You’ve trained hard for months, and the last thing you want is poor fuelling to get in the way of your success. Eat right in the days before your sportive, longest training ride or prior to heading off on a weekend tour and you’ll have a much better chance of getting through in great shape.
“The key aspect of a pre-race supper is carbohydrate,” says sports nutritionist and dietician Dr Gary Mendoza, “and also for the whole week before. Eat 7-10g of carbohydrate per kilogram bodyweight each day to ensure that your cycling capabilities are at their peak.” For someone weighing 12 stone (76kg) this means 530g of carbohydrate a day.
“Timing is not critical for the evening meal, as it is far enough away from your start time. The key aspect is the carbohydrate content and not the individual foods, although picking healthy low-fat options is a good idea,” says Mendoza.
Mendoza’s favourite recipe for the night before an event is Caribbean Chicken. It’s tasty, low fat, simple to prepare and gives you a good helping of carbohydrate.
Caribbean Chicken: serves 4
- 2 cups basmati rice
- Olive or canola oil spray
- 500g skinless chicken breast, cubed
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 3 courgettes, sliced
- 1 tbsp cornﬂour
- 2 tsp mild curry powder
- 1 chicken stock cube
- 1 cup pineapple juice
- 2 bananas, chopped
- Cook the rice, which is high carb, as per packet directions.
- Add oil to a large pan and heat. Add the chicken, which is low in fat and provides a good quantity of protein, and cook until brown.
- Add onion and cook for two minutes. Add red pepper and courgettes and cook for a further minute.
- Whisk together the cornﬂour, curry powder, stock powder and pineapple juice. Put all of this in the pan and bring to the boil, stirring. Simmer for five minutes.
- Stir through the banana – another good carbohydrate source and rich in potassium – and serve over drained, cooked rice.
Recipe breakdown per serving:
Energy: 2656kj (634kcal)
Give it a miss
Just to be on the safe side, here are few things to avoid eating (and drinking) when sitting down for pre-race grub:
Rich sauces: Adding lashings of cream to a pasta sauce could leave you feeling bloated and uncomfortable.
Alcohol: This will dehydrate you, leave you with a fuzzy head and bring down your performance.
New dishes: Don’t try out a new food before a race, even if it is full of carbohydrate and protein – your body may react badly to change.
Carb your enthusiasm
Ideally you need 30-60g carbohydrate for every hour riding to maintain your glucose levels. Mendoza gives us his top tips for on-ride food boosts:
Sports gel/bar: Zipvit ZV7 energy gel gives 51g of carbohydrate per serving, and the banana punch flavour Energize PowerBars have 39.4g each.
Bananas: One large banana has 30g of carbohydrate and also contains potassium, which helps replenish lost electrolytes.
Jelly beans: A 57g serving of jelly beans (around 30 beans) contains 50g of sugary carbohydrate and 200kcals for a quick energy burst.
Jam sandwich: The humble jam sandwich with two thick slices of bread and four teaspoons of jam (no butter or margarine) provides 50g carbohydrate.