Weekly Wisdom: Race day nutrition

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Please welcome Patricia Schwager, an ALP Cycles coach and Weekly Wisdom contributor.

Patricia began racing as a junior in 1998. After racing on the domestic level and completing her pastry chef diploma, she got her first pro contract in 2006.

Now in her tenth year of professional racing, Patricia has a lot of experience racing in the European and American pelotons. Patricia is a six-time national Swiss champion and has represented her home country at the World Championships 12 times.

Patricia currently races for Team TIBCO-SVB and is looking to share her knowledge in her new role as an ALP Cycles Coach. Patricia has two diplomas from the Swiss Federal Office of Sport as Cycling Coach J&S and Cycling C-Coach J&S.

Anne Marije Rook

Weekly wisdom: Race day nutrition

A photo posted by Skratch Labs (@skratchlabs) on

Come race (or epic ride or big event) day, your nutrition is a very important part of your success on the bike.

Before the event:

Eat a meal two to three hours pre-race. This is your last chance to fuel your body for the race. Aim for easy to digest carbohydrates and small amounts of fat and protein. This meal can be pretty big. So if your race is in the morning, eat a good size breakfast. If your race is in the afternooon, eat an early lunch. Before a time trial you may want to have some more time to digest; eat closer to four hours before your TT start time. Keep hydrating all the way up until the time your race starts.

Have a small snack around the time you are warming up.

If your race is short (1 hour or less) take one bottle and one gel with you.

During the event:

If you are racing longer than one hour, drink at least one bottle per hour. Make sure that one or better both of your bottles contain some kind of a drink mix. Drinking plain water only doesn’t help you to replace the minerals you are sweating out. Eat something every 30 minutes (gel, 1/2 bar, banana etc.)

It is easy to forget to eat and drink during a race. In cold conditions for example, you might feel less thirsty. Or maybe you are just too scared to take your hands off your handle bar to grab a bottle or a bar. Yep I admit, I made that mistake quite a few times while racing the spring classic races in northern Europe. Instead of eating and drinking enough during the race, I decided to rather keep my hands on my handlebar and not lose any positions in the bunch- it was a bad idea of course.

The longer the race the more important it is to eat and drink at regular intervals. Try to eat/ drink small amounts but repeat every 15 minutes or so instead of eating a whole bar in once and then nothing for the next hour.

Make use of calm moments or good places in a race to eat and drink. Don’t choose to eat your energy bar right before you head into the next climb.

It’s also very important to test a new product in training first before using it in a race. Try to find out what works best for you. Not everyone is the same – make sure your nutrition and hydration is dialed in before you use it in racing.

Getting tired of the sweetness or always same flavors of your bars and gels? Try a savory version instead. (Personally I really like a salty nuts bar for a change.)


Nutrition remains important even when your race ends! After your cool down, keep drinking and within 25 minutes eat and/or drink something easily digestible with simple carbohydrates and a little protein – more protein and less carbohydrate is recommended for women.

Eat a normal meal within two hours post-race. Balance the calories you expended during the day of racing with the calories consumed the rest of the day. The right nutrition will help you recover from the race and feel better tomorrow.

Make Your Own – DIY Race/Ride Food

Sometimes the easy things can be better for you. Instead of always buying expensive bars, gels or drops you could make your own additional race food, just so you have something different in your pockets.

My make your own suggestions – the easy options!

Bike-size waffles
Bike-size waffles

Pocket Waffles

  • Cut a full-size waffle into smaller pieces
  • Putting two together like a sandwich
  • Fill each side jam, vanilla cream, Nutella, peanut or almond butter, etc.
  • Wrap them with foil and they are ready to go in your pocket.

Pocket Sandwiches

  • Cut soft rolls in half.
  • Take out some of the soft middle part. Save this part. You’ll need it later.
  • Fill in the small hole with sweets like jam, banana& honey, almond butter etc. or go savory and stuff them with ham or cheese.
  • Put the top back into the bread to close it and ensure the filling stays inside.
  • Again wrap up in foil.

Other pocket foods – these require no prep (except for the rice cakes):

  • coconut macaroons
  • stroop waffels (the originals are from the Netherlands)
  • dried fruits
  • bananas
  • rice cakes

What about my favorite race or training food? I really like to eat Biberli, a specialty from Switzerland. They taste like gingerbread and have a sweet almond filling. Cool thing is that you can buy them in (Swiss) grocery stores in the perfect size for your jersey-pocket.

Quick tips:

  1. Cut your bars in half. You will have less problems with unwrapping them during the race and that way they are already in a good size/serving to eat in once.
  2. If you need to eat during a race but you know it will be hard to do so, then prepare your bottle before the start with pouring a gel into your bottle. That way you get your energy in without messing around with opening that gel.
  3. Don’t throw the empty gel/bar wrapping just out into the nature, put the trash back in your jersey pocket and throw it out in the feeding zone (usually race organisers take care about trash in feeding zones) or then keep it in your pocket till the finish.

Got questions for the Patricia or any of the other ALP Cyles coaches? Post your question in the comments below or send it to us on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtags #weeklywisdom or #askalp.

ALP Cycles Coaching alpcycleslogo - edited is a Boulder-based coaching company with three female coaches at the helm: Alison Powers, Jennifer Sharp and Patricia Schwager.

Each coach brings her own coaching strengths and personal experiences. Roading racing, track, endurance mountain biking, time trialling, making the leap to living and racing in Europe – they’ve got you covered. Find out more about Alison Powers and her Alp Cycles coaching company at here.

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