RTL Training Diet

I know that at the moment I have a pretty awful diet. I like all the things that are bad for me, and don’t like the stuff that’s good for me. However, I’m in training for RTL, which is likely to be the most physically challenging thing I’ve ever done. So maybe it’s time to look at what I eat.

I think my mid-ride diet of energy bars, bananas, chocolate and Soreen is probably fine during the ride, but I’m interested in what you guys eat before a ride, after a ride, and on rest days.

Any advice will either be greatly appreciated, or adamantly ignored depending on how much I like the food :smiley:


Bassets jelly babies are a popular UK riding fuel and they were half price at Sainsbury’s the other day when I bought 2 packs. Unfortunately I hid them and now can’t remember where :thinking:

I have been trying some software recently to keep track of my food nutrients intake and energy expenditure which has proved quite interesting. Although I’ve only been using it casually it’s helped me balance my food intake better and I’ve lost nearly a stone in 6 weeks (it needed to go) but today’s cream cake may make a dent in that :smiley:

The software I’m using is from VidaOne and they do stuff for Windows mobile and desktop.

Y’know, there’s a study of tastes, that found that if you eat a taste something like 5-7 times, you will end up liking the taste. The problem is that people are wussy and won’t risk their poor ickle tastey buds with new flavours and experiences, so they end up eating a very limited range of foods. What they need to do is HTFU (don’t click the link if you don’t like swear words) and just eat stuff.

If you don’t, then you end up only eating a limited range of foods just because they’re what you’ve always eaten.

In the last few years I’ve taught myself to like celeriac and celery, tea, beer, red wine and a bunch of other things that I never used to like, and it certainly makes life easier.

For what it’s worth, I eat a lot of carbohydrates and a lot of vegetables & fruit. A lot of it in the form of home made curries & rice, but also pasta, stews, risottos etc. Obviously for you, you’ll want a bunch of meat in all these things, but to eat sensibly for riding, you’ve gotta have some vegetables in there too.

Drinking-wise, beer is always a hassle when training, cos it’s nice, but you don’t want to let it spoil your training. The easiest thing to do is make sure that even when you’ve had beers the night before, push yourself really hard. This gives you an incentive to not get too hammered, and stops beer getting in the way of training too much, if you make sure you get up at a sensible time and do any riding you’ve committed to doing however hungover you might be. I try to ride home from any pub visits / nights out if possible if they’re in Nottingham, because that way you tend not to get too caned either. Having said that, right now I’m a total lightweight, seems like when I’m training I can drink a couple of pints and feel pretty darned drunk (I sure am a cheap date at the moment), if that isn’t the case then it’s probably a sign of not training enough.


I’ve been thinking about the same thing recently. I usually have a pretty good diet and I am pretty fit but I’m trying to improve myself even more.

I think a diet full of carbohydrates and protein is most recommended. Pastas are usually good, and sugars are good for energy. I read recently that cyclists with pretty hardcore training schedules usually go for a really high energy diet. This can mean they take in up to 6000 Calories per day, where the usual person takes about 2000. But a diet like that is generally not reccomended without proper medical supervision.

Check out some diets of bicyclists. Here is a brief summary of one:

For an ultra long distance event, eat whatever you like during the race. Make sure there’s a good variety available though. Sometimes you’ll feel like pizza, sometimes you’ll feel like ice-cream, and sometimes you feel like you’re going to vomit.

For ultra long distance liquid fuel…I highly recommend Ensure. It’s the stuff we give cancer patients in hospital. The people that do Race Across America swear by it. So do I. It’s much better than some of the sickly sweet sugar syrups you pay ridiculous amounts of money for.

Also a good supply of Coffee…I can’t race without it.

Bowl of porridge in the morrning…

Here is a book that will tell you everything you need or want to know about the connection between nutrition and conditioning, i.e. what to eat before workout, during, and after for recovery. While it’s not a “Top 10 things to eat list”, I found it did a great job explaining how food works in your body right down to the muscle/cellular level, and in the time since, I’ve been able to experience and identify problems when I haven’t eaten correctly. So of you REALLY want answers, that’s a good source to check out.

But for quick recommends, I’d say it’s important to maintain a solid mix of protein and carb. Don’t load on one and exclude the other. More protein in advance of hard workouts, easily digestible carbs with less protein during the workout (i.e. a multi-hour ride), and a mix of about 25% protein 75% carb within a half hour of stopping to help with your recovery.

Beyond those rough rules of thumb, it’s whatever you like. When I’m seriously exercising, I tend to eat the same things day after day because I have experimented on what works best for me. Most of my protein comes from soy, although lately I’ve been on a pho kick which provides meat for protein and rice noodle for carbs, plus a ton of beef broth for hydration. Mmmm…pho. On days of big rides, I tend to crack a Boost energy drink upon waking, just to get protein/carb mix going immediately in my system. Then the aforementioned bowl of porridge, ideally with bananas and a wee bit o brown sugar.

This probably won’t help much… but I eat cereal, and hamburgers. :stuck_out_tongue:

During the race, I like to down Gu gels (those… things. I really do think they help me out) for quick energy, powerbars as a midrange, and, well, sub sandwiches and burritos and burgers and yucky greasy stuff for long distance fuel :slight_smile: If I’m out for longer than 6 hours, I just eat whatever the heck I want (as long as I know it won’t make my stomach feel full), because I know that in 2 hours, whatever I’ll eat will be long gone.

Thanks for the info guys.

