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How to eat before a criterium, time trial or cyclocross race

Updated: Dec 3, 2021

"Good nutrition is a tool that can catapult you from good to great. Imagine putting in all of those hours training and then not being able to execute because you didn't fuel the work."

When cycling intensity is high, timing and composition of nutrition intake leading into an event become especially important. In the case of a stand alone cyclocross race, crit and time trial, sub one hour efforts, you want to make sure you’ve digested your last full meal well before you throw the power down hard.

Due to the shorter duration of these events, you wouldn’t require a large carbohydrate load the day before, as you would before a 3-5 hour long hilly road race. Instead, you want to do some trial and error with differing amounts of carbohydrate (in the range noted below) and total calorie intake, during mock training situations, to gain a good understanding of what you need to finish your race with maximal power. We know that having glycogen stores plays an important part in executing high intensity repeated efforts, so let’s narrow in on some practical tactics to stay on top of energy and carbohydrate needs.

Pre-Race Nutrition: Practice in training

Day before: Based on trial and error with your pre-race nutrition you will dial in where you fall within the range of carbohydrate intakes noted below. You’ll want to set up some “mock” 1-hour race pace sessions. Testing in training is how to determine if you need to tweak carbohydrate intake upwards.

  • Carbohydrate intake: Range 5-8g/kg body weight

  • Protein: 1.2-2g/kg bodyweight

  • Fat: 20-30% of calorie intake (may be higher depending on age and overall training load)

Example of pre-race day nutrition for a 68kg (150lb) athlete:

To determine your weight in kilos, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2.

I will choose specific values for the purposes of this example. Let’s assume this athlete has determined these are their needs based on experimentation during training.

  • Carbohydrates: 68kg x 6g/kg = 408grams

  • Protein: 68kg x 1.5g/kg = 102grams

  • Fat: 20-30% of daily caloric intake

Here’s how this could look translated into food:

  • Breakfast

  • ½ cup oats dry (cooked in soy milk or regular milk)

  • 1 cup soy milk

  • 1 banana

  • ½ cup of yogurt

  • 1.5 tbsp. maple syrup

  • ½ cup frozen blueberries

  • 1 tbsp. sesame seeds

  • 1 cup fresh pineapple juice

  • Snack:

  • 2 pieces whole wheat toast

  • 1 tbsp. honey

  • 1 banana sliced

  • Lunch: Burrito Bowl

  • 1 cup steamed rice

  • 3oz grilled chicken

  • ¼ cup black beans canned

  • ½ avocado

  • ½ cup steamed kale

  • 3 tbsp. salsa Verde

  • Snack:

  • 1 cup edamame with sea salt

  • ½ cup dried mango

  • Dinner: Pasta with Tofu

  • 1.5 cups of pasta cooked

  • 3 slices of tofu (flavored or cooked with spices etc.)

  • ½ cup tomato sauce

  • 11 baby tomatoes

  • Snack:

  • 15 rice crackers

  • 3tbsp apple butter