Nutrition for the Track Cyclist

14 Aug

Sprinters need to optimise muscle mass and minimise body fat levels to achieve an optimal power:weight ratio.  This requires a carefully balanced intake.  Consuming excess total energy can lead to an increase in body fat.  However, restricting energy intake in an attempt to achieve an ultra lean physique can cause loss of muscle mass.

Sprinters need to consume a variety of nutrient-dense foods and match carbohydrate needs to their training load. Protein requirements are similar to other sprint athletes, being around 1.6-1.8g/kg of body weight. Overall, a healthy balanced diet containing a wide variety of nutrient dense wholegrain breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables will help a sprint cyclist meet their nutritional requirements and manage weight. Regular serves of lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, legumes and low-fat dairy products will help to meet protein, calcium and iron requirements.

If body fat levels become a problem, it may be necessary to increase energy expenditure and focus on ensuring carbohydrate and energy requirements are not being over estimated. Recovery is crucial to track cyclists. Recovery can be optimised by consuming a mix of carbohydrate and protein before and after training sessions.

Body fuel stores are not a limiting factor for single sprint events.  However, when contesting a number of races over a day, fuel demands can be high.  Cyclists should aim to begin competition sufficiently fuelled, well hydrated, and a comfortable stomach.  In most cases, track cyclists can prepare for competition by maintaining their usual healthy eating habits. Generally, carbohydrate loading is not required for sprint events.  Longer events such as the Madison may be an exception.

Pre-competition meals should be familiar and individualised. For sprinters, the meal does not necessarily need to be a high energy meal but should contain foods that the athlete enjoys and tolerates. For longer track endurance events the pre-competition meal should contain plenty of carbohydrate to top up fuel stores. Track bikes do not have bidon cages and it is often unnecessary or impractical to drink during a race. Therefore “Pre” and “Re” hydration strategies are especially important for longer events and multiple race competition days.

Sprinters need to assess the opportunities between events to eat and drink.  The aim is to consume sufficient food and fluid throughout the day to ensure the cyclist is in peak condition at the end of the day when the competition really counts.

Elite track cyclists compete worldwide. Athletes often fly in to compete only 1-2 days before racing. Managing jetlag, in particular minimising dehydration, is important to see cyclists ready for competition on arrival.  Athletes who travel regularly, need to be aware that traveling reduces training loads therefore reduces energy requirements. This is also a consideration for endurance trained road cyclists coming back to compete on the track. Adjusting food intake to accommodate the reduced requirements can help avoid unwanted weight gain.

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