Now that I am in taper/rest mode, with the big Mitchell ride just around the corner, it is time to prepare for how I am going to fuel the ride. Fortunately with all the century rides I have done over the last few months, I have had the opportunity to experiment and find a formula that works for me. As with anything, your mileage may vary. I know someone who eats an entire pizza the evening before a long ride, which I would never do, but it works out perfectly for him.
Initially I did a traditional carbo-load without much thought as to what I was eating. I would scan labels of anything in my fridge or pantry. If it had carbs, I would eat it, probably an extra 1,000 to 1,500 calories worth. This would give me plenty of energy to burn, but was simply too much. I would feel heavy, bloated, and it would affect my performance. Not to mention, after burning thousands of calories on a ride and eating somewhat normally afterward, I would end up gaining weight.
For the last few rides, I have settled on something I like to call ‘pre-loading’ rather than ‘carbo-loading’ because I am not adding much food to my diet. Instead I am shifting around what I eat so that it appropriately fuels the ride. Note that I have come to this plan through the guidance of a registered nutritionist.
Mount Mitchell Plan
The ride is on a Monday, so beginning perhaps Friday or Saturday, I will start to add a few extra carbs to my diet. Here I’ll start with items with a low glycemic index. You can find numerous listings on the web. Here is a good one. I will probably have some healthy legume and healthy fruits. Based on my tastes, it will probably be chickpeas, grapefruit and peaches. Foods with a lower glycemic index will store over a slower period of time, so by the time I need the extra energy on Monday, they will be waiting for me.
Aside from these additional carbs, I will eat normal, healthy meals throughout the weekend. This will consist of around 2,000 calories per day spread over several meals a day. Usually my training diet would have 50% carbs, but with the additions, it will probably be as much as 55-60%. Most of my fats will come from healthy sources (nuts, avocado, olive oil) and I will include lean protein from chicken or fish sources. I will mix in several vegetable and fruit portions, preferably around six, and take one multivitamin and fish oil pill daily.
Sunday night will be a little more like traditional carboloading, but without adding all the extra calories. On Sunday night I will make sure to have some sort of healthy high glycemic carb, which should be ready to hit the bloodstream first thing in the morning. Whole wheat pasta or brown rice will be ideal. Since I’m going to be eating with the Freewheelers, it will probably be pasta. In the past, I enjoyed the most success when I had Carraba’s prepare me a whole wheat version of their Chicken Marsala. It was delicious and I felt terrific the next day. Before going to bed, I will add a small carb snack. This will probably be a banana or a couple fig newtons, maybe both.
The morning before a ride I will usually have a healthy but easily digestible breakfast. Usually a boiled egg, Lara bar and banana would work, then I will pre-fuel for the race with a Clif bar. Mitchell starts very early so I’ll have to change my plan. Instead I will skip a breakfast of any substance and just have the Clif bar and a banana. This and the food stores from the past couple days will get me going, but since I did not significantly add carb calories, I will need to make sure to eat good carbs along the way. Many of these are going to come in the form of energy gels from my dispenser as I ride. At rest stops I will pick and choose from what is available, which will probably end up being bananas and fig newtons or similar snacks. At some point throughout the day I will want something a little more substantial, probably a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. This will go along with sports drink that will provide enough sugars, carbs, and electrolytes to keep me fueled and hydrated. As long as I continually fuel myself along the way, I should not run out of gas regardless how difficult the ride is.