Don’t let your hard won fitness be wasted by inadequate nutrition on race day.
At Veloforte we love endurance sports and competing, and we know what a difference fuelling our bodies correctly can make to how we feel.
We’ve listened to our customers, and the athletes we work with, to find out what worries people most about race day or their event nutrition. Here’s our guide on how to prepare your nutrition to get the best results at your next sportive, ultra-cycling event, 10k or endurance race.
What to eat before the race: Race Day Breakfast
Race day nerves can make breakfast difficult to stomach but it is super important to make sure your energy reserves are topped up ready for the demands of the day.
Aim to have your breakfast 1-2 hours before the race starts. Ideally you would have a breakfast that is familiar to you, that you eat regularly, so you know how well you will digest it.
Look for... a mix of proteins and slow release carbs; scrambled eggs and omelettes are great for protein with a bagel, whole meal toast or cereals. Porridge is an all-time favourite with endurance athletes – make yours even more nutritious by adding nuts, seeds and berries and if you feel you need it, stir in an extra egg white for protein.
If you are travelling to an unfamiliar place for the night before a race, make sure to pack a breakfast you will be happy eating if you don’t know what will be on offer.
Caffeine... whether as a strong espresso or as a supplement, can be a really good kick-starter before an important event. Caffeine takes roughly an hour to peak in your system, so don’t overload at breakfast if your race isn’t for another couple of hours.
Our Pronto bar contains 80mg of caffeine from Matcha tea and Guarana, giving a long, gentle caffeine release. It is also full or carbs for energy – having one of these an hour before you start will give you the perfect pick-me-up.
Always use caffeine products in training before you race with them, as everyone reacts differently to caffeine. The optimal amount ranges between 1.4mg per kg body weight to 4mg per kg bodyweight - so experiment to find the right amount for you.
Sam Andrews, Founder of Clash Racing, a fixed-gear Crit racing team, outlined for us a few of his recommendations:
"Brakeless fixed gear crits take crit racing to a whole new level. Typically one hour long, its just your legs and the bicycle. No brakes, no gears. We rely on our fuelling just as much as our technical ability, its very important for us to be fuelling well before and after races.
On race day we tend to eat light foods, perhaps some fruit in the morning with some oats. We then rely solely on water and Veloforte bars as they contain everything we need before an explosive start. The Classico is our favourite!"
Natural Nutrition for Race Day
When it comes to your race day fuelling you should keep to the same delicious and natural products you have been using in training.
Your body is already familiar with them and you know how they make you feel. However, a surprisingly large number of athletes think that because it is a race they need to fuel differently and reach for gels or sports drinks they don’t usually use, and are then surprised when they feel unwell.
Joe Fisher, an endurance cyclist and Veloforte ambassador, finds “I don't get on well with energy gels. My stomach tends to turn inside out and I end up suffering from heavy bloating, so I avoid them. Gels aren't really ideal for mid ride as they are mostly quick releasing sugar and if you stop eating them, your body tends to respond negatively. You can quite easily bonk. I prefer real foods to eat whilst riding.”
Taste is of course is an important part of choosing a bar, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of natural ingredients that really work.
At Veloforte we believe the best tasting bars should also be the most powerful and natural ones.
Fisher is also keen to avoid the artificial ingredients so prevalent in synthetic sports nutrition, he says, “a lot of sports nutrition companies use chocolate to make their bars taste good which is unnecessary as it often leads to your body having to process additional fat or preservatives whilst competing, which can lead to performance limitations.
With Veloforte I've never had these issues, they're natural, they contain minimal amounts of fat and high-quality carbohydrates that sustain riding for long distances without giving you too much energy too quickly. They taste great too!"
Interestingly, Jonny Revis, Directeur Sportif for Zero BC Race Team recognises that taste provides a critical 'mental difference' for his team too, "It is fair to say that we are the envy of other teams in the peloton! By being able to eat solid, real food, and not feel like you are forcing down a synthetic tasting product, morale is lifted, and half of the battle in a bike race is in your head."
Sam Andrews from Clash Racing agrees, "I have eaten healthy and clean foods from a young age, since starting cycling i found it hard to find a tasty yet beneficial energy bar.
Veloforte provides everything we need on and off the bike with a replenishing and clean taste. For us, fuelling the correct way before racing is everything, if we get it wrong we haven't succeeded. Veloforte have definitely helped us achieve our goals."
During the Race
Now is the time to put the nutrition strategy you have practiced in training into action.
Don’t let the excitement of race day distract you from sticking to what you know works.
For races over 90 minutes start eating after 20 minutes and continue taking on small amounts of carbohydrate every 20-30 minutes.
Aim for 60g-90g of carbohydrate per hour, as long as you are including a mix of glucose & fructose in your energy source (exactly as Veloforte cycling energy bars do), if not then limit your consumption to 60g.
Don’t over eat – this can slow down your digestion and be uncomfortable. Little-and-often is key.
