Nutrition for gravel cycling with Kristen Arnold
Home alone and welcome to the podcast. I'm your host craig. This episode is brought to you by bike index like indexes a free bicycle registry and stolen bike recovery platform throughout the global. Pandemic bike indexes. Cnn extreme increase in bicycle theft which has made bicycle registration. Even more important bike index has a stolen bike recovery platform that's integrated with police and pawn industry databases as well as social media platforms. So in the unfortunate occurrence of your bike being stolen. You can immediately get the help you need. Registration is free at. Www dot bike index dot. Org bike index is a five. Oh one three. Cg nonprofit is also engaging it's end of year donations campaign. please consider a donation ads. Www dot bike index. Dot org slash. Donate this week on podcast. We've got sports nutritionists and professional cyclists. Kristen arnold kirsten has a masters degree in science and human nutrition from ohio. State university is a usa level to cycling coach with source endurance. End racist professionally with the butcher box racing team. I've always got a million questions about nutrition and it certainly a topic. That's coming up in the new ridership for them. Kirsten helps us break down. What to think about eating the week before an event during an event and after an event i thought it'd be useful to think about it in that context just because a lot of us these big events. One hundred miler. That's a big unusual ride for us. We're not doing that every month in are cycling career. We're just kind of peaking for something. That is really extreme in terms of what our body is used to. So it's important to kind of think about that not only in your physical preparation but also nutrition and hydration. Christine does a great job of breaking down the things you should be thinking about before the event during the event to give yourself the best chance for success. She's got some fantastic takeaways for us. All and a few little tricks that i hadn't thought about so. I hope you enjoyed this episode. Let's jump right in kristen. Welcome to the show. Thanks for having me craig. I'm excited to get into the topic of nutrition with you. But i always like to set the stage for the listener to get a little bit more of an understanding about your background. Since you've got a background both professionally. Nutritionist but also as a professional cyclist once you give us a little bit of both okay So i kind of make my living in three different ways right now and I went to school for nutrition. So i have an undergraduate degree and dietetic and then got my registered dietitian or credential Ended up getting my masters of science and human nutrition then became a certified specialist sports dietetic. So i was in school for eight years Nutrition and So open my private practice. Sports died headaches. Company in twenty fourteen and then started coaching Cycling in sixteen hour with source endurance. And i've been reading on the professional road circuit and twenty sixteen and now rethink for butcher. Box pro cycling. Wow that keeps you busy. Yeah we've had a couple episodes recently where we've touched on things that i would fall in the realm of nutrition and i was excited when we connected just to bring you on board and talk from the athlete's perspective about how my listeners might improve their overall nutrition nutrition and such because such a massive field and something that everybody needs to spend time thinking about and integrating into their lives. I thought we would just think about it from the perspective of an athlete. Who may be only doing a handful of events a year so not a professional cyclist by any means but someone who's peaking for an event that may be way out of the ordinary for them so think about like a two hundred mile gravel race an sp t gravel or amid south gravel event. So let's try to break down the conversation by starting. You know if you have one of those big peaks senior year. How should you be approaching it. Nutritionally in the week leading up. And then how should you be approaching your nutrition during the event. Okay all right so we're gonna talk about the week before and the day of a big event There is some research to show that what people call carb loading is effective. And what this means is that you are eating High proportion of your calories up to seven to ten grams per kilogram body weight of carbohydrates per day. and what's that doing. it is super saturating or glycogen stores so for endurance athletes especially cyclists with these long gravel event Even though a lot of the time you'll be below threshold the majority of the type of effort. You're going to be doing it. Relies on glycogen and so the main goal with Going into the event to make sure that those lijun thursday or as full as possible if not fuller than they normally are And then that also goes for hydration so ulta making sure that we have adequate hydration stores and meeting knows with fluid and electrolyte so short version of that is to Continuously e carbohydrate rich foods throughout the day for up to a week before the event and then also making sure to hydrate well with electrolytes every day consistently throughout the day. So let's unpack those both slowly. And maybe i'll start with hydration just because that's the easiest one it is interesting to me in. That tip was conveyed to me back in my ironman days. The idea of making sure that you're super hydrated in the days before a big event. Because obviously you just you can't you don't you. Don't wanna start off