Dinner, breakfast and lunch for that matter.
The importance of quality and sufficient nutritional intake for endurance athletes and pretty much any and everyone out there can’t be stressed enough.
One of the most commonly asked questions I come across goes something like this: “what do you eat before a race?” or “you must be on a hectic diet right?”
When I hear those words I can almost envision the disappointment on the person’s face when they hear what I’m about to tell them because it is so very basic...
I try and prepare them for the disappointingly boring answer I’m about to give by quickly coming out with it, straight forward and to the point: “oh its very basic, I just eat as healthy and as well balanced a diet as I can and mostly drink water when Im thirsty”
It seems like the quicker I come out with it the lesser their disappointment is in most cases.
But then I would still feel bad because I know they expected to hear what the magic potion is that will give them an edge on their mates next weekend and would then start to elaborate and share what I have experienced over the years.
”But carbs is your best friend” I would say to give notice that more info is coming. Preferably “clean” carbs such as rice and pasta works very well for me. Gluten free pasta in the 2-3 days leading up to races or very important training sessions I have seen is better than normal pasta.
Then I’d share my opinion on the importance of salads and vegetables, fresh and steamed only. Baby spinach and beat root and how much I love them.
Finally I’d mention protein. Very important for rebuilding damaged muscle (how you get stronger) but too much of a good thing isn’t necessarily the best way forward. Usually a touchy subject especially if you are having this discussion with a proper South African boer who‘s been having steak and chops since the day he got off breast milk all those years ago.
Coming from a Afrikaans home myself I know the 2-3 x per week braai culture very well but over the last few years we have been having much less red meat and much more white meat and it feels good. We still enjoy the occasional braai where I can dig in to my heritage but I‘ll have smaller portions than what our culture typically requires. Gone are the days of a 1kg steak for example, thank goodness.
I then love to compare myself to a F1 racing car, not because I think Im fast but because its actually hilarious how little I know about these things but it somehow always makes sense if I explain it as follows…
“Our bodies are like F1 cars… Those guys put in only the best, highly developed fuel in the tank for better combustion and more speed. I don’t see them chucking a bunch of Big Macs in there and hope for the best”
At this point I usually hold my breath and wait for nod in acceptance of my ridiculous analogy but so far that’s always been the case. I get the nod and with it comes the confidence for yet another absurd analogy…
“Not only are they fuelled with only the best, they also put in just enough to get the job done in order to save weight and be as efficient as possible.
Remember that one time Schumacher or some guy ran out of fuel in the final lap while he was leading because they mis calculated his fuel usage?“
“For this reason I’ll have more fuel when I spend more and have less when I spend less. I know some guys do calorie counting but the schlep of doing that really doesn’t interest me. Personally I prefer the high carb, high load approach where I don’t do any carb restrictions but then make sure I spend it through bigger training load.
This might not be the best approach for someone who doesn’t have all the time in the world but while Im a professional rider this is how I choose to go about things for certain reason“
So that is how I would explain what my diet looks like in general. Then comes the “ok that makes sense but what do you actually eat before a race?”
Here we go:
“Rice, white rice, basmati or jasmine.
Have it pre cooked the night before.
Next morning while sipping on you coffee, chuck some eggs in there, 1-3 per person. More eggs if your race is longer and less if the race is shorter. Then a few dashes of sugar, the browner the better. By the way, cut out refined white sugar from your life and thank me later.
Now for some cinnamon, salt, vanilla essence and finally some milk. Can be dairy or alternative options such as almond, oats or rice milk, whatever you prefer.
Now mix and the concoction, bring to a simmer and stir now and then. You just want the egg to be cooked and it is ready when everything seems a bit firmer than at first.
If its a really challenging day like a Marathon World Champs or a Cape Epic queen stage I’ll even have a toast with eggs and cheese on top of the rice mix in order to get in some extra protein in the hope that it will last me longer.”
Thank goodness my friend and team mate, Philip Buys decided to buy a book about nutrition for cyclists where we learned the rice ”trick” otherwise I would still be bumping my head against the oats so easy wall.
I also remember how Burry Stander always had his bread and nuttella “breakfast“ before races, tried it for myself with little succes.
I can definitely recommend the rice porridge concoction. It goes down well and it is proper jet fuel, almost just like what they put in F1 cars.