Ride to eat, or eat to ride?
Whenever I get asked that question I always reply “Both!” In my opinion, there is nothing better than doing a long ride or race and following it up with some really great food. In fact, I think I could write an entire book about how great a burger tastes after a long day on the bike.
Luckily, both activities complement each other nicely. Or maybe I should rephrase that. Both activities CAN complement each other if you make the right nutrition choices at the right time. Which is why I decided to interview my friend Namrita O’Dea for this post.
Namrita has a Masters in Nutrition from Georgia State University, is a registered Dietitian, and is currently working on a PhD in Applied Physiology at Georgia Tech. She also races with Team Topeak-Ergon USA, which means she experiences what she preaches firsthand.
So without further ado, my interview with the nutrition guru herself…
DM: What are the 3 biggest nutrition mistakes you see athletes make?
Nam: On the bike: Over- and under-hydrating, taking in too much or too little sodium, and taking in too much protein.
Off the bike: Nutrition is just as important as training workouts. Not enough athletes realize how much nutrition can play a role in reaching your goals…or not reaching them.
DM: How does nutrition vary for XC racing vs. endurance racing?
Nam: Endurance racers, in general, will need more calories daily due to higher training volumes. A diet for an endurance racer can also be a little higher in protein, for example 1.2 to 1.5 grams per kilogram, per day. Hydration is also really important. You can’t always replace everything you lose in long rides so it’s essential to rehydrate well every day.
DM: A lot of racers are unsure about how many calories/liquids to consume per hour. Any tricks of the trade you would like to share?
Nam: Here’s a starting point. 120-150 calories per hour, depending on body size, for lower intensity workouts. 200-300 calories per hour, depending on body size, for higher intensity workouts.
In general, 16-24 oz per hour of fluid. Some people need more if their sweat rates are higher. As long as you can tolerate it, the goal is to replace fluid up to your sweat rate, but not over. You can estimate your fluid needs by taking your nude weight before and after a workout. Each pound lost is equal to 16 oz of fluid.
DM: Nutrition products can be expensive to train with every day. Are there any “normal” foods that can get the job done for daily training?
Nam: You simply want carbohydrates, fluid, and sodium. Salted potatoes, salted crackers, honey, Gatorade or Powerade Ion 4, salty trail mix, granola bars, and salty chips (I like the “Food Should Taste Good “ brand) are some grocery store options. There are also some homemade energy bar recipes online.
DM: How much time should a racer put between eating and racing?
Nam: At least an hour and a half.
DM: Do you have an example of a good pre-race meal?
Nam: Bagel sandwich with an egg and ham and a bottle of nuun.
DM: What about races that start really early? Should someone be more concerned about getting enough sleep or waking up early to eat?
Nam: Eat a good dinner, a bedtime snack, and get some sleep. Take a bottle of sports drink with you to bed. If you don’t drink it overnight, start drinking it as soon as you get up in the morning. You can eat breakfast up to 1.5 hours before the race start.
DM: Help! I’ve been traveling all day and I'm running low on calories. The race venue is in the middle of nowhere, and the only place to get food is a gas station. What food products should I be looking for to avoid a race disaster?
Nam: Ideally, keep a small cooler with some real food, like a loaf of bread and makings for a sandwich in case you get stuck. Also, travel with an “emergency” stash of snacks for times like this. If you have to eat dinner at a gas station, keep in mind that you want carbs and fluid. Stay away from high fat greasy foods or foods that are sitting out in the open—i.e. egg rolls, hot dogs, etc. Look for some of these gas station options: Energy bars (PowerBar, Clif, Balance, etc.), pretzels, trail mix, bananas, Mix1 or some type of smoothie product, packaged deli meat if you have bread to make a sandwich, beef jerky. To drink, go for juice or a sports drink like Gatorade or Powerade Ion 4.
DM: What’s the best thing to eat/drink post-race for recovery?
Nam: I like the “Bolthouse Farms Perfectly Protein” Vanilla Chai or Mocha drinks, chocolate soy milk, or even just a PowerBar and a bottle of nuun. Again, the “Food Should Taste Good” sweet potato chips are also delicious and will replace salt. Right after a race you will want about 400 calories of mostly carbs and a little protein.
DM: Are there any products you recommend to avoid cramping during races?
Nam: It’s best to figure out what salt intake works for you during training. Some people sweat out much more or much less salt than average so they will have different needs. Some products that offer sodium replacement are nuun, saltstick, and elete. Other products are formulated with higher amounts of sodium such as PowerBar Endurance and PowerGel. Practice a few different combinations during training and keep notes of what worked and what didn’t.
DM: What is the biggest nutrition tip you would give regarding nutrition for racing?
Nam: There is no magic supplement. Create a smart nutrition plan around the basics: Carbohydrates, fluid, and electrolytes (mainly sodium) and keep it simple.
I want to thank Namrita for sharing her knowledge with us. If any of you are playing the ultra-endurance game and aren't being conscious of your dietary intake, I hope you'll consider putting a bit more thought into it. I'm sure you'll notice improved performance if you do. -Danielle
Don't miss the Twin Cities showing of Ride The Divide. Tuesday, June 15th at the Riverview Theater. Proudly presented by Salsa. Advance tickets available online now. Click the logo below to purchase. Remember...the only way to guarantee you have a seat is to purchase ahead of time. Proceeds from the event will go to 1 Gear, 1 Cause. Scroll down below the logo to view the Ride The Divide trailer.
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These are a few of my favorite things: Mountain biking, good coffee, good food, and hanging out with my husband, family and adopted greyhound. It really doesn't take much to make me happy. Of course, winning a race every now and then is good too! www.daniellemusto.blogspot.com