in a deficit. But i think you were also mentioning to make sure you're blending electrolytes in that hydration strategy in the week before are there any specific tips in terms of like bought number of bottles. You might wanna drink during any given day before the events. Yeah that's a good question so as far as total number of bottles or different things There is not a standard practice for how much fluid to drink but generally speaking. I usually recommend something like four to five liters of total fluid and the fluid can come from water. Tea juice coffee drink. Mint like sports drinks. Mix lemonade anything. Besides alcohol counts towards your five four to five liters of fluid okay and it is the rationale. Just you just wanna make the stores topped off before your big day yet. You want to make sure that all your cells have adequate hydrogen and oxygen and in order to you that you do need to mix it with electrolyte. That is one of the major mistakes. That's the athletes make as they do a really good job of drinking water but what is happening is they're cells are actually hydrated because they're not retaining the water with that influx of sodium okay so blending and a little bit of sort of sports drinker electrolyte. Drink into the mix is important definitely or you can do salty foods so anytime you're eating food. Make sure to drink fluid or incorporate salty. Snacks like altered potatoes Pretzel things like that. Okay interesting so and then shifting over to the carbo loading strategy. I think one of the challenges the average athlete might have as you know in the weeks leading up to their big event. They may be sort of peaking out in their training. And then in that week immediately prior to the event they maybe tapering but they may have sort of a massive appetite still while at the same time not exerting themselves at all during the week before. What's the strategies for sort of balancing the need to carbo load without overeating I have not actually so. I think when mistake people make is choosing carbohydrate rich foods but also are high in fat and protein. And so. that's how you would end up over eating but most of the athletes i've worked with. It's a it's a struggle to eat the amount of carbs that is necessary to super saturate your and like eating Like lots of potatoes. Lots of rice. Lots lots of whole grain. Lots of fruit Tend to make people bloated and so it's not very comfortable on top of them. Likely being nervous for their event. What i've found is a lot of athletes have a hard time getting all the food down because they're nervous and it's also not very comfortable so figuring out what foods work for you that are rich in carbohydrates and then if you really have a hard time doing liquid calories so smoothies and things like that right and are you encouraging athletes to kind of spread that load across the three meals a day. Yep sure it through the three main meals and then snacks along the ways. So incorporating snack will Make it a little bit. Easier on your gut to digest. All it actually also helps to saturate those glycogen stores so rather than doing a large amount all at one meal It's more effective for your glycogen. Stores to eat. Smaller amounts more often so doing something like three three meals and two or three snacks throughout the day. Gotcha and i've been reading a little bit about sort of sleep and timing your meals to make sure that you're not full. Obviously when you're trying to go to sleep are are you seeing athletes kind of eat a bigger meal in the middle of the day to try to make sure that they're not pushing into when they should be going to sleep with a full belly. Yeah i think the like the in terms of when to eat what it. It is all for athletes. It's all about training or your writing or your exercise. So that's the main difference. Between athletes and non athletes is athletes should be thinking about their food in terms of when they're training and what their workouts are Where a lot of like the typical recommendations for eating are not centered around athletes and not people that exercise regularly. So if you're doing a group ride or something that starts at five o'clock after work Definitely going to need to replace some calories after you get done with your ride in the evening but it is best to eat before the ride knowing that it's just going to be tougher together then afterwards so frontloading carbohydrates and calories to be prepared for your training Is definitely a better approach for the most part and in that preparatory week whereas protein fit into the equation so protein needs in general Similar to carbohydrates but different is your body can only absorb so many amino acids in one sitting and the main reason we eat the protein in why our body needs protein is that it can't produce the amino acids we have to get them through food and so you have to spread them out. Throughout the day. Generally people can only digest between twenty to forty grams of protein per sitting for like three hour window and so for the week leading up tune event. Just making sure you do what you would normally do. I face in that protein now but the protein recommendations like the daily protein needs aren't gonna change whether you're doing a big event or not okay and if there's someone interested in sort of digging into more information on. This is their juno of resources for someone to kind of get a little encouragement to create the you know the right type of meals during that week Askar ju can drop spell that a. k. e. r. and then. His last name is j. e. u. k. e. n. d. r. Up which you can drop He has great