Listen to our 5-Day Challenge Edition of the Podcast
On the GFNY Training Center Podcast, you can get an overview of the goals of the 5-Day Challenge, what each day will look like, and some of the benefits you're going to get from following along. Listen Here.
At GFNY Coaching, we know that nutrition is important. We keep track of current n research in sports nutrition, and we synthesize this information and pass it on to you in the form of simple, practical advice.
The purpose of the GFNY Nutrition Challenge is to get you to transition from your current nutrition plan to one that's designed to give you your best performance on race day.
Although it may be many months until your goal event, there are great benefits to starting now:
-Time to train and practice your nutrition plan: incorporating this into one ride a week will both make good nutrition a habit, and train your stomach to better absorb carbohydrate.
-Proper nutrition will boost your endurance and reduce fatigue during your hard training rides. This will let you train harder and see better results in the months leading into your goal race.
Before starting your 5-Day Challenge, it may help to start with some of the background of our stance on sport nutrition to understand the goals of our challenge.
For detailed insight into on-bike nutrition, check out our Training Guide.
You can also listen to Training Center Podcast about on-bike nutrition. Listen Here.
Day 1: Nutrition Audit
For the first day of our Five-Day Challenge, we’re going to start with your weekly long ride.
If you’re like most cyclists, Saturday or Sunday is your day of the week to get out on a long, tough training ride and prepare yourself for the distances you’ll be tackling during GFNY races.
These rides are the perfect chance to practice your nutrition, and to train your stomach for race day. Yet, many of you reading this won’t have your nutrition on point. You’ll be far under the recommendations for carbohydrate intake during long endurance training or competition, and you’ll be unknowingly sabotaging your performance.
Note: Day 1 of our nutrition challenge is being posted on Friday, so that you can start Saturday.
However, if your long ride for the weekend will be on Sunday, just push everything forward a day and start by following the below steps on your Sunday ride.
GFNY Coaching is here to fix that.
For our nutrition audit, follow the following steps:
Prepare for a long (at least 3 hours) ride as you normally would, taking the same nutrition products as you generally do. However, write down all the food and nutrition products you take with you. This needs to be detailed! Pay attention to things like serving sizes or how many scoops or drink mix you put in bottles.
During the ride:
Eat and drink as normal. However, keep track of everything you eat and drink. You'll have your pre-ride list, which will help. However, we want to know what you actually ate or drank, not what you planned to eat or drink. So keep all your food wrappers to count up, note any food you purchased during the ride or got from a riding buddy, and keep track of things you only consumed a portion of (like half a bottle of a half-eaten bar).
After the ride, make a complete list of everything you ate or drank during the ride. Later you will use this information to count how many calories and grams of carbohydrate you ate during the ride, so it's important to be detailed! As we mentioned above, account for half-drunk bottles or partially-eaten food.
Day 1 Wrap-Up:
For day 1, the most important thing is to pay attention to the details. We need an accurate idea of what you're eating on rides, so small details matter!
Day 2: Carbohydrate Counting
Day two of the nutrition challenge is fairly straightforward, but it could be a tad time consuming if you’re not used to doing this.
All we’re going to do is take your list of food from yesterday’s ride, and add up how many grams of carbohydrate all that food and drink contained.
You’ll need to use the nutrition facts for each item of food. If you are using specialized nutrition products, this information should be on the wrapper, or the packaging that the product came in. If not, a quick Google search will bring it up.
If you ate homemade ride food like sandwiches or rice cakes, you’ll have to look up the nutrition facts of what you ate and do some math.
Finally, remember to account for half-eaten or drunk items, as we mentioned yesterday.
Be as accurate as possible, add all of this up, and arrive to your total carbohydrate number.
Now, save that, as we’ll be using it tomorrow.
Day 3: How far are you from your target?
For day 3, our goal is to see how far you are from an ideal target for carbohydrate intake.
Step 1: Find your per hour intake
For now, all you need to do is take the amount of carbohydrate you took in on your last long ride (using the math you did yesterday), divide it by your ride time, and come up with how many grams of carbohydrate you ate per hour.
Step 2: Pick a Target
-If you’re a larger rider (over 170 lbs) you should target 80-90 grams of carbohydrate per hour.
-If you’re a small rider (under 135 lbs) you can target 60 grams of carbs per hour, unless you’re fast (say you’d hope to go under 6 hours in New York).
-If you’re in between those size recommendations, we suggest aiming for the higher end of the range (80-90) but you may be ok with 60-70 if you’re a slower-paced rider (say 6.5-7 hours or higher for a race like NYC).
