Health and Nutrition for MTB Stage Race Training

Health and Nutrition for MTB Stage Race Training

When the training started to increase and I started to eat more and more I started to wonder what should I and shouldn’t I be doing nutrition wise. Being a healthy person with no real problematic dietary issues I never really saw the need to go to a dietician. The Epic however brings a new dimension to everything. I new that I needed to loose a few kilograms to get to race weight, but didn’t really know how to go about it. I felt hungry all the time and needed to replace the energy I was burning up in training.

Albert in the mean time had been trying to get to the bottom of his fluctuating energy levels and finally narrowed it down to an iron deficiency. Following some iron shots from the doctor and dietician visits he came a way with some pearls of wisdom about what we should be doing for nutrition. This highlighted the fact that when you start pushing your body past the limits that you are used to you can potentially come across limiting nutritional and health factors. I realised that it was important to get professional advice on the state of my body and know how I could get it in the best shape possible. Especially with an event like the epic you want to give yourself the best possible chance and make sure that you are as fit and healthy as you can possibly be.

Health and Nutrition Advice

So that was it and I made an appointment and off I went. It was a very valuable visit indeed and definitely something to be recommended. The dietician helped me look at my diet and analysed what I was eating. We also looked at what my needs were from a nutritional and energy point of view and looked at changes that could be made to achieve the target weight goals. … Oh and I got a lesson in correct back posture, seing as the dietician shared rooms with a chiropractor. There was no way you could chance slouching in the waiting room, for fear of the chiropractor giving you a serious reprimand and lecture on good back care. Little did he know that I planned to spend may hours slouched over the handle bars riding from Knysna to Cape Town.

The dieticians starting point was a full body composition report, This consisted of some tests to determine fat weight and percentage, lean weight and percentage, body water and lean/fat ratio. A body composition summary identified my limits and goal weight and very useful information on my resting energy expenditure and estimated average requirement.

I then had a diet worked out for me to achieve goal weight without short changing myself on available energy. I monitored everything for a few months with some repeat visits and saw things moving in the right direction. Soon I had worked out what worked best for me. Then it was onto a diet to maintain the goal weight given the level of exercise and energy expenditure demanded by an epic training program. The diets were by no means onerous and merely required a few adjustments to my normal eating regime. I also had an opportunity to talk about and get some ideas on how we would maintain sufficient energy levels during the event. This is a major challenge for all epic riders. Luckily we did all the right things and have learned a few things since then, but I will expand more on these in some of the race preparation and actual race nutrition articles.

Nutrition on and Off the Bike

A good nutrition regime is critical during training. As you continue to push your body and manage a demanding training program it is necessary to keep your body fuelled up. It will help you to achieve your training goals and will be important for post exercise recovery. The better you recover the better you will be able to train. This is especially important for the long rides where you will really deplete energy stores. It will be good practice to get used to refuelling straight after exercise.

On the bike nutrition and actual training nutrition is something that varies widely between riders. One thing is common though, and that is that everyone has found something that works for them. I have come to realise that palatability is really important. Lots of people have lots of advice on what you should eat and use. But ultimately getting the food down regularly is what counts. So pay attention to the recommended options, but settle on something that you enjoy and that makes you want to eat more. Training is the time to really experiment with all of the various supplements, energy drinks and soild foods that you will carry on race day. Think about your refuelling strategy, how long you will be on the bike and how much you will need to eat. Start to practice this when you ride, get used to eating regularly and refuelling after a long ride.

The Calorie Count

Getting down to race weight and staying there during training can be quite a challenge. It is not always easy to know what to eat and what not to eat. Getting the balance just right by not over doing it or not under doing it is the challenge. Even after 3 epics now I have found myself not quite where I think I can be for race weight. Now that I have some of the other aspects under control I have decided to explore the calorie count option. Lance Armstrong used calorie counting by weighing everything that he ate to great effect to control his food intake and get it to match up to his energy expenditure. Many other athletes, dieticians and nutritional experts use this as a principle in establishing eating plans. It seemed like quite a drastic step, to weigh all my food, list it all and then spend time counting up the Calories, but I must admit it is not quite as bad as it seems. As an exercise to do to learn about what, when and why you eat it is really valuable.

First thing was to understand the energy measures and what they all mean. Energy is measured joules, this is essentially the scientific term. Often though the energy capacity of food is measured in calories.

The measures are as follows:

1 KJ = 1000 joules 1kcal = 1 Calorie = 1000 calories 1kcal = 4.2 KJ

Note the difference between calories (small c) and Calories (capital C). Often these are mixed up creating confusion, but most of the time they are actually referring to Calories as in 1000 calories, despite using the word calories.

Measurements on a food item can be either KJ or Calories. So you just need to know how many Calories per serving that you ate or know the weight of your serving and use the Calories or Kilojoules per 100g of food.

The basics of calorie counting measures the energy contained in the food that you take in vs the amount of energy that you put out per day. So you need to know how much energy you are using per day. This is worked out using your BMR(base metabolic rate), this is the amount of energy that your body needs per day to function. It is calculated using your age, weight, height etc. To get an idea of what it should be you can consult various books or look up some references on the internet. The BMR will vary depending on your level of activity as well, if you sit at a desk all day you will use less energy that say someone who is a tour guide and walks around all day. But the calculations and formulas help to take this into account.

By using a heart rate monitor which also calculates calories burned you will be able to record the amount of energy used during exercise. Adding this figure together with the BMR figure should give a reasonably accurate total energy expenditure for the day.

Counting the calories of everything that you eat is not as difficult as it seems. There is a lot of information available on calories in food, and just about every food stuff has this listed under nutritional info on the pakaging. There are also a ton of websites dedicated to calorie counting. Unless you are a seriously adventurous person or a food critic, you will probably be like the rest of us and eat much of the same food and meals on a regular basis. So all I did was draw up a little spreadsheet and started to keep track of everything I ate. Slowly the list started to grow and now I only have to add a new item every now and again.

The calorie count has taught me a few things · Now I actually realise what I eat everyday · I pay attention to the calories in all of these items and how they compare to each other · I am getting a feel for how much I can and should be eating, it stops me from over eating, but also allows me to eat extra when I have been training · It is also going to help at race time when I will be more aware of how much food I need to take in to stay fuelled up.

Now I can comfortably know how much to eat based on the amount of training that I am doing. So I will be able to sustain my energy levels during training while at the same time losing a bit of weight.

Calorie counting and goal weight

If you have specific questions, comments or other advise then please leave a comment below and checkout the Cape Epic Training Guide.