Pre-Race Nutrition Guide for Cyclists

It's RACE DAY. It's 90 minutes to race time and you ate your breakfast one or two hours ago (allowing three or four hours post-breakfast for digestion). You've been following a sound nutrition plan and you have rested and fueled properly in the last 48 hours to assure your glycogen reserves are full. So what to do in the last 90 minutes before go time?

With 90 minutes to go you should be mainly focused on hydration, carbohydrate intake, caffeine and beet juice. Now is not the time to eat high fat or high protein foods as they take more time to empty out of your stomach and won't serve you during your event. The focus would be on easy to digest carbohydrate-based foods or sports drinks, depending on your preference.

Let's look at each one individually, starting with hydration.

More: Fueling Up for the Ride


Ideally you have been hydrating daily and leading into the event you have been paying special attention to sodium intake by lightly salting your food. Because there is a wide variability in individual sweat rates as well as many factors that affect hydration such as altitude, duration and intensity of workout, heat and humidity, it's almost impossible to provide specific guidelines of how much fluid athletes should consume.

So let's review some methods of assessing hydration going into an event that we can all use:

? Urinating large amounts of light-colored diluted urine is a good sign that you are quite hydrated. Urine color can be affected by B vitamins, some vegetables (asparagus) and beet juice, so is not the only indicator of hydration if you are ingesting any of these.

? You should know your consistent baseline body weight pre- and post-workout. Dropping weight means you need to rehydrate and drink a bit more and finishing a ride heavier may mean you are drinking too much.

? The American College of Sports Medicine recommends implementing a hydration plan that prevents excessive dehydration (over 2 percent body weight loss from your baseline weight). Going into an event it's normal to be heavier than your baseline since you have topped up your carbohydrate stores.

? Every gram of carbohydrate is stored with approximately three grams of water, which means if you store an extra 100 grams (400 calories) of carbohydrates it will result in a weight gain of approximately one pound.

Do a few "mock race" weekends and test a few customized fluid plans. Don't wait until race day to experiment. Perhaps you try two hours pre "mock race" drinking 16 to 24 ounces of water and one hour pre-mock race another 8 to 16 ounces of water. It's OK to start a race with a bit of a distended belly from fluid, just practice this in training first. It's like having another bottle in your pocket; instead it's in your belly.

More: Cycling Hydration Myths

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