Items filtered by date: July 2014
Friday, 25 July 2014 00:00

Stage race nutrition

Oli and I recently visited the World Congress on Cycling Science in Leeds in the run up to the Tour. The list of speakers read like a who's who from the world of cycling science but the aspect that struck me most was the clarity with which the top experts present their knowledge of their subject area. I heard a few complaints from other delegates that nothing in the presentations was particularly groundbreaking but for me the opportunity to hear it 'from the horses mouth' is invaluable. There are always nuances and subtleties that don't often come across in research papers or books so I found it a very worthwhile trip. In the spirit of clarity of message, I've took photos of a number of key slides that I thought were particualrly clear with the aim of writing blogpost summaries on those topics. The factsheets on the website have a lot of info but I admit it's often not in the most practical of forms. This is my attempt to mitigate that.

First up is a slide from Dr Peter Hespel who works as head of nutrition for Omega Pharma Quickstep. The subject of his slide was on stage race nutrition. The aim with your on-bike nutrition during a stage race is to maintain energy for the duration of the stage and minimise the recovery needs post-stage so you're ready to go again the following day. What follows is a template representing best practise that can be adapted based on individual and event specific demands. I've been helping Christoph and Mark with their preparations for the Haute Route this year so this is with you guys in mind!


  • The number one principle for your on bike nutrition is 60g of carbohydrate (CHO) per hour. This represents the maximum rate at which carbohydrate can be digested and absorbed from a single source of sugar (for example maltodextrin)
  • an additional 10-30g of CHO can be used with the addition of fructose which uses a different transport mechanism within the body. Commercial energy drinks make use of this by using a 2:1 mixture of maltodextrin and fructose. You must practise with this in training - close to the upper limit of 90g of CHO per hour you may find you suffer from GI distress. Fructose is also very sweet.
  • For stage racing, 10-20g of protein and 5-10g of fat can offset some of the catabolic processes that are a problem with long stage races and training camps.
  • Solid food should be consumed earlier in the ride (it takes time to digest) and as time goes on liquids and gels allow for faster digestion and a more immediate release of energy.
  • Volume of fluid should be matched to temperature and individual sweat rates. (My advice is if you never need to stop for a pee on longer rides then you're probably not drinking enough).

Those guidelines are explained in the above slide and should form a basic template for every stage. It's worth remembering that you are also fuelling for the following days as well as the current ride. Make sure to follow the plan right until the end of the ride - it's easy to think that you'll get home regardless when there are only 45 minutes left but if you stop fuelling at that point you're increasing the recovery demands post stage. The above template is also perfect for long single day rides, but you can remove the protein and fats to lighten the load on the stomach.

Post stage you're looking at a recovery shake with ~1g of CHO and 10-20g of protein immediatley post stage and then drip feeding CHO and PRO throughout the rest of the day and evening. Rehydration should also be a priority with 1.5L of fluid for every kilogram of weight loss during the stage a good rule of thumb. The addition of 1g of sodium per litre of fluid will aid absorption (plain water tends to go straight through) and will trigger a thirst response to help get the fluid down. Sleeping when dehydrated will massively hinder the recovery process so another simple tip worth it's weight in gold is to check the colour of your urine before bed - if it's the colour of a 'Heineken light' then head off to bed, more like a 'Belgian Tripel' and you need to drink some more before lights out!

Along similar lines, I also came across this video of Helen presenting some of the research and practicialities of carbohydrate loading at one of our workshops a few years back. Worth a look for those big one day events or for the lead in to a stage race.


Published in Blog