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Sample meal plans for the cyclocross season

Your diet may require adjustments for cyclocross, especially during race season

Editors Note: This article originally appeared on VeloNews in 2008.

Cyclocross season has begun and your race calendar is set. Your diet may require a few adjustments for the shorter, but often very high intensity rides. Fueling and hydration strategies may also need adjustment for cooler weather training, and a well-practiced nutrition plan for race day is the strong finishing touch to your race preparation. For review on nutritional adjustments for cyclocross, refer to the previous Cycling Nutrition posting.

To help you implement some of the guidelines provided, we have developed a few menus for training, on-bike fueling, carbo-loading, and race day nutrition. These menus are outlined for 140-pound female and 165-pound male cyclocross racers.

165-lb. male cyclocross racer

Meal Plan for 90 minutes of high-intensity training
Late afternoon training

Daily: 3,300 calories: 520 g carbohydrate, 130 g protein, 77 g fat

Oatmeal, cooked, 1 cup
Wheat germ, 3 Tbsp.
Orange juice, 8 ounces
Raisins, 2 Tbsp.
Banana, 1 small
Yogurt, plain, 8 ounces

Apple, 1 medium
Almonds, 24

Turkey, 4 ounces
Low fat cheese, 1 ounce
Whole grain bread, 2 slices
Pasta salad, 1 cup
Vegetable salad, 1 cup

Pre-ride snack
Yogurt, 8 ounces
Granola, ½ cup (one-half)
Peach, 1 medium

Immediately before ride
Gel, 1 packet

During ride
Sports drink: 32 ounces per hour
3 Carbohydrate blocks at 45 minutes

Recovery snack
Energy bar, 1medium sized
Sports drink, 20 ounces

Salmon, 6 ounces
Wild rice, 1.5 cups
Steamed asparagus, 1 cup
Olive oil, 1 tbsp.
Berries, 1 cup

A 140-lb cyclocross racer could reduce this menu to 2,700 calories by:

• Reducing the breakfast juice from 8 oz to 4 oz
• Eliminating the pasta salad at lunch
• Reducing the granola at the afternoon snack from one-half to one-fourth of a cup
• Reducing the salmon dinner portion from 6 oz to 4 oz
• Reducing the wild rice portion from 1.5 cups to two-thirds of a cup
• Consuming 24 oz of a sports drink per hour.

This menu is intended as a general outline. Calorie, carbohydrate, protein, and fat requirements are individual to each cyclocross racer based on their current body weight and that day’s training.

Meal Plan for carbo-loading the day before race day

Light day training or rest day
3,000 calories: 500 g carbohydrate,

Cereal, 1.5 cups
Milk, 8 ounces
Banana, 1 large
Juice, 12 ounces

Yogurt, 8 ounces
Raisins, 2 Tbsp.
Mueslix, ½ cup

Wrap, 1 large
Chicken, 3 ounces
Rice, cooked, 2/3 cup (two-thirds)
Salsa, ½ cup
Avocado, 4 slices

Energy bar, 1 medium
Peach, 1 medium

Rice, cooked, 2 cups
Shrimp, 6 ounces
Cooked vegetables, 1 cup
Olive oil, 3 tsp.

Sorbet, 1 cup
Berries, 1 cup

For racers aiming for 600 g of carbohydrate, add in a high carbohydrate sports supplement and another energy bar as needed. Racers aiming for 450 g of carbohydrate can eliminate the afternoon snack.

Pre-race meal
Three hours before your start

Cereal, 1.5 ounces
Milk, dairy or soy, 8 ounces
Juice, 8 ounces
Toast, 2 slices
Jam, 2 Tbsp.

This meal provides 170 g of carbohydrate, ample to boost liver glycogen stores and maintain blood glucose levels during your warm-up. It is also advised to hydrate with a sports drink in the hours before the race. You can also consume a sports drink during your warm-up. Because of the high intensity of cyclocross racing make sure that you stop drinking in the 45 to 60 minutes before the start, or at whatever time is appropriate for your to empty your stomach and bladder. A lot of racers like to pop a carbohydrate source like a gel or blocks fifteen minutes before the start to boost blood glucose levels. Since the races are short and intense, it is not likely that there will be adequate time to drink a sports drink. You can keep a block or gel on hand to boost blood glucose levels as needed during the race. Practice this carbohydrate replacement during training.

Fluid and carbohydrate replacement during training

Fluid requirements can change during cooler weather training, though insulating clothing and tough rides can still result in significant sweat losses. While you might feel the bonk more swiftly when training in colder weather due to higher energy needs and efforts to stay warm, hydration can still slow your pace.

This is a good time in the season to refine your hydration strategies. Before and after training check your weight in the buff. Keep track of how much fluid you consume during training. Assuming that you don’t stop for a bladder break during the ride, add up your fluid losses and intake. Each pound of weight lost during training equals 16 ounces of fluid lost from sweating and not replaced during training. For accuracy, it is best that

For example, you may go out for a one hour ride and consume 24 ounces of fluid. After training for one hour, you determine that you have lost one-half a pound. This half-pound weight loss equals 8 ounces of fluid. When added to the 24 ounces of fluid consumed during training, this equate to 32 ounces of sweat loss per hour.

Monique Ryan, MS, RD, LDN is the owner of Personal Nutrition Designs, a Chicago-based nutrition consulting company that provides nutrition programs for endurance athletes across North America. She has also consulted with the Volvo-Cannondale Mountain Bike Team, the Gary Fisher Mountain Bike Team, and the Rollerblade Racing Team. Monique has consulted with USA Cycling, and was a member of the Performance Enhancement Team for the Women’s Road Team leading to the 2004 Athens Olympics.