19 March 2012

6 nutrition tips for the Cape Epic

All set for the Cape Epic? Correct nutrition is essential for optimal performance in extreme sports such as long-distance cycling, says Woolworths dietician Maryke van Zyl.

All set for the Cape Epic? Correct nutrition is essential for optimal performance in extreme sports such as long-distance cycling, says Woolworths dietician Maryke van Zyl.

The 9th Absa Cape Epic, which is taking place from 25 March to 1 April this year, will take mountain bikers from around the world through approximately 800 kilometres of unspoilt nature in the Western Cape. This year, Woolworths registered dietician Maryke van Zyl will attempt her first Cape Epic.

"Correct nutrition is essential for optimal performance in extreme sports such as long-distance cycling," says van Zyl. "Diet affects performance, and the foods that we choose during training and competition will determine how well we perform."

The following six basic nutrition guidelines will prepare you for long rides or races (more than 60 - 90 minutes), including nutrition during and after the event for optimal performance and post-event recovery:

Breakfast is important

Ensure that you have a meal at least 30 - 60 minutes before exercise that is low-fibre, low-GI and contains a fluid. Some ideas include:

  • Pronutro with fat-free milk, brown sugar and a banana
  • Oats with honey, cinnamon, banana, a handful of almonds and a fat-free yoghurt
  • And if you can't stomach food, have a smoothie made with 2-3 fruits (paw paw, mango, apple, banana), fat-free yogurt or milk, a few table spoons of oats and honey 

Food first

Pills, powders and potions promise a lot but often deliver very little. Most of the time food can do just as good a job at providing you with the necessary nutrients to perform at your best. Take a combination of sweet and savoury food - you never know what you might feel like while doing a long ride! Remember to try different foods while training to see what works for you. Some examples include:

  • Dates or date balls
  • Banana or apples
  • Cereal bars (Woolworths Low GI, Boabab, Omega 3 bar; McNabs oat bars; Oatsli bars)
  • Fruit bars
  • Nougat
  • Sandwiches with peanut butter or marmite (try different types of bread to assist in blood sugar control – rye works well)
  • Boiled potato or sweet potato with salt
  • Savoury or sweet muffins (don’t go for bran or high fibre types - it can upset your stomach on the ride)
  • Fruit cake

Tips for choosing bars (and food for the bike): Don’t choose bars that are too high in fat while on the bike. Fat slows down digestion and can cause discomfort and stomach cramps. A rough guide - the bar should contain <10g fat per bar!

Don’t wait too long

Start eating within an hour of riding. If you ride too hard for too long without eating you deplete your glycogen stores with detrimental effects – cramps, bonking or "hitting a wall". How much do you need? 30 - 80g of carbohydrate every hour - see examples below of carbohydrate rich foods. A combination of your drink and food should make up the 30 - 80g carbs per hour. 

Drink according to a plan

Practice hydration strategies during training rides and reflect on what works best for you in particular conditions.

The aim of hydration during exercise is to replace water and electrolytes lost through sweat. Have approximately 5 – 7ml per kg of body weight every hour.  It is important to be aware that your individual sweat rate differs not only in how much water you lose, but also how much electrolytes.  As with eating, don’t wait too long.

Also ensure that your drink contains carbohydrate (at least 30 - 50g per 500ml or serving) and electrolytes. It’s preferable that your last few bottles also contain some protein. Drinks formulated for endurance rides contain peptide proteins like Epic Pro and Perpetuem. Or you can use PeptoPro with your carbohydrate drink.

Practice makes perfect

Try your nutrition strategy before you embark on a race or long rides. You don’t want to run out of energy or get any surprises in a middle of a race.
Recovery meal and drink

And then, last but not least, don’t forget to have a recovery meal and drink after a long ride or race. There is a window period after exercise when the rate of glycogen synthesis is optimal for recovery.

