James McCallum talks nutrition

A Scottish pro who loves porridge? No surprise there, but what about a weakness for Haribo? - Shock, horror!

James McCallum is one of the most experienced pros in the British peloton. A Commonwealth Games bronze medallist in 2006 in the scratch race, and a former national circuit race champion, he’s still a force in the Tour Series and Elite circuit races. He’s also a student of cycling, a qualified coach with his own coaching business, Mach 10 Training… so it’s well worth listening when Jimmy Mac talks fitness.

What do you think is more important, nutrition or training, and why?

JM: They are equally important because without both you end up out of condition. You need to train to improve, but if you don’t eat right, you won’t recover properly.

What’s your favourite pre-ride meal and why?

JM: I eat porridge like it’s going out of fashion. It’s quick and easy and you can add loads to it, according to your taste on the day.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given, and who was it from? 

JM: Write stuff down in a diary, on a computer or any other way. It helps you see the pathway you have taken, and stops guesswork. You can refer to it retrospectively and see how you achieved goals you set months ago. You can also use it to find out where you went wrong. I lost my diary halfway through 2012, and I’m still annoyed about it because it was a great year and there was loads of information in it. The advice came from my coach back in the Nineties.

When it comes to nutrition, what do you feel amateurs get wrong most commonly?

JM: They try and do everything at once, cut out sugars and fats and all sorts. Then, three days later, they end up bingeing. Do one thing, then build more into it, just like training. This helps build momentum and makes it easier to stick to changes.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known when starting out?

JM: Cycling is all about balance. I only learnt that by doing lots of things wrong and trying to be far too extreme in the past. Doing too much training, not eating enough of the right things, and not resting properly aren’t how you improve.

What is your favourite junk food/guilty pleasure?

JM: Haribo. I have to get my wife to hide it if we have it in
the house.

Tell us about a time you got your nutrition wrong. What happened?

JM: When I was about 15, I went out on a long ride with a load of older riders and didn’t eat enough before or during the ride.

I got dropped and bonked spectacularly. I was about 50 miles from home with no money, and I had to beg some cash at a filling station to buy a packet of biscuits. I ate them all, then I bonked again about 10 miles from home.

I was so bad that my mum had to undress me when I got in. This is never a cool situation to get into.

Do you prefer real food or supplements?

JM: You can’t go wrong with real food. Supplements are great and convenient, especially if you are pushed for time, but you can’t argue with the real thing.

What’s the key to improving?

JM: Keep the body guessing and try new things, but only do new and different things that are specific to your goals. There’s no point doing a four-hour ride with loads of climbing if you need to improve your speed for a track or circuit race.

If you packed in cycling right now, what are the three most important things you have learned?

JM: I can always do more than I thought. Ask lots of questions. I’m still asking questions after 20-odd years of racing, and I can’t always win but I will always try. Can I add one? Since I’ve recently become a dad, I really realise bike racing is only bike riding. But I still love bike racing.

James McCallum

Age: 34
Team: NFTO
Best result: National elite 
circuit race champion 2007
Speciality: Track endurance and circuit races


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