Fueling Race Day Performance



Liam Holohan is a former professional cyclist, turned high-level performance coach and founder of Holohan Coaching. He currently serves as the Performance Manager for pro-team, Saint Piran.


Your fuelling strategy come race day is of critical importance. It's essential that you give your body what it needs to perform optimally, enabling you to achieve your goals. In this blog, I will advise you on how to fuel your race day performance.


First of all, your fuelling strategy should be tried and tested! Make sure you've done similar duration, and intensity rides in the run-up to your event using the nutrition you'll use on race day. The day of the big event is not the time for experimenting.


Race day fuelling starts well before breakfast on the morning of the event. In the 24 hours leading up to the event, you should look to increase your carbohydrate intake to maximise your muscle glycogen. Glycogen is the stored form of carbohydrate that is crucial to fuel performance when tacking the climbs. It's recommended that you consume ~10 grams of carbohydrate per kg of body mass in the lead-up to the event. For example, if your mass is 70 kg, you should aim for around 700 g of carbohydrates.


To accommodate this amount of carbohydrates, you should adjust your ratio of macronutrients. Macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins and fats; they all combine to make up your total calorie intake. Protein should stay relatively consistent, and because of your increasing carbohydrate intake, you will need to reduce your fat intake.


On the event day, aim to have breakfast around three hours before start time. This should give the body enough time to digest breakfast, so you're ready to perform when the flag drops. Again, carbohydrates should be the predominant macronutrient. An example meal could be; porridge oats topped with banana and honey, orange juice, coffee and an omelette. A small carbohydrate-based snack is an ideal top-up if you find yourself getting peckish before the start.


Most big Gran Fondos and sportives are often in summer when temperatures are high; thus, hydration is essential. Even a small amount of dehydration has been shown to harm performance. Hydration is very individual, and the amount you need to consume will depend on the temperature, humidity, intensity of your ride and many other factors. For this reason, it's important that you have an idea of your sweat rate for a range of conditions. There are many excellent online resources to calculate your sweat rate, enabling you to develop your own personalised hydration strategy.


During the event, you will need to keep replenishing your carbohydrate stores. Convenient options are bars, gels and drinks. Which of these you choose doesn't really matter. They will all be similarly converted into energy. Most riders prefer a combination of 'real' food and specialist sports nutrition.


Some great options to have are bananas and rice cakes; if you're unsure how to make these see here:


You should aim for 60 g of carbohydrate per hour if using glucose-based products; however, you can increase this to 90 g per hour if using a combination of glucose and fructose; see here for more information:


Recovery is critical if you're competing in a multiday event. Nutrition plays a big part in the recovery process. You should aim to rehydrate, refuel and rest in order to perform in the coming stages. If you just completed your goal event, then enjoy the moment! Have a beer and a pizza and celebrate a job well done!


So you're fueled and ready to race. Now it's time to put it into action; Join Team NOMAN at the Haute Route events and ride to end HPV cancers. Find out more and sign up.


Photos: Ben Becker