Record-breaking cycling star Mark Beaumont is attempting to slash his own record for circumnavigating the globe (set in 2008) from 194 days to just 80 days. The challenge is underway and here, he shares some top nutrition tips.
What fuelling advice would you give to someone looking to undertake a cycling adventure?
Nutrition is complicated. You can’t do multiple day or big adventure rides fuelled on gels, bars and processed foods. Obviously, sports nutrition has its place but I’m very much going to keep it to the natural school on nutrition.
You need to move from this idea of having big square meals to fuelling fairly regularly. You can’t take more than 300 an hour. One of the first things to slow down is your digestive system. As you tire your blood is going to your muscles rather than to your intestines. And to take that nutrition to the gut wall you’re needing to stay well hydrated, the moment you’re dehydrated in any way, that absorption slows down. People don’t realise how critical it is to stay on top of hydration so you can take in the calories you need.
The other thing is for ultra-endurance you really should be focusing on metabolism. You can fuel a sportive rider or a single effort training ride or club ride on almost anything but you’re going to need the quick grab calories from easy burn sugars and carbs but when it comes to ultra-endurance, you need to be a bit more of a fat burning machine, more of a diesel engine. It takes time for you to adjust your metabolism for you to be able to do that so it takes a matter of months to consistently fuel so you are more adapted.
If you are spending most of the time in band one, band two rather than three or four, if you’re focussing on ultra-endurance you need to have fuels that are slow release that don’t give you the physical and mental peaks and troughs that caffeine’s, sugars and carbs do. My nutritionists favourite phrase is “burn fat like a rat”, it’s all about that diesel engine that will go all day.
How many calories are you expected to burn each day?
I’m expected to burn around 8,000 calories a day which is a lot of food. Not many people are going to need that, if you’re doing a normal ultraride between 100 to 200 miles a day you might need 6,000 calories. But I’m on the bike at 4am, I’m riding four-hour sets, riding sixteen hours a day. After five hours sleep, I’m back on the bike. So, I’m having a consistent fuelling strategy which basically goes from 3:30am until 10pm is my key.
What is it