Charlotte Kennedy is a nutritionist for Etixx. For more, see etixxsports.com
As you prepare to tackle RideLondon, there are a lot of things you should be thinking about and nutrition is definitely one of them. Although some of you may have done events of this distance before, for a lot of riders being on the bike for such a long period of time is a new or infrequent challenge.
The hot weather is looking set to continue, too. Current forecasts have maximum temperatures climbing down from the 30ºC of late, to a more manageable 24ºC on the day – but hydration will still remain of massive importance.
So how can nutrition help to fuel such an event? Here we explain.
The day before
The day before RideLondon, have plain and simple meals. Avoid being too adventurous and cook from fresh where possible to minimise any potential side effects or problems with digestion.
These meals should all contain a portion of carbohydrate and a portion of protein. Although you need to eat enough carbohydrate for energy, remember not to go overboard and eat too much- you’ll only wake up feeling worse on event day! Some good meal ideas include porridge with peanut butter, bagel with tuna/chicken and salmon with sweet potato.
Also, try to minimise fibre intake where possible to avoid any digestion issues this may cause. This may mean swapping wholemeal carbohydrates for their white alternatives. Before you go to bed, consider topping up your energy stores with a snack high in carbohydrate. Something like banana and jam on rice cakes or a high carbohydrate drink such as the Etixx Energy Load would be great. Remember to stay hydrated as well by sipping on water frequently throughout the day.
The morning of the event
The morning of RideLondon, again make sure you don’t try anything new. Have a breakfast that you’re used to eating before going out on long rides. This should be high in carbohydrate to further top up fuel stores and you could include a little bit of protein/fat too to help keep you full.
Make sure you eat this breakfast 2-3 hours before you start. Remember it is also very important that you start RideLondon in a hydrated state (otherwise you’ll be at an immediate disadvantage). Again sip on water frequently and aim to drink about 500ml of fluid around 1 hour before you start.
If you’re a lover of a morning coffee, you don’t need to miss this out as the caffeine may help performance, but if you’re not used to caffeine in the morning don’t start experimenting on the day.
During the event
By now you should have a plan in place of what you are going to eat and when, but there are still some last minute things you can think about. Remember to do some research into the carbohydrate content of the foods you will be using for fuel.
You should be aiming to eat around 60g of carbohydrate per hour (starting from around 60-75 minutes) so it’s important that you get to know what’s in your food. It is likely that you will be using a combination of real food and energy products so think about when to use them.
Use real food nearer the start of the event to give it time to digest and provide energy and save the energy products for a time when you need a quick boost (i.e. nearer the end). Alongside this, make sure you keep some emergency energy gels in your back pocket incase you reach a point where you feel like you may bonk!
Finally when you get to feed stations, make sensible decisions and try to stick to your plan as best as you can. Look for things containing carbohydrate and don’t overeat (you’ll feel much worse when you get back on the bike!).
Remember as well that feed stations can get really busy and don’t always have what you expect so plan to be self-sufficient as much as you can. If you find that sweet carbohydrate foods do get a bit sickening, consider including a salty snack into your fuelling plan such as a bagel with marmite or peanut butter.
In terms of hydration, remember you should be aiming to drink about 500ml- 1litre of fluid per hour and the amount you should drink will dramatically increase if the weather is really hot. Make a conscious effort to drink and set a reminder if need be.
A great way to approach hydration is using water and isotonic drinks. Carry both with you on the bike and take frequent sips of each. Remember to factor isotonic drinks into your fuelling strategy too and fill all drinks up at feed stations frequently (even if you haven’t run out).
The only electrolyte you need make a conscious effort to replace is sodium (especially if you are a salty sweater). Using isotonic drinks and eating salty snacks will do the job, or you can also dissolve an electrolyte tab into your water.
When you finish RideLondon, you might want to reach for a beer and a slice of cake and whilst this is okay (and thoroughly deserved!), you should also follow a few simple rules for recovery to make the next few days a bit easier.
Try to get some nutrients in as soon as you get off the bike. This should include some carbohydrates and some protein and a great way to do this is to use a recovery shake such as the Etixx Recovery Shake as this helps with hydration too.
Following on from this, aim to have a full recovery meal about two hours after you finish and again this should contain carbohydrates, protein and vitamins and minerals. A great example would be spaghetti with lean mince and side salad.
Finally, make an effort to rehydrate by drinking plenty of water (alongside your celebratory beer if you wish!). Monitor your urine colour to know when you are hydrated- it should be a light straw colour for optimal hydration.