resources. That are easy to follow For anybody but he's actually written a lot of the text books nutrition. So when i was in grad school and took Graduate level sports nutrition. He was one of the authors of textbooks and so he has all these great resources on its website and also on instagram great. I'll try to find links to that as well the put in the show notes. Because i do think it's you know for me when i'm looking at an advantage easy to do a sprint of a great diet versus really changing my diet which is something. I've often struggled with over the years. Just eat as well as i should be eating to kind of fuel the performance. I'm looking for so we've talked a little bit about what that week. Prior to an event will look like it's about kinda getting those carbohydrates getting your hydration when we when we come to race day. Often these gravel races might start at seven a. m. Could you sort of walk through what some race day nutrition look like. Yeah all right though. Seven a. m. Let's say ideally you're getting to the venue around five thirty so an hour and a half five five thirty two two hours one and a half hours before And hopefully you have a hotel. That's near the start so it's not too far away. Let's say you're getting up at like or o'clock speaking probably wanna wake for so First thing you want to do is start to eat a meal that threats in carbohydrates and some protein and fat So let's say you have your breakfast already prepared. You're eating at around four thirty. That's gonna give you about two and a half hours to digest that though. And i really and quest follow us on that too what what would be an example of an appropriate meal and be why why would you wanna do is to two hours before the event yeah Two hours before two to three hours. That's going to allow your body enough time to digest the food so it's not washing around in your tummy before you start so you wanna eat early Especially with a lot of these gravel events. Do you think. I'm gonna start at two hundred miles a day going to be chill but it's not. It's like a cross race. It's like all out immediately. So if you have a big meal sloshing around Those first twenty miles or so are which are really critical You're not gonna have the right. You're not going to be prepared in the right way for that. Start so having something that easy A lot of athletes including myself do oatmeal and so on meals awesome. 'cause you can prepare it the night before subduing oatmeal with banana and potentially peanut butter Or egg white or even hard boiled eggs Something that you're familiar with that you eat on a regular basis for breakfast or before ride and that will have enough time to digest in that she hours. I was hoping you're going to see oatmeal. That's one of my go. To's yeah it's also found a gas station so Making sure that your previous meal something that's easily found in grocery stores or At the event and so you're not scrambling if you don't have access to it. Yeah and i think it's an important note when you know. This is one of the listeners. Only big events throughout the year. You want to control what you can control. And as you mentioned you know if oatmeal is your jam you certainly can carry oatmeal regardless of how far you're flying or driving to get somewhere you can certainly carry that meal with you and it's one less thing you have to worry about that morning. Yep totally okay. So we've we've got that oatmeal dish behind us two hours before the event were ready at the start. Line these events you know. They can be for a lot of athletes eight ten hour days. How do you look look look at kind of how to maintain the right fuel in hydration strategy throughout an event that that's that is that long yeah with source endurance coaching company. I work with we offer Service called the race day fuelling plan. And so what i do is i create Like a course map with the speed zones on it and then top tube dicker. That tells athlete exactly what to pick up at the aid station. What to try to shut down at aid stations and then how much to eat between eight each station and Assuming there's yeah there's station that's helpful. I like that. I think that's something that probably is worth highlighting for people. I mean you can put a piece of masking tape on your top two with some notes on it just to remind you of what your strategy is throughout the day. It's not probably as fancy as the sticker that kristen entertained could put together but just the subtle reminders to eat and drink at certain intervals and understanding that in relation to how the courses unfolding in front of you as you don't necessarily want to have a massively full belly while you're hitting the biggest climb of the day. Yeah exactly and even Even just making the sticker is really helpful. Right you're creating a mental map for yourself and your preparing to know what you have to do. So you don't have to make decisions on or at the day. So the athletes that like don't think about these things and they have to do all the math in their head as their writings or they don't and they under fuel are not gonna have as much success. Yeah exactly. I think i remember when When yuri house walled was on talking about what he does for these big big events he even goes so far as to pack each individual pocket with a specific type of nutritional product so that he knew without thinking. You know. i'm going to go to the right hand side for something with caffeine in it. The left hand side for something. Different exactly And a lot of people are carrying hydration like best now which are really cool and they have all