Nutrition during a road race: a skill

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Carbohydrate intake during exercise can improve performance especially in activities longer than 2,5 hours. This is nothing new, but what should you take, when & how ? Below I will explain how I do it. That’s not to say that this is the one and only way. It is my way.

A month ago I started using CORE Nutrition Planning founded by Asker Jeukendrup and Bill Braun, both endurance athletes and both fascinated by how to improve exercise performance by nutrition. As I am constantly looking for opportunities to improve my performance in road racing I got excited to work with this nutrition planning tool. I picked yesterday’s UCI road race to make my personalised nutrition plan which I could use during the race. I needed to fill out details about myself, the event and my preferred fuel. In the past years I trained my gut to absorb carbs during exercise at high intensities. So I know now I can take about 60g of carbs every hour. I learned what kind of sports drink and bars go down well. The database in CORE contains most of the common brands used in sports nutrition, except for my preferred sports drink: KuperMaltex. It is the one drink that doesn’t give me stomach cramps during the race. CORE added this sports drink both in isotonic and hypotonic concentrations. Next my nutrition plan was calculated. Interestingly it told me to have my final bar after 80 minutes of racing. We had still another 55 minutes to go by then…

So with my personalised nutrition plan I started the race. First: drinking water before the race and have my first bar in the start zone. Check. Then: start drinking my first bottle with sports drink after 20 minutes. That was a bit of a challenge as at that moment we raced past a semi-blocked roundabout which means the peloton had to dig in. So I started drinking a bit later when my team mate encouraged me to move up forward… At 40 minutes of racing the plan was to have my first bar. Also that got a bit delayed: too busy keeping myself in the middle of the pack during the first attack. Nevertheless I managed to have half a bar when the pace dropped. After one hour racing I did not finish my first bottle yet, but was supposed to start drinking from my second…and so it goes. Still happy to have my nutrition plan as it showed the importance of fuelling in the first part of the race. However, to drink or eat during a road race is a skill. Something that needs practice, not only for the gut, also to pick the right moment in the race.

Further reading: Training the gut for athletes

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