Nutrition & Training for Iron Horse Bicycle Classic

May 22, 2023

You’ve signed up for the Iron Horse and you’ve started training, but what else should be TOP priority? Nutrition, hydration and recovery are essential to get you to the starting line, through the race, and to the finish!  

If you plan to take your car on a trip through the mountains, wouldn’t you make sure it was fueled and running efficiently before the trip. Thinking of your body in the same way will help you during your training and on race day.

Given the length and aerobic capacity of long distance cycling as in any of the Iron Horse events, carbohydrates are the main fuel source.  The longer the ride, the more carbohydrates you will need to delay the onset of fatigue.  

Eating carbohydrates before a training session leads to improved endurance and performance.

Your muscles rely on carbohydrates to power them and provide energy and your body stores carbohydrates in your muscles.  As a cyclist, you want your carbohydrates stores to be full going into a training session or on race day so you can perform at optimal levels.

The goal for optimal performance is to start your long training rides or race day with full glycogen stores.  To do this, include complex carbohydrates for dinner the night before.  Foods such as potatoes, pasta, rice or quinoa along with some protein are a great option.  

During training, practice eating breakfast about 90 minutes before you take off.  Find something quick and easy to power your ride with slow releasing carbs. A few great options I have seen work well for athletes are oatmeal with berries, toast or a bagel with nut butter and banana, yogurt and granola, and fruit smoothies made with milk or yogurt.

Beware, everyone responds to foods differently, so it’s important to start experimenting long before race day to avoid stomach issues and determine what gives you the best energy to fuel your ride for optimal performance!

When planning out your fueling strategy for long training rides or on race day, you’ll need to determine the right amount of fluid, electrolyte and calorie intake per hour.  Your fueling strategy is highly individualized and a delicate balance that should be practiced for a few months before your actual race to allow your gut to adapt and respond.

Your fueling strategy will vary based on event, race distance, terrain, altitude, race day weather and your individual needs.

Starting recommendations are as follows:

Calories:  200-300 / hour

Fluids:  16-20 oz / hour

Sodium:  250-500 mg / hour

Carbs:  30-90 g / hour

Once you determine the strategy that works best for your unique body, you will be able to fly to the finish with energy left in the tank for your post race celebration (after your post race fuel)!!!