these other pockets. So you can be really organized about You can put gelatin one pocket and bars in another pocket and then like extra drink mix packets and another pocket. I was so nervous in my first ironman that i set my timex. Watch to ring every fifteen minutes just to remind me to be eating and drinking all the time though helpful yes. This is a lot of tricks particularly if you're coming out and doing your first massively long event all these tips and tricks can really help you. Be successful as possible on that outing. Yeah i honestly. I have a lot of people. Hire me that Have just had. They just made any unfortunate catastrophic mistakes in these long events and they make him over and over again so like they'll bonk or have like really severe bomb issues and And so just being prepared with your fueling is really. That's what's going to give you success on the day absolutely. I think it's one of the reasons. Many peoples come back to the same events time and time again because they can be very elusive ultra endurance events. Right you can make no mistake. That in hindsight seems absolutely stupid. That you made that mistake and so easily rectifiable you just want to go out there and prove to yourself I can do this. I can get everything right but the other thing with gravel is everything right is often never possible whether it's nutritionally anger bike or the weather or the terrain you. It throws so many variables at you that you have to think on your toes as well so you were talking about sort of laying out a nutritional strategy and obviously in a in an eight to ten hour long event. Most riders will not be carrying all their own nutrition with them. They will be relying on aid stations and most athletes will at least figure out what's going to be offered at that point to make sure that what's gonna be available. That's going to suit them but given that it may not necessarily be your number one choice. How do you have athletes. Think about that. Is there any sort of thing that they need to be worried about when going into kind of a neutral aid station that may be supplied by a. You know a company that you don't necessarily use Yeah so the first thing. If you're planning for big event is to gather all the information you can about what is going to be available on course so and when so where. The stations are what products. The event is is likely sponsored by And also contingencies so what you know maybe available or can you get access to if that's not there so and then there's some events bat offer things like drop bags as well so you can have some of your own stuff available whether that drink mix or bars or joe That you can use it drop bag but even i mean i've definitely unfortunately heard of drop bags just not being there Or they got trampled on and like their gels. They're all exploded in their bag or something. Yeah there's nothing worse than counting on that peanut butter and jelly sandwich and not being there. Yeah so yeah once you have all the information about where. The aid stations are And what you'll have access to then you can start to plan How to meet your nutritional and you're feeling needs you. I think that that concept of a drop bag as we were talking about earlier with events trying to reconsider themselves covid safe experiences for people. I i wonder if we'll see more and more of that dropbox phenomenon where you're packing your own gear. And it's going to be sitting there at mile seventy five for you. That's a really good point. Yeah there might be a resurgence of the drop bag Or there might be more events like dirty canada which require you to have some type of your own support. And so you'll have some kind of support crew there for you providing whatever you want it's gonna it's going to be interesting to see how all that hands out in twenty twenty one because i think you you and i both share the the hope that will get back to more of a regular racing and events season totally. Yeah and gravel re has just come come such a long way. I mean they're getting how it's gotten so popular And the last couple of years. Because they've been there have been gravelled series in the mid west for up to ten years and Before gravel bikes existed people just read their cross bikes or they're hard tails and And those events you know it could be anything from like you may like there may be some boy scouts. On course that may have some brownies you can buy from them. There's a gas station on course but we don't know if it's going to be open and that's like the support that was going to be offered not offered right yes. The gravel athlete is certainly less pampered. Perhaps than other segments of the sport. Yeah that's actually a rather interesting segue so we've been talking about how to fuel up for those days and i think you've given some helpful tips in terms of how to approach your big event and if it's a one day event out of fuel for that i know you've got a lot of experience with multiday events and i think in the this year and the time of covid we've seen a lot of athletes sort of pivot towards these more self supported events just because they can go out there and challenge themselves whether it's you know the coca cappelli trail or the colorado trail or the tour divide. How do you shift gears. When you're looking at say a seven day self supported event and trying to maintain a nutrition strategy across that length of time. Yeah so multiday events It is different but similar in the in in the same way. So you wanna go into it the same as you would a one day event where you are super saturating or clay pigeon and or fluid