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Diet and what cycling Pros do by Adrian Fairbank

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I found some of the articles in magazines really helpful over the last few months, and there are odd moments in my day when people are perhaps late arriving to see me or as often occur there are inevitable delays in the operating theatres between cases. It is at moments like this that I have really enjoyed looking online and looking at some of the articles and blogs available.

So what do the pros tend to eat when they’re preparing for race days?

A big breakfast is an obvious essential with poached eggs on toast – poached eggs are healthier and slightly lower in calories and than scrambled or fried eggs which tend to contain butter or oil. The toast is of course wholemeal with more fibre and better nutrients than other types. Bread is however quite high in salt and sugar. Fruit with muesli –  this is a good combination as it gives a good balanced source of protein and omega 3 fatty acids.

At noon, a probiotic yoghurt has a beneficial effect on the immune system and possibly helps by increasing white blood cell activity protecting against infection. A couple of hours before the race the appetite is stilled by 2 small bowls of white rice with olive oil, black pepper and soy sauce and a bottle of water. One hour before the race a snack, a banana, and a bottle of water with an SIS Hydro tab – all of this for a race starting at 2 o’clock.

During the race it is important to re-fuel – this is really very important in a stage race even it is only 100 km. This can not only have an effect during the race but in the following days. I’ve tended to use SIS products and they seem popular on the tour. Some will use a caffeine gel to give an extra boost and increase alertness. The electrolyte drink ensures you stay well hydrated and the carbohydrates are easily digested. Between 1 to 2 L of fluid are lost every hour of moderately intensive exercise from the pro racer and therefore they do need to keep those fluids up.

After the race a SIS Rego rapid recovery shake is a good way of restoring lost energy – getting protein on board is useful for repairing the muscles. You want to do this straight after finishing the race – the principle behind the shakes is to help restore muscle glycogen quickly and to provide the building blocks of protein – the amino acids. The Pro will also want to drink little and often afterwards so that they rehydrate well  – making sure they regain the relevant electrolytes.

Preparing for a big second day requires tucking into a big dinner. Salad and vegetables help keep vitamin and mineral levels high and can help boost immune system. Pasta is a must, and most cyclists will consume vast quantities giving a broad offering of carbohydrates for fuelling muscles. Bolognese is a good meat together with the pasta. Perhaps a mushroom soup and a jacket potato and again lots of fluids before bedtime.

Each Pro seems to have their own regime and some will slip in some stimulants like chocolate to make them feel better-a bit naughty but when you’re building the sort of calorie burn that they are I don’t think it really matters.

For my part, I think when I next do a big ride like the Alpine Challenge I will try to adopt some of these principles and see what difference it makes.