Images via Thomas Maheux

It seems like nowadays everyone has an opinion, or what they believe to be an authority on optimal nutrition. Let me start by saying that daily nutrition for ‘health’ is often not synonymous with ‘performance’ from an athletic perspective, so it is important to keep coming back to the goal.

There are pre-race days where I eat a high volume of mostly white, refined sugary carbohydrates with little to no fruit and vegetables. Most experts would not recommend this as your main source of energy for health and longevity! But hear me out, there is a strong, science-backed reason for these foods on the athletes plate.

Personally, I have taken on board advice from former and current riders, podcasts, naturopaths and doctors – from trial and error myself.

NOTHING comes close to the personalised, evidence-based approach from a practicing Registered Sports Dietitian (RSD). Emphasis on Sports. Like all sciences, the field of sports nutrition is constantly changing and evolving as technology advances, and an RSD should be all over the up-to-date advice. This approach will remove the guesswork and confusion around diet trends and Influencer ‘advice’ for you.

Let’s also remember that although as athletes we eat for performance and recovery, eating is something that for the most part, we want to be able to enjoy. Socially and culturally, even amongst the peloton this is true. Many of us enjoy a wine after a racing block, pastries and treats at the cafe, and big long dinners on social occasions.

With all this being said, I am not in a position to be able to offer ‘advice’ to FulGaz readers, but I can share what I have learned for myself as a professional cyclist.

 

WHAT WORKS FOR BRODIE

  • Eating carbohydrates (CHO) during training is the most useful and effective time to eat for training success. This is when my body will be using the carbohydrates and it means higher quality, more repeatable training sessions. I may not feel like eating. I dont’ feel hungry. By the time I have ‘sugar bonked’ or ‘hit the wall’ it’s too late. You don’t wait until your car is in the reserve tank or completely empty in order to fuel it up.  In races, I look at my Wahoo to gauge when I should take on a gel or swig of my CHO drink mix. In this case it’s not ‘listen to your body’ it’s ‘look at the clock’. I aim for 70-90g of CHO an hour. It is more than you think. There is no place for low-carb diets from a performance perspective in professional cycling.
  • I aim to get my recovery meal or shake soon after my session when my body uses it best. A mix of CHO to replenish stores and protein for muscle recovery. You can choose a sports recovery mix or something like peanut butter and jam on toast also does the trick for me. Another all-time staple is white rice + protein, so beans or tofu for me.
  • I trained my gut to tolerate high amounts of CHO. I used to struggle to eat the required amount in a race, but slowly introduced sports nutrition products in training, so knew I could handle them in a race.
  • Mental dieting is exhausting. If you are constantly assigning foods ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or ‘deserving’ or ‘undeserving’ then the stress and anxiety this mindset causes will be more detrimental to your performance long term than the odd cookie and cake.
  • Don’t plan or expect to be ‘race weight’ all year round or you will crumble. You think you can maintain flying form, you think you can be lean and powerful at the same time all year but you can’t. No-one with a long, successful athletic career can do this. Your body is smarter than you think. It is only really hilly races that benefit from an improved power to weight anyway. Having more power is more helpful to achieve than having less mass.
  • I still think about my long-term health goals. I might be a cyclist for only 5-10 years max, but I will be a human being for the rest of the time. I want to be healthy, have a good immune response, and strong bones for an enjoyable future. Ensuring I am not under-fuelled and undernourished throughout my athletic career means I can achieve this goal.
  • Travelling across different countries means access to vastly different foods, meal times and cooking facilities. Culturally I grew up eating dinner at around 6pm. When racing in Spain or Italy, dinner is not served until 8:30pm, finishing around 10pm. Most of us choose to eat our breakfast 3 hours prior to the race start, with another small snack before the race. This sometimes means eating breakfast at 5.45am. Other days I eat breakfast at 9am. Be flexible.
In short, sports nutrition is a personal experience, but there are ground rules that apply to everyone. It can intersect more wholly with general nutrition for a large majority of the active population. You don’t have to be professional or elite or even trying to lose weight to benefit from consulting a dietitian.
It is also important to remember that many professional teams have a chef that prepares them personalised nutrition, with every macro-nutrient accounted for to meet the demands of racing. So next time you read about the daily diet of a Grand Tour rider, remember that the amount of attention and detail that goes into the macronutrient ratios and amounts takes a lot of work, and it would be incredibly time and mentally consuming to try and manage this yourself without a team of experts doing the hard yards.
I hope this has offered some insight into my experience with food and nutrition as a professional cyclist, and no doubt I will continue to learn and adapt my nutrition as my career progresses and science advances.

BRODIE’S TOP TUCKER

Dinner/Fuelling
Breakfast
On the bike

About Brodie Chapman

Brodie is a WorldTour rider with French Team, FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope. You can find her shredding trails on her MTB, or exploring her adopted home-town of Girona, Spain.