stores But then as far as like the organization of everything that you have to bring or what you're to re supply that's where it gets A little bit different. And then obviously if it's self supported that's different than if you have perfect age stations with people handing you cups of things and know exactly what's gonna be available Yeah and then if at the mall today that too if it's if it's something like an f. k. T. attempt where you're not carrying any more than you absolutely need to write What would be considered stove lists where. You're just eating packaged food. Anything that's shelf stable Or if you're doing like a tour or bike packing ride where you are bringing cooking thing cooking supplies That those are two very different ways of approaching it so With a stove list option. It's really like my best advice is just to eat. Whatever found the best to you because at those you're never going to be able to eat. It will be physically impossible for you to eat the number of calories that you're burning for these long days and so really as many calories as you can get down. is the best strategy. So whatever whatever that looks like for you whatever. The gas station might provide. Yeah i did. I all i say that but then i heard this story recently. There's this guy that he did. He attempted the coca pelly trail. And i think it took him like twenty two hours which is a long time to be out there on a bike for a day and his plan was to eat a i think it was mcdonald's Cheese like bacon cheeseburger every two hours and that was his fuelling plan. because he was gonna eat. Req- hours Which i would not recommend it's funny. You mentioned that. Because my my good friend valley james gracie who's done a bunch of iron man. He one of his go to items in his drop bag was he would put to mcdonald's hamburgers to me. I wouldn't wanna eat them anyway. And then the the to imagine they're going to be sitting in your drop bag for the six hours prior to you getting there just made it quite a risky strategy. Yeah not ideal Yeah so generally you want to do the same feeling where you prioritize carbohydrate rich foods and then you have some fat and protein Granted like is much more dense calories for the faith. So like if you're doing bike packing or something where like packing is really like the biggest challenges. Space gray like backpacking with a giant pack. You have faith to put us But bike packing where you have these little bags. They're fitting everywhere like basis the issue and so something like not butter that But you can just see. A lot of calories in a tiny little base is helpful. Yeah absolutely we just got done with an episode with the guys from op adora bags and we were talking about weight and weight distribution becomes incredibly challenging. When you've got to edit it down to fit in these bike packing bags for for these long trips and to your point you gotta you gotta pick whatever is can get you as many calories as possible in a small amount of space and as least amount of weight as possible exactly. Yeah for the coca pelly trail. Fcat attempt. i did a couple of weeks ago. I made these like no bake power bars. Which i think. I cra- i somehow got like three hundred and fifty calories an like a by two inch square which i was very offended. I carried like twelve hundred calories of these bars in. It took like one pocket. Yeah i think the the guys who are doing I forget the gentleman's last name. Colin something who is doing the trip across antarctica or wherever it was. He made the colin bar which was sounds like. It was a similar attempt to just pack as much calories into a small amount of space in weight as possible and he just would eat them day after day after day in this expedition but going back to your point earlier it's equally important to make sure whatever your nutrition strategy is something that's sustainable. So you know packing twelve of those bars in a row if you really can't stomach and digestion be enthusiastic about eating them. Maybe a faulty strategy totally yum. Yeah and then I would also say that it is important to make sure that you have electrolytes. And 'cause that's a it's a safety issue right if you're out in a hot environment and you don't have adequate electrolytes. Even if you have water supply You can run into issues like hypo nutri mea. Which i mean. I'm sure you you might be familiar. Earliest heard of it from iron man. and so making sure you have drink mix and you have extra drink makes pow drink mix powder or you use capsules are something to make. Sure you have those electrolytes available. Yeah just when you think you've got one thing right you've sort of overcorrected and and got yourself into a situation. That's even tougher than being dehydrated. Exactly yeah so a listener. Pinged me because we had brought it up in passing with In one of my in the dirt episodes we had talked about intermittent fasting. And i was just curious to get a little bit of information. From you from your perspective as a nutritionist. On it. And maybe through the lens of a professional cyclist. I get this question a lot. Actually in my practice As a sports dietitian and it's definitely It it's interesting because it's become kind of a hot topic right now in health In health and fitness but also that can be really helpful because what it does is it allows for more money to be pumped into the research for that area and a further. Intermittent fasting goes The current evidence we have it shows that it is helpful for people with diabetes or are pre diabetic To control their blood. Sugar level adults have been helpful to weight