I like Chuckaeronuts hamburger advice best :smiley: But if I’m going to go through all the effort of learning to like something new, then I may as well make sure it’s the right thing. (fwiw I’ve already learned to like tea, beer and red wine so they can’t be on my list of new things). Oh, and I never let a hangover get in the way of a good ride. I actually like a hard ride to work off a hard nights drinking.

I already eat a lot of meat & pasta or meat & rice dishes, so it sounds like that’s going in the right direction.

Toms book suggestion looks good. I’ll see if I can track down a copy of that here somewhere.

But keep the suggestions coming.


I drink home brewed kefir daily.

Lots of good advice above. A big part of training is knowing how to eat. Mostly what I try to do is eat plenty of nutritionally dense foods, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and sometimes meat, and avoid the opposite, like highly processed foods with lots of corn syrup and bizarre preservatives.

Before a big race whether running or biking I got kind of technical with how I ate and trained the week before but I always drank a big cup of really strong coffee before starting out. Somewhere I read how it may work to change how you metabolize your energy stores, but however it worked, it works.

Alcohol - I read in a cycling magazine a while ago of a pro cyclist who disided to quit to see if it gave him a slight edge. It did.

Up to that point he’d have one or two drinks on most nights and about every other week about twice that. Six months after he completely cut out alcohol he had lost 15 lbs, had more endurance and was mentally more sharp (didn’t have as much difficulty remembering names and numbers, slept better, and had more consistently good results with his attacks in his races).

… also anything with white flour.

I’m alergic to gluten a large amount of it is in wheat, and practically anything packaged or from a restaurant. I use long grain brown rice, and bread and pasta made from brown rice flour. Also I’m alergic to a lot of nuts and seeds, sunflower seeds will send me to the E.R. I can have a limited amount of peanuts, more cashews, and as much sessemee and flax seeds as I want. So I have to be carefull about the granola bars and trail mixes I get (but generally good and easy to carry - I can ocationally have wheat if I gernerally avoid it).

Many people are alergic to foods and don’t know it (especially gluten). To test this take your resting heart rate 20 min. before and after eating something you think you might be alergic to. If your hear rate goes up by 10% or more there’s a decent chance you are alergic to that food and should be tested by a doctor.

I carry a small old vitamin bottle w/ vitamins E, C, B 1 (I’m alergic to most others), Ginsing (G), Ginko Biloba (GB), and 200 mg. caffine tabs. They all help w/ mental stamina for me. Generally I try to stay away from caffine so when studying I take one each of the vitamins and two each of the G and GB pills. If I’ve done this twice and still can’t think streight, I take 1/2 a caffine tab. The G & GB haven’t been terribly effective for me on long rides, so I sometimes I go streight to the caffine, if I need it.

I would steer clear of the chocolate if lasting energy is what your after… a mate of mine goes bushwalking and reckons the energy you get from chocolate burns up WAY quicker than say a banana.

What you eat/drink after a ride is very important for training, because that’s when your body starts repairing damage done to muscles during training, which is what makes them stronger for next time. The basic advice is to take something with a bit of protein in it within 20 minutes of finishing training. You can get sports recovery drinks like re-go etc, or you can try my personal favourite of chocolate nesquick drink, which is nicer and considerably cheaper, although you do need to mix it with milk (which has the benefit of making it cold, so nicer than the sports-specific stuff).

Other than that it’s just about having a vaguely sensible diet, maybe with a bit more carbohydrate. The idea of ‘things that are bad for you’ is a bit less strict, because calories are not the enemy here. Ideally you’d still stay off most of the conventionally unhealthy stuff, but if your training diet is boring you’re less likely to stick to it.

Oh, and tea is good, because it removes free-radicals or something that are produced by muscle damage during training, and are apparently generally bad for you. So woo for tea and cake, basically.

if you eat lots of carbs within 30 min of finishing, you will have a much better chance of recovering fast. There is an actually study behind this that my dad was telling me about (he is a road bike GEEK). Usually when I get home from a long ride or after a long run, I eat a very large bowl of noodles or Cous-cous and then go shower. I find that I recover faster if I eat before I shower instead of after.

NOT lobster !!


When running marathons, always carbs the night before. Whole wheat toast with LOTS of honey and bananas in the morning. An ultramarathon I know of suggests cashews as having lots of energy during a race.

Cytomax has been great before, during and after MTB races.

Replacing electrolytes can’t be overlooked. This is why so many elite cyclists have osteoporosis and probably contributed to my breaking my back. So bananas, beer and sports drinks.

From what i know as a XC runner. Load up on carbs the night before your race. Think PASTA. Drink as much water as possible. After the race or workout if you cant eat right away drink some endurox
this will help recovery

Carb loading should ideally start earlier than the night before. You barely have time to stash any muscle glycogen away in that time. Think more like 3 days. Hearty complex carbohydrates early on, increasingly simple carbohydrates as the event approaches. The afternoon/evening before an event I’m taking down as much plain sugar (candy, soda, sports drink) as I feel like, and go to bed with a bottle of sports drink handy to keep hydrated and continue the carb loading. Keeping hydrated is very important because your body stores those carbs away with a lot of water.

I generaly gain about 5 pounds over the course of carb loading, as my body stashes away glycogen along with water. Within a few hours of endurance effort all of that has come out of my muscles and I’m dependent upon the simple carbohydrates that I’m consuming on the run (or on the wheel).

In general, a good diet is one that chucks the processed food and focuses on real food in calorie proportions of something like 60% carbs, 25% fat, 15% protein. There’s a fair bit of wiggle room there. I use software to log and keep track of those percentages (I like the software offered by CalorieKing.com), although I’ve done pretty well in the past by just noting “servings” on an index card I carry in my pocket. But I’m a geek on this stuff.