Rise Racing Talks Stage Race Nutrition
Rise Racing Gila cyclists give a little insight into how they fuel a stage race, as told by Lori Nedescu, MS RD CSSD.
Stage racing takes more than just a bike and a trained body. One crucial factor to having the strength and endurance to get up and race day after day is being well fueled. At Tour of the Gila, I guest rode with Rise Racing, a Canadian elite team. When we weren’t out riding, we were sharing a kitchen and I got a peek into how the team fueled their racing efforts.
In a sport that is known for battling weight, image and eating issues, the Rise Racing girls have a very healthy and balanced approach to eating. While the girls were well aware of how weight (specifically power:weight) plays a role in performance, they all agreed that is a point that takes a slow approach to balance leaning out while maintaining performance. Weight loss doesn’t automatically lead to better riding and dropping pounds should always take a backseat to feeling strong, energized and healthy. They all agreed that riding well during a stage race is impossible without enough food, and that a stage race isn’t the time to hold back, be hungry, or lose weight. It was refreshing to see a team function as well on the bikes as in the kitchen. These experienced cyclists had no issue treating eating as serious part of the race. While the group acknowledged that consuming enough is crucial, that carbs are king and that healthful choices are still a must, they each had individual outlooks on how to fuel their races.
Let’s check in with each of the riders to get a personal look at their fueling habits.
Karlee - All around strong, experienced rider
Is a baker in the off season and has a good knowledge base of food science which helps her connect the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of her diet. Karlee admitted to being focused on losing weight leading up to Gila in hopes of giving her an advantage on the climbs. However, once the race neared, she switched focus from lower carb/paleoish eating style to a carb heavier, less strict intake. Karlee noted that during the racing period, nutrition is the make-or-break component. I couldn’t agree more Karlee! Proper nutrition is required to fuel the high calorie demands of each stage and to help your body recover for the next day. In a stage race, what you do on day one affects day 3 and hour 1 affects hour 3. Eating properly is essential to prevent bonking, stay energized, and keep the body moving. Messing up your nutrition during the race can leave you fatigued, sick or even injured. Karlee’s foodie passion basically made her team chef. She took over in the kitchen, making nightly meals of beans, rice, tortillas, and roasted vegetables. Pre-race, she opted for a quick potato hash (grate a raw potato + sauté in pan with an egg) and bowl of rice cereal with almond milk. During races, she aimed to consume the recommended 45-60grams of carbohydrate per hour to keep her energy and strength up.
Mariam – All-rounder + climber
When not involved in stage racing or a heavy training block, Mariam focuses on lifestyle habits like portion sizes and making conscious choices. Gila’s 5 days of racing at high altitude meant taking a different approach to ensure she had enough strength and energy for each day’s demanding efforts. While a recreational racer might go on a dietary free-for-all, Miriam is an experienced, elite cyclist who opts for the structured approach of tracking her stage race intake in MyFitnessPal to meet her goal of 8g carb/kg/day. It wasn’t uncommon for her to plug in her numbers, return to the kitchen and microwave another sweet potato. Just as you want to hit training metrics, meeting nutrition goals is an important discipline. During a stage race, eating becomes more of a chore than a fun, relaxed activity. Mariam opted for simple foods during most of the race: sweet potatoes, chicken, eggs, yogurt, and rice. Besides food intake, Miriam was focused on salt intake. Knowing how much she’d be sweating out in the New Mexico sun, the salt shaker was used liberally on food and added to water bottles. During races, Miriam aims to eat back at least 50% of what she’ll burn. To achieve a goal like this, you must be in touch with your energy expenditures which comes from experience and careful monitoring during training. As soon as the race finishes, a recovery meal of 3:1 or 4:1 carbs to protein is consumed to help her body recover as well as possible for the next race.
Jamie Gilgen – Powerhouse Sprinter + Time Trialist
Jamie adheres to a meatless diet for ethical reasons and is confident it is not only the right thing to do, but the right way to fuel her body. She’s probably not wrong, the naturally lower protein/ higher carb plant based intake is likely just what she needs to fuel high, intense, all-out sprint efforts. It’s important to learn what works for you individually. Your personal nutrition might differ greatly from how you want to eat, how others eat, and even the general guidelines. Jamie does a great job of being in tune with her body and its nutritional needs. She even focuses on the higher end 90 grams of carb/ hour while racing. While this is an amount you should train your body to handle to avoid GI issues, new research shows it might be a better target for fueling ultra-endurance events (a 5-day stage race counts as ultra-endurance!). Her goal is to never lose weight during a race. If she wants to lose weight during training, she will track her intake on a self-made spreadsheet to make sure power isn’t being lost along with the pounds. Jamie claims to enjoy race eating because the importance of meal and nutrient timing makes her pay attention to her diet more than she might while off the bike. To keep up with the constant eating during stage races, she advises having a meal plan for race week and going to a grocery as soon as arriving at your destination. This is solid advice as many athlete’s struggle with planning and prepping meals day to day let alone a high intake, high stress race week. Write out a plan for all meals needed outside of races, shop for that, and try to do as much prep before racing gets underway. If you can have a tub of roasted veggies, cooked rice, etc… on hand, it’s one less thing to stress about! Off the bike time during stage races should be spent recovering, and no one I know can be properly resting their legs while standing at a stove all evening prepping food.
Over the week of intense racing, high emotions and nonstop planning, the kitchen became the hub for team interactions. While most intake was planned and purposeful, Miriam made sure to leave everyone with some fun advice ‘Celebrate!! Not every day, but after the final stage!’. #TreatYoSelf came into play with a post Gila ice cream party where the Rise team had a super successful (green sprinter’s jersey win!!) race to reflect on.