loss for People with obesity and and our morbid obesity And then also some people with cardiovascular risk factors so if you have high cholesterol ldl there's research to show that it can help. Lower those numbers and they're all very clinical applications. And that's really all the research we have available right now. as a professional cyclist The the the perspective. I have with it and from what. I gathered information just talking to people that have tried it like in my in. My fear of colleagues of professional athletes is The people that you the and it helps them. It's more like aretha if they're in an off season period where they're just not training as much right so like if you're like taking a break From training and you're exercising you know less than seven hours a week then it can be helpful but the athletes That are attempting intermittent fasting like in a training block the something like seven hours of intense exercise or more It what it does that lowers your time window to get all the nutrients you need in for a day. So you're at risk for just being under fueled For training and also for the for your daily nutritional need gotcha that makes sense. I mean in many ways. When i've tried to control it. I can't control it on the days where i have a big ride right. 'cause i need i just need to fuel up in the way i would normally fuel up. I can get away with a a breakfast ride without eating breakfast meeting. I can go out for one or two hours fairly easily without needing anything personally. But if i am heading out for three or four hour ride i definitely want to make sure that i have a meal and get something in me prior to going out there. Yeah totally and i think Bastard ride is different than intermittent fasting rate like the definition of fast training in how it executed different than intermittent fasting But there's really interesting like interesting research and then professional opinions from people like eighth sims about About intermittent fasting and fasted training. I mean she's a huge proponent of not doing it you live to talk about it. She has very strong opinions And the the research that she cites is not so much Randomized controlled trials where there's like athletes trying this and they're doing data. It's more like Scientific theory behind what probably happening physiologically when athletes do fasted training and and what that means is just that there's some research shows that specifically females. When you perform fasted training it increases cortisol levels which is a stress hormone in that causes the cascade of all kinds of hormonal issues and metabolic issues So she recommends not doing the training or female But i have seen some studies on male. Because i did some research i just or i did alert or search on this and For males it does. There are some benefits as far as fat adaptation and being able to utilize that in training for fasted ride but again. That's what the caveat you have to make sure you're still meeting. You're feeling needs throughout the day. Cause if you all of a sudden are like skipping a meal and you're not replacing the calories lost afterwards and then you run into energy deficiency which caused all kinds of issues. They still have to eat the calories just at a different time of day. I think this is often why. When i'm reading different ideas and different concepts about diets. I always end up not faulting back to my sort of standard. Just describe it as quasi good diet. Because i feel like it's doing what it needs to do. It certainly not perfect. But i know that i'm able to go out and do big rides when i wanna do big rides totally yep. I don't quite know if that's the best strategy but it's it's sort of works for me. Yeah i found A lot of athletes. These days are more inclined to be restrictive than to be inclusive with the type of foods. They're eating And so meeting. Your energy deed is like the number one priority and then we can focus on where the energy is coming from but yeah making good food choices and making all those decisions with all part of it i just think about it as of never ending vision. I have for myself heading in the right direction. Never quite get there but heading in the right direction totally chris. I appreciate all the information if someone wants to find out more about your work. Where's the best place to find you. arnold r d and dot com is my website multiple on instagram that christian k arnold and And i think those are the best way awesome. We'll put those in the show notes and make sure everybody knows how to reach out and get in touch. You thank you so much for the time. Thank you for having me big. Thanks to kristen for all the time and insight she gave. I hope you walk away with a little bit better understanding of how to get fueled up for your next big ride and another thank you to bike index for sponsoring this episode. Remember bicycle registration is free and their stolen bike. Recovery platform is worth its weight in gold. Should you ever have your bicycle stolen. So that's it for this week. Remember if you're interested in checking out our new online forum called the ridership to send me an email or hit me up on social media. We're really starting to see exactly what we were looking for and hoping for in the ridership with the interactions were seeing writers come together regionally also at a super high level looking at the sport across the board. We're seeing members ask great questions. Share great routes share great pitchers. It's really exciting to see. So that's it for this week until next time. Here's the findings of under your wheels.