Nutrition and cycling: what diet before the race?

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Food and diet: what is the best food for a cyclist?

Nutrition plays a crucial role in the preparation, performance and recovery of cycling races. The nutritional rules are not the same in these three cases

What to eat just before the race?

Cycling is a cardio sport, which requires a prolonged and sustainable supply of energy. Races are often long and intenseand the body needs to draw fuel for as long as possible in the form of carbohydrates. Furthermore, it is essential that the last meals before the race are digestible, in order to minimize digestive discomfort which can affect performance.

The closer we get to the D-day of the race, the more we need to increase the portion of starchy foods (pasta, rice, potatoes) and reduce the fiber on the plate. The goal is to optimize glycogen reserves and facilitate digestive comfort as best as possible. Laura Martinez, sports dietitian

The day before the effort, cyclists are therefore recommended the famous “Pasta party”, which consists of eating between 60 and 65% of the meal in the form of starchy foods.
Example of meal:
– tabbouleh as a starter
– a dish of white rice, accompanied by a small portion of lean proteins (ham, poultry, white fish), and very few digestible and cooked vegetables,
– A portion of rice pudding for dessert.
“Be careful to hydrate well throughout the day, preferably with water” insists the dietitian.

On the morning of the race, breakfast is an essential meal, which must be taken 2 to 3 hours before the race and which the runner will ideally have tested beforehand to be sure that it does not cause digestive problems.
“It will ideally bring a source of complex carbohydrates with a low glycemic index (GI), in the form of sourdough bread or oatmeal, a small source of protein (boiled egg or slice of ham). As well as'a food rich in simple carbohydrates with a high glycemic index to provide quickly assimilable energy (honey, jam or very ripe banana)” lists our expert.

What drink to drink when cycling?

Good hydration is the key in cycling, especially in hot weather or during an intensive session. Indeed, pedaling causes a significant loss of fluids through sweating : Drinking regularly then helps to replace these lost fluids and maintain optimal hydration levels, which is crucial for performance and health.
Drinking enough is also essential to regulate body temperature, maintain the body's physiological functions and limit muscle cramps.
During the race, we recommend drinking on average 500 to 750 ml of liquid per hour, but it varies greatly depending on the person and especially the ambient temperature during the race. The more we sweat, the more we must compensate for sweat losses by hydrating ourselves.
“We can drink one to two sips every 15 minutes alternating water and isotonic drinks” recommends Laura Martinez.
Isotonic exercise drinks are an energy drink specially formulated to contain concentrations of salts and sugars (electrolytes and carbohydrates) similar to those present in the human body, which allows rapid and efficient absorption of fluids and nutrients. They can be found in supermarkets, pharmacies or even sports stores or sports nutrition stores.

Gel or energy bar, homemade snack: What to eat during exercise during a long outing?

If the carbohydrate intake linked to the isotonic drink can be sufficient in the event of a short outing, it must be supplemented as soon as the race lasts more than 3 hours.

For long races, the isotonic drink must be supplemented with a solid or semi-liquid intake, in order to provide the runner with 60 to 90 g of carbohydrates per hour of effort, depending on digestive tolerance. Laura Martinez

There are many snacks which can be taken by the runners, either during refuelingor transported in saddlebags or jersey pockets.

Energy bars, energy gels, energy purees which look like compotes but very sweet, fruit jellies … but the longer the effort, the more it is recommended to take salty foodssuch as pretzelscrackers or oilseeds, which are less cloying for the runner” explains Laura Martinez.

After the race: what protein for recovery?

During prolonged efforts requiring a large part of the body's muscles, such as cycling, micro-tears form in the muscle fibers. Protein provides the amino acids that stimulate muscle protein synthesis, helping with the repair and growth of damaged muscles. Consuming foods that are sources of protein therefore helps accelerate the muscle recovery process and reduce fatigue and post-exercise muscle pain.

If there is a meal directly following exerciseit is not no need to take a protein supplementsince they will be integrated naturally into the meal in the form of meat, fish or eggs, or textured soy proteins for vegetarians” indicates the nutritionist.

On the other hand, if the meal is not taken within an hour and a half following exercise, a protein recovery drink is recommended. “Dairy proteins are particularly effective in repairing micro muscle lesions. They can be taken in the form of casein or whey, such as Whey” adds Laura Martinez.

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