Riders can’t just scoff down all the food and drink they need beforehand either or they’ll end up bloated so a regular intake of 400 calories per hour is at least what is needed to just get over the line.
In terms of food and drink, what exactly does the average pro shove into their bodies and how important is it? Keeping well hydrated and fueled is extremely important when racing.
When cycling, your body can burn your daily recommendation of calories within a few hours. Go on a full day ride and you’re more than likely to burn double your recommended daily allowance of calories.
It’s important to eat regularly whilst riding. Bars and gels are small enough to fit in a saddle pack or zip pocket of a jersey. Make sure you fuel regularly and you’ll have the reserves when you want to break away.
Keeping well hydrated is key. Your body sweats when you ride to decrease your body temperature. If you don’t replace the liquid you lose, your body will struggle to cope with the increase in temperature and you’ll tire quickly.
It’s not just the liquid lost that’s important when sweating. Your sweat is full of electrolytes (salts) which help process the electrical signals that your brain sends to your muscles. If you don’t replace these, your body will tire and you’ll be prone to cramping up.
Brands such as High5 make electrolyte tablets which dissolve in water to replace the ones you lose in sweat. Easy and convenient, you shouldn’t be without a way of replacing electrolytes.
It’s important to note that it’s not all “one size fits all” in the team bus. With advances in science and food technology the teams learn to adapt the food and drink to each individual rider. This means it might take a few rides to figure out what is best for you. Just don’t be unprepared!
So what do they eat?
Team Sky start every day with porridge. Porridge is a great long lasting, slow release energy source and it’s good for all kinds of other things.
So with all the advancements in technology it still comes down to one simple thing, porridge and that’s something we can all benefit from.
Aside from the porridge meal times include fish, red meat, chicken and lots of brown rice and quinoa. Some teams are obsessive over the contents of the meals too, only sourcing meat from local farmers and meat they can trace at source.
Pasta is staple dish as it provides slow release energy through carbohydrates. Professional cyclists eat extreme amounts of carbs to fuel their hungry bodies!
Recovery is just as important as fueling. Protein rich meat and recovery drinks repair muscle damage meaning you’ll be back to full fitness as quick as possible.
Whilst on the ride it’s plenty of calorie rich, sugary food and drink to keep their energy levels high. It’s pretty common to see cyclists with a can of pop (a particular type of Cola). Sandwiches are easy to pack and give you a filling dinner so you don’t have to scoff energy bars all day long!
The one thing all the teams can agree on though despite their little foodie differences is that food and drink can win and lose you a race.
In fact, choose the wrong food and it can stop you even finishing the race. The biggest thing that matters in a race though is sugar. The good old sweet stuff! Team Belkin say “if you want to go fast – you need sugar”.