Eating During Century Bike Races | Barton Haynes

Barton Haynes here in sunny San Diego. In this article I’ll talk about my experience eating during races, what has worked and what hasn’t, and something new I’m going to try in 2019. I’m not a nutritionist expert, but I do highly advocate for trying different things out to see what diet helps you the most during your cycling. Here’s my story. 

Traditional Approach: Carb Loading

In the past I’ve always carb loaded before races. This is sort of the de facto standard for century races (and perhaps all types of endurance races).

Night before: bagels, pasta, bread, etc. 

Morning of race: granola, toast, and a bagel

During race: cliff bars, bananas, other bars, etc.

Carbohydrates have been the gold standard for endurance races because they break down into valuable sugar that expect through energy and sweat.

In the past, I’ve mostly only messed around with variations of the above diet: how much of this carb or that carb, what time to eat, how much to eat total, when to start carb loading, pacing my eating during races. You get the idea.

Problems I Have with Carb Loading

The problem I have been having with carb loading are:

  • I don’t normally eat many carbs, and they have posed some pretty uncomfortable GI problems during races – not the time anyone want to have those kinds of problems
  • Maintaining the right eating pacing during a race is hard 
  • I not-unfrequently struggle with energy dips (thanks, insulin!) and cramping during races

In short, cab loading increasingly isn’t working for me. I don’t feel like I should have to maintain top focus on my diet during a race. I want to something that works for me more consistently

Doing the Keto Thing

Barton Haynes Keto Cycling

The Keto diet is pretty popular right now. By no means am I on the Keto bandwagon, though as it turns out I stick mostly to meats and vegetables anyway. 

Recently, several high profile endurance athletes have been using the Keto diet with great success. Instead of carb loading, load up on fats before the race. I have the suspicion that it may solve many of my carb loading problems:

  • More consistent energy
  • Not a deviation from my regular diet may prevent GI problems
  • Eat less during race prevent cramping

In the past I have made my banana-date-oatmeal-honey mash and stuck it in a plastic bag to be slowly consumed during the race. Of all concoctions I have tried during the race, this one has been the most successful- perhaps because of the high fat content. 

This year, I may try the same idea but some different foods:

  • Avacado-banana-nut-coconut mash to eat while riding
  • A little bit of honey in my water to keep a small but steady amount of sugars to replenish what is lost
  • Bacon and eggs the morning of the race
  • Large steak night before race

That’s the plan. I feel good about it. I’ll report after the first century race on what my overall experience was using this approach.