Step 3: Compare your target to your current intake
Now we just want you to compare what you are eating vs what you should be eating.
So if based on your weight you should be targeting at least 80 grams per hour, and you’ve calculated you only averaged 35 grams per hour, we know we need to make up that 45 grams per hour you’re missing.
That’s all for today, but for some of you, I hope that you’re having a wake-up call. I often find riders trying to train hard or race on 25 grams of cho per hour, which is not nearly enough for optimal performance. Once you see how big a gap there is between what you’re doing now and what you’ll be doing in the future you can see how much benefit you’re going to get from it.
Day 4-Create a Shopping List
Day 4 is a sort of ‘bridge’ day. We’ve now found the holes in your current plan, and soon we’ll finish by creating a new nutrition plan.
However, you probably will find that getting in enough carbohydrate will be really tough with your current products or nutrition plan. It’s much easier to get in enough carbohydrates if you have the correct products. Below we recommend a three-category system for putting together your shopping list. And of course, if you already have products that fit the bill for one of those categories, you can skip that step.
Once you’ve created the below shopping list, go out and buy everything! Go to the local bike shop, or order online if you must. Just make sure everything will be ready for the coming weekend, since that’s when you’ll be putting your new nutrition plan into practice for the first time.
A good drink mix is absolutely key. Not only will it hydrate you better than plain water or a calorie-free electrolyte mix, it provides an easy way to get a constant drip-feed of carbohydrate. Modern carbohydrate drinks provide up to 80 grams of carbohydrate in a normal sized water bottle, meaning that you can make a huge dent in your caloric intake just through what you're drinking.
We won’t recommend brands here, but you need a mix with a carbohydrate blend, preferably Glucose and Fructose. This will absorb better than a single-blend carbohydrate. If you’re planning on taking in 80-90 grams of carbohydrate on race day, this is key.
If you’re picky with flavors or sweetness, it can be a good idea to get some single servings of a product and try them on one ride, to see if they’ll work for you.
Energy gels are easy, fast-acting, and easy on most people’s stomachs. We highly suggest using energy gels as part of your fueling strategy. Buy some in a flavor you like!
Finding a gel with a carbohydrate blend can be important if you know that you won’t be getting many of your calories from drink mix (for example, you don’t do well with sweet drink mixes). Otherwise, it’s probably not so important, since the drink mix is providing an easily-absorbed blend.
Bars or solid food
During long rides, most people crave some actual food once in a while, other than just drink mixes and gels.
A good energy bar can work, but so can homemade food like small sandwiches, rice cakes, or other snacks.
Either way, add whatever it is you want to your shopping list. And remember, if you use homemade ride food, to do the math on how much carbohydrate it contains.
Day 5-Writing out your new nutrition plan
Day 5 is the culmination of all the work you've done over the last 4 days, yet it's also quite simple.
Using some more basic math, the nutrition labels from the products you've chosen to use during your rides, and your riding plan for the coming weekend, you're going to write out your nutrition goals for your next long ride.
Here's an example:
The Coach's Sunday Ride Nutrition Plan:
The Ride: 4 hours total, 3 of which are an intense group ride, followed by some extra miles tacked on the end.
Carbohydrate Goal: 80 grams/hour or 320 grams total, in order to finish strong and get in a 'train the stomach' day as well.
-2x750 ML bottles each containing 80 grams of a glucose/fructose blend. (160 grams total)
-1 plastic bag filled with the same drink mix as above to mix into bottle during a water stop (80 grams total).
-4 gels of 23 grams each (92 grams total)
Total: 332 grams of carbohydrate
Thought Process: Christian does well with drinking a lot of his carbohydrate, and he doesn't enjoy eating on the bike, so he often sticks with fluid and gels, especially on group rides.
He has a good drink mix that's a glucose/fructose blend that he finds easy to drink, so he prefers to take in the majority of his carbohydrate intake through that.
He adds in some gels to hit the 80 gram/hour goal. His actual nutrition plan is slightly over that goal, but he knows there's always a bit of gel left in the bottom of the package, so he rounds down.
Adapting this for you:
You may prefer a less sweet drink mix. You may like to eat solid food during the ride. You may be targeting only 60 grams per hour. All this means that while copying Christian's plan above can work, it's better to spend some time writing out a plan for you.
Making this plan may be the final step in our 5-Day Challenge, but it's only a first step towards proper in-race nutrition. Now, you need to take this plan forward and practice it during tough workouts. Try to practice at least once every two weeks, if not weekly, and pair this plan with your hardest, longest workout of the week.
You should feel much stronger at the end of these rides, and you'll be creating good habits to practice on race day.