Jonny Revis at Zero BC trains his team in exactly this way, "Our team race national and international races up to 4 hours long. They know that getting in enough calories can mean the difference between making the decisive move and being left behind."
Joe Fisher explains, “as your body usually needs about 60 grams of carbs an hour when cycling, you can go through quite a bit of food in the process of riding a long event, but also end up taking in a lot of excess sugar and fat that your body can struggle to process, particularly in the case of fat.
So it's important you have the right nutrition on hand to support your riding, which is why Veloforte bars, in particular, the Endurance range, is perfect for my needs.”
All of our bars can be used in long events; our choice would be to have an Avanti bar mid-way through to benefit from the savoury and salty taste - apart from being incredibly delicious and powerful, it will help with any flavour fatigue.
The sodium in the salt will also help stimulate your thirst so you stay hydrated and make sure that your body’s fluid balance remains in check.
Joe Fisher agrees and explains how he prefers to use the Avanti bar, “the Avanti bar is great for mid to end riding fuel. Eating sugary products during a long ride can mean your body craves things like sandwiches or pasta... Obviously not practical things to crave mid-way through a race.
With this bar, it's a bit different in that it's purposefully had salt added to it which you tend to lose a lot of during exercise and normally you replace it through electrolyte drinks.”
The added salt also gives a more savoury flavour to the bar which can be refreshing to your palate, “Avanti tastes great and different to the other bars and helps with that battle of wanting to change what you're eating mid-race. I tend to reach for these near the end of a 4hr race to keep me going that bit longer.”
We’d also have a Pronto caffeine bar in our pockets to take an hour before the end when the caffeine will help alleviate feelings of pain and fatigue. Caffeine will also give you a feeling of alertness and focus at a time when you may be beginning to struggle.
Jonny Revis uses each bar specifically with his team, "We use all of the bars, the lads have really taken to having the "Forte" bars in the team car for the end of races - especially important for stage races and when you can't face a gloopy recovery shake.
In the Junior Tour of Wales Queen stage, we were using a combo of Avanti and Pronto bars to stave off any electrolyte issues such as cramping and to keep them alert for the finish on the the fearsome "Tumble" climb."
At Veloforte we want to make fuelling as simple as possible, and judging by Fisher’s comments we have achieved it, “all these bars are great for my cycling as they're very well designed and taste delicious. When you're riding you want something you can just grab, eat quickly and enjoy it.
Being able to chew something quickly and digest is also important. These are just right as they're not heavy or hard to chew and the energy tends to be quite instant.
They're also all pretty consistent in their macro ratios so it's a simple case of estimating how long I'm riding for and doing a quick bit of math to work out how many bars I need. In most cases 2 is good for a threshold session, 4-6 for a long ride.”
And Jonny Revis thinks that it's helped his team focus on what matters... their performance. "Many of the lads have complained in the past of the wrong nutrition messing up their feeding or feeling sick due to the ill effects of other "on bike" food ingredients and tastes, we have had no problems at all with that when fuelled by Veloforte. It makes all the difference."
After the race
If you have given it everything you are most likely feeling exhausted and drained, at this point it can feel hard to motivate yourself to eat.
Your stomach may well be churning as nausea at the end of a hard ride, especially in the heat, is not uncommon. However, the first 30-minutes are even more critical the deeper you have dug into your reserves so make sure you eat something with the golden 3:1 carb to protein ratio.
Joe Fisher says, “You'd be surprised how much damage you end up doing to your muscles whilst riding; even if you don't really realise it, your muscle tissues are slowly being torn and broken down during a ride - even more so on the longer rides and so it's important post-riding that you give your body the right food to repair.”
What you choose to eat in the first 30 minutes is really important, which is why Fisher chooses a Forza bar, “a good protein and carbohydrate food will support your recovery process properly, not a lot of people realise or do this and end up suffering inadvertently as a result. It doesn't actually take that much either.
The Forza bar with its ratio of 3:1 carbs to protein, is actually the perfect amount to support the recovery process. It contains 12 grams of complete protein in addition to the carbs, I usually have 1-2 of these when I'm done riding to support the recovery process from a long session.”
Forza bars are easy to eat, not overly sweet and the perfect ratio to kick-start your recovery. Make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids around the same time, as you may well be slightly dehydrated and the fluid will aid in your digestion of the bar or other food.
Whilst the glycogen window is key, your recovery continues for some time after that. The longer and harder your ride or exercise the longer your metabolic rate remains elevated.
This means that your body remains receptive to carbs and proteins and you need to make sure you are feeding it with the nutrients it needs to recover.
Eat small amounts of carbs every hour to keep replenishing your stores and loading for your next day of racing or training. Aim for 1.2g carbs per kg body weight for the next 5 hours and for 20g protein over a 4-6-hour window.
Simple natural foods tend to digest best after strenuous exercise and avoid foods high in fat, which can slow down digestion. Tuna, chicken breast, eggs or a mixture of beans and nuts (if vegan) are good protein sources to combine with lots of vegetables and a little bit of rice, pasta or potatoes.
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