Immediately after exercise, have a recovery drink or meal that contain 1g of carbohydrate per kg body weight and enough fluid to replace fluid loss during the ride (approx 1.2 – 1.5 litres per kg of weight loss).

For optimal recovery, add protein and electrolytes to your recovery drink or meal. The body’s recovery after sustained, strenuous physical activity involves a complex array of desirable processes of adaptation to physiological stress. Understanding these processes and actively supporting the body’s adaptation will be of great benefit for endurance riders.  

  • Sports recovery drink that includes peptide protein and electrolytes
  • Large fruit and yoghurt based smoothie with a cereal bar
  • Fruit salad with low-fat fruit yoghurt, nuts and cranberries
  • Chicken or salmon wrap with salad greens
  • Rye or seed bread spread with cottage cheese or marmite,  and a few thin slices of cold roast beef and fresh fruit
  • Pasta with tuna and tomato based sauce 

Did you know? Research comparing low-fat chocolate milk, a commercial energy drink and a specialised carbohydrate replacement drink showed that chocolate milk is an effective recovery alternative due to its high carbohydrate and protein content.  

Carbohydrate food examples to assist with meal and snack planning

Examples: 20 – 25g carbohydrate

  • 1 Large Banana
  • ½ jam sandwich (1 slice of bread)
  • ½ peanut butter  sandwich (1 slice of bread)
  • 5 Super C’s OR handful jelly sweets
  • 3 - 4 large dates
  • 1 x sachet of sports gel or GU Chumps (jellies)
  • 1 x Cereal bar: Oatsli Berry Burst or McNabs Energy food bar (Cape Orchard or Cocoa)
  • 1 x Hammer Almond Raisin Bar
  • 2 x Woolworths mini banana muffins
  • 1 x Woolworths 2 Go Pure Fruit Smoothie (Pineapple, Papaya, Orange & Apple Smoothie 2 Go OR Orange, Banana, Kiwi & Apple Smoothie 2 Go

Examples: 30 – 45g carbohydrate

  • 1 x Marmite sandwich (2 slices of bread)
  • 1 x Woolworths Low GI Snack bar
  • 1 x Woolworths Green tea Snack bar
  • 1 x large Mule Bar: Mango Tango, Hunza nut or Pinacolada
  • 300ml Woolworths Low Fat Berry, Strawberry and Banana, Mango and Passion or Kiwi and Apple smoothie (dairy based)
  • 1x sachet Woolworths instant oats (34 g carbohydrate)

Example of minimum food/drink intake for 50-60kg athlete:

Pre-event meal (Breakfast, 2 hours)

  • ½ - ¾ cup original ProNutro with ½ cup low fat millk + 2 tsp sugar + 1 banana + 1 glass of diluted berry juice

Pre-event snack (30 minutes)

  • 1 cereal bar OR Banana + water

During event: 20 – 25g CHO snack + 20 – 25g CHO drink

  • 1st hour:1 cereal bar +- 250ml Sports Energy Drink OR 250ml grape juice mixed with water**
  • 2nd hour:1 large banana +- 250ml Sports /  Energy Drink
  • 3rd hour: 1 jam or marmite sandwich+- 250ml Sports /  Energy Drink
  • 4th hour:Handful of Jelly Sweets PLUS a fresh fruit+- 250ml Sports /  Energy Drink
  • 5th hour: A few dates PLUS ½ peanutbutter sandwich+- 250ml Sports /  Energy Drink
  • 6th hour: 1 bar or fruit+- 250ml Sports /  Energy Drink

** For long rides add Rehydrate and Peptopro

Recovery drink and snack (within 30 minutes)

  • Sports drink + PeptoPro
  • Chocolate milk or smoothie

(Information provided by Maryke van Zyl, registered dietician for Woolworths)

(Photo of man on mountain bike from Shutterstock)

- (Health24, March 2012)

Read more:

Six great carbo-loading foods
Are there any 'safe' sports supplements
Proper hydration during exercise




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