Nutrition Tips for Mountain Bikers – Before, During and After a Race

No matter what anyone tells you, beer and pizza are not going to prepare you for a race, and no, drinking light beer isn’t a better option.

Believe it or not, there is more to a proper training diet than carb loading and protein. In fact, most coaches will agree that proper nutrition is more about when you eat certain foods as opposed to what you eat.

So I’ve broken it down into a fool-proof method that explains what you should eat and when, so that you can perform at your best.

Before you race your nutrition objective is only to:

1. Prevent Thirst

2. Maximize carbohydrate stores in your muscles and liver.

The Guidelines are:

*Stay away from the heavy carbs and proteins.

*Don’t eat a lot of fiber rich foods

Fiber rich foods and meals that are high in proteins and carbs take longer to leave your stomach and will usually leave you feeling heavy. Carb Loading should always be done 1- 2 days before a competition. But if you must eat a full breakfast, I suggest doing it do it at least  3 – 4 hours before your race. However, once you are within  2-3 hours of your race, limit your carb intake to snacks that have a smaller or limited amount of carbs.

So what else should you eat?


Before Competition

Two to Three hours before competition make sure you eat a light breakfast that includes fruit and a small amount of carbs or proteins, such as hard-boiled eggs or Cliff Bars and water.

10-15 minutes before competition limit your food intake to a light snack that will give you a blast of energy, but not slow you down. I recommend Clif Shot Bloks,  Jelly Belly Sports Beans or GU Roctane Gels.

During Competition

Once you start racing your objective changes. Your goals should be to:

  1. Replenish energy stores that you are losing
  2. Stay hydrated

The Guidelines are:

*Drink in moderation, drinking every so often will prevent thirst, and since thirst is a sign that your body is dehydrated, it is best to drink to prevent dehydration. Be proactive as opposed to reactive with your intake of fluids.

*Don’t pile on too many snacks or drinks all at one time.

While you exercise your body is going to lose salt through your sweat. Ideally you should aim to replenish 400-700 mg sodium per hour of training.

Sports drinks like GU Roctane Energy DrinkPowerBar Performance Energy Blend or energy gels by Clif have small amounts of salt in them and will prevent you from major cramping while you are on a long ride. Its important to continue drinking fluids while you are working out, the major benefit is that you will be able to exercise longer and finish those long runs without a problem.

After Competition

After an intense workout your body needs to replenish the protein and carbohydrates that were burned during your workout.

Your Post work out Objective is

  1. Deliver carbs and protein through a high quality source to start the replenishment process.

The Guidelines are simple

*Eat the right carbs, this is not the time for beer. The right carbs will replenish what you have lost.

*Eat as soon as you can after a workout. A delay in a food source or nutrition source will not help your body repair itself efficiently.

Most of that protein should be supplied by high-quality, whole food sources such as beef, chicken or beans. But, until you can get home to prepare a meal, recovery snacks like PowerBar Recovery BarsHoney Stinger Protein Bars and Cliff Builder’s Protein Bars are quality products that are quick options that will start to get your carb stores replenished in no time.