fad diet your training partner just started, particularly in the final week and days before your scheduled event. Such 11th hour changes rarely assist and often deter from physical performance. Rather stick with what got you there and have confidence your plan will see you through to the finish line where you can celebrate your accomplishment!
Have you already completed an endurance cycling event? What nutritional strategies worked for you?