Today’s question is about eating the right foods before a cyclo-cross (CX) race…

I have a cross race this Sunday at 12:00pm. I was wondering what foods should I eat for dinner the night before, and for breakfast the day of the race. I know carbs, but I always seem to bonk in the middle of a race and feel absolutely starving at the end of a race. It is a 45 minute race, so I can’t eat during the race.

Thanks,
Crossin’ Chris

Hi Chris,

It’s common to be anxious about getting the exact food at the exact time, but it’s not something to stress over.

granola bar in vending machine

I wouldn’t be too worried about the night before, just avoid junk food and anything that could upset your stomach. As long as you are eating some sort of food you should be alright.

For a few ideas, check out my “What to Eat Pre- and Post-Ride” article.

As usual, don’t try out new foods right before or during a race! (Always test new foods during training to be sure they agree with you.)

Before the race I’d stick with mainly carbs since they digest quickly. But for fueling, your body holds about 2,000 calories of muscle glycogen, and you won’t burn through all of that during a 45 minute race. So you could actually skip breakfast altogether.

(Similar to a “short, intense ride” as described in my “What to Eat During a Ride” article.)

On to bonking…

To be specific, bonking is running out of energy, i.e. depleting your glycogen stores. But in reality, the “bonk” can be just as much about your legs/heart/lungs as it is about taking in carbs. So if you are bonking during a 45 minute race, my best guess is that the problem lies in your legs, not in your diet.

Unless your body is harboring a tapeworm, your glycogen stores + breakfast is more than enough food to fuel a 45 minute race, no matter how intense it is.

What’s probably happening is that your motivation to do well in the race leads you to push yourself harder than you do in training, and your legs just aren’t ready for it.

Keep training and you should find that “bonks” occur less often.

Hunger…

It’s possible the hunger is just a byproduct of the fatigue from exerting yourself so hard in the races and hard training rides. (After a long, hard race I’m usually either starving or want to throw up.) You are burning a lot of calories and your body’s natural response is to say, “feed me.”

So keep eating healthy, eat and drink during your rides and races, and train hard (rest hard, too) to prepare your body for the stresses of racing.

Photo credit: Andrew Maiman

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2 Comments
  1. What would be the better dinner, steak and baked potato or a heaping plate of spaghetti?

  2. @Casey

    Whichever choice makes you feel excited and energized.

    I think the steak and baked potato would be a more balanced, healthy meal, so that’s normally what I would choose. Spaghetti has never been my favorite dish anyway.

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