What you eat and drink during training should mirror what you plan to eat during a sportive.
Knowing what your body likes to consume while riding is an essential basic to learn – some can survive entirely on energy gels and drinks, whereas others can only stomach real food such as biscuits, sandwiches or fruit. This really is subjective and typically follows a process of trial and error, or at least thinking about how you usually fuel yourself to perform at your best.
Turning up to a sportive second-guessing what you can and cannot tolerate is a risk that could leave you with regrets and a long slow bike ride to the finish – but it’s not just on the bike that you should take note of your eating habits, as Nigel Mitchell, Head of Nutrition at British Cycling and Team Sky explains.
“The importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle alongside your fitness routine is key to ensuring you're benefitting from the exercise you're doing and the body requires a combination of all nutrients to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
There is a considerable amount of information out there to help and possibly confuse us all, but Nigel continues below to explain some of the additional details in brief:
“Our bodies are really sophisticated chemical factories and all the processors in our bodies need nutrients that give us energy and then drive those energy pathways such as fat, protein and carbohydrates. All of these are what we'd consider essential ‘micro nutrients’.
“The way I like to think of it is to try and maintain a diet that is quality over quantity. To ensure we get the right balance within the diet of riders at Team Sky and the GB team, the focus of nutrition is always on the quality of food, so we work really hard with the riders to make sure they're eating plenty of vegetables, fruit, fish, chicken, lean meat, and carbohydrate sources. Having more wholegrain foods, such as rice, bread and pasta provides riders with vitamins, as well as carbohydrate.
“It's a basic principle - if people keep it simple and if they eat real food, they will get all of the benefits that they put in.”
“If people try and work to a pattern of eating little and often, rather than eating their three meals a day it can be much more effective for weight loss and topping up energy sources.
“My ideal meal plan across the days is very simple and effective. Here's an example of some simple foods to consume during a day – don’t forget to keep hydrated through all of this – my suggestion is to take in 500ml of fluid in every couple of hours when you're not exercising.
Suggested Daily Eating Plan
- Breakfast - Porridge oats/eggs
- Mid morning snack - Fruit/Yogurt
- Lunch - Wholemeal bread sandwich/jacket potato/left over pasta from the night before
- Mid afternoon snack - a piece of fruit/pack of unsalted nuts
- Evening meal - A piece of chicken/ fish/other lean meat with Rice/Pasta/Vegetables
- Pre bedtime - A milky drink before bed
This guide will likely change depending on your activity and exercise schedule, but you can slowly increase portion size, without compromising the quality, should you become hungry through the day. It’s basically a good balanced diet, without excluding or including any specific, expensive, or unusual ingredients. Mix and match similar food types to offer variety and explore the many foods that we now have on offer.
Want more information on nutrition? Take a look at the British Cycling Insight Zone for advice from the same experts that work for the Great Britain Cycling Team.