Training & Racing Food

01 Mar 2003

During a Giro de Lombardia race, the great champion Alfredo Binda, beaten down by bad weather, consumed 28 raw eggs and won the race with a 30-minute lead over the second finisher. 

It may not be a good idea to copy him, but I wanted to give this legendary example to underline how food intake during a race is important and how it can become “extreme” under specific conditions.

 

The discontinuous nature of effort output in cycling allows for the ingestion of even solid foods, impossible to digest during other competitive events such as running.

The length of the race, often changing meteorological conditions, the variety and severity of courses: all are factors that can bring the racer to the dreaded “hunger crisis”, the famous “bonking”. 

If the training period or race go beyond 3 or 4 hours, it is recommended to consume solid food, easy to chew, rich in carbohydrates (for example, jam sandwiches, rice cakes, bars) during the early stages; in the second stage, when intensity is usually higher, it is recommended to consume carbohydrates in liquid form (maltodestrine, for example). 

In low temperatures, or when the length of the training period or race last more than 5 hours, it’s necessary to eat more in the first stage, and to augment the quantity of fats (almond sweets, for example) and protein (chicken or ham sandwiches). 

On the other hand, if temperatures are very high, carbohydrates are more helpful, especially in liquid forms, about 20-25 grams to be consumed every 30-40 minutes.

 

When putting out very intense and protracted effort, as in time trials and long, hard climbs, solid food (that would be difficult to chew, swallow and digest) is not recommended. In such cases, water or beverages with concentrations of carbohydrates inferior to 6-8% should be consumed. 

However, solid foods (still rich in carbohydrates and easily absorbed) should be consumed in small quantities not later than about an hour before the period of maximum effort.