Eating for Cyclocross
By: Lori Nedescu, MS RDN CSSD @CadenceKitchen
Many athletes think of their nutrition only for long rides and races, but it is a factor in every type of competition. Focusing on your nutrition during the cross season will help you reach your race performance goals.
The general sport nutrition rule is to fuel efforts 90 minutes or longer. Although cross races are shorter in duration, you will still benefit from adding some nutrition to your racing. Nutrition should be a large part of your off the bike cross season and daily training efforts as well to keep your body healthy, strong, and energized.
- Focus on making your body healthy and strong by working on day to day eating. Aim for quality meal and snack choices when fueling your body off the bike.
- If you’re coming off a long road season, this might mean cleaning things up by reducing carbohydrates, eating smaller portions and increasing complex carbohydrates and protein to adjust to less time spent on the bike.
- If you cross is your main season, you might need to up your calories and protein to adjust for the additional energy expenditure and muscle building.
- Develop a strong training nutrition plan for pre + post race/training nutrition.
- See below for some ideas.
- Aim to improve meal prep + planning ahead.
- Training for cx events takes a combination of endurance, speed, power and strength workouts. These sessions tend to take longer than the actual race. Make sure your body is properly fueled through those workouts in order to prepare you for the real race.
- A race might be 30 minutes but training sessions can last 2 hours. Make sure these efforts are fueled using the general guideline of 45-60grams of carbohydrate per hour when working out more than 90 minutes.
- In shorter races, experiment with giving the body a pre race boost with an extra gel or carb mouth rinse at the start line.
- Focus on hydration.
- If it is a hot day/longer, harder course add a mix to your water bottle. Many riders skip racing with water altogether to save weight. In this case, aim to drink extra before the start of the race.
- Practice hydration in training, this is the time to experiment with different mixes and fluids.
- Cross typically signals an end to summer and cooler temps. Do not ignore fluids just because you feel chilly. Your body still needs water.
- Try bringing a thermos of cocoa or tea or even coffee to increase drinking on colder days.
Aim to eat a normal sized, balanced yet easy to digest meal ~3 hours prior to the race. This means something lacking in too much fat and fiber. About 30 minutes before the start, top off your stores with a gel, glass of juice, or banana. For an afternoon start, try to wake early and get 2 small but balanced meals in along with the pre-race top off.
Pre –Race Meal Ideas:
- Top a slice of thick, whole grain toast with avocado + an egg. Add a banana + peanut butter smoothie.
- Smoothie of yogurt, coconut, coconut water, banana, pineapple, protein powder.
- Banana Muffin + hard boiled egg + OJ.
- Bagel + smoked salmon + cup of fruit salad.
- Campfire Potato
Cross is fun, but don’t get caught up in the festivities until you’ve properly refueled your body. Consume something equivalent to a small meal/ large snack immediately after you cross the finish line. Aim to consume a real meal a few hours later. If you plan on sticking around to spectate for the day, you’ll need to plan ahead and pack these things with you.
Post –Race Recovery Meal Ideas:
- Recovery powder mixed with coconut water.
- Turkey + cheese sandwich.
- Granola bar + banana.
- Greenwich + hard boiled egg
If you're struggling with your cyclocross nutrition plan, consider working with LORI to get yourself on track with professional assistance.