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Ask Levi: What and How Much Should I Eat and Drink for Training Rides and Races?

Questions concerning nutrition plans are second only to training plans…

Hi, I was curious as to what specific foods you recommend eating before training and races. I am 17 and race Cat 5 due to me just starting road racing (mostly raced XC MTB). My coach said to eat carbs and water. However, I find that I am “bonking” half way through the 90 minute spinning class and 30 minutes of yoga 4 times a week. I defiantly don’t want to bonk during a race.

So, what specific food do you recommend I eat before training/racing? Any recipes?

Also, what sports drink do you recommend when road racing/training? Recently I have been using orange flavored Cytomax. It works well, but I was just wondering if you reccomend anything else???

Thanks,
Nutritious Nick

Hi Nick,

Thanks for the questions. This aspect of nutrition is very important for training and racing, and nailing down the perfect strategy takes some trial and error.

I have a couple articles outlining different eating/drinking plans for specific scenarios (see “What to Eat During a Ride” and “What to Eat Pre- and Post-Ride”,) but I’ll try to tackle your specifics here.

It sounds like you’re not eating enough either during or before the workout. For a 90 minute spinning class, I’d definitely recommend carrying a 24 or 32oz bottle of sports drink, considering how much you might sweat in the hot, stale environment. Something like Cytomax, Hammer Heed, Powerbar Endurance, etc. They are all practically the same so I wouldn’t worry too much about that choice, as long as you’re getting 50-100 calories per 8oz serving and you like the flavor.

I would imagine your 90 minute spin session is pretty intense, so I highly recommend eating a good meal about 3-4 hours beforehand. (Unless it’s at 5:30 am, in which case last night’s dinner would be the meal.)

Two of my favorite pre-ride meals are whole wheat toast with natural peanut butter, and oatmeal.

Those two meals contain a mix of complex carbs, protein, and fat which should make you feel better, longer. A good meal plus sports drink should give you the energy to get through that length of a workout, but you could also try a Powerbar or GU gel during the class, if absolutely necessary.

If none of that helps, you might be pushing yourself too hard. Four rides per week isn’t a problem, but four intense rides could be, especially if you don’t have many high-mileage years of riding already in your legs.

So if you’re still bonking even with an increased caloric intake, it might be worth switching to two intense spin classes and two steady, endurance rides per week. Six hours of spinning per week is quite a bit. (I would have tried the same thing at your age, of course, but I don’t think I’d recommend that sort of winter training unless your most important races of the season are in March.)

Alas, good luck and let me know how it goes!

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coach levi
Hi, I'm Coach Levi. I'm a USA Cycling Certified Level 3 Coach as well as Level 1 Certified with Precision Nutrition. Want to feel better, ride faster, and look great? Let's work together!

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Coach Levi is my favorite child and favorite cycling coach. I'd choose him over Christoper McCarmikael even. Did I mention that Levi can coach you to a healthier lifestyle where you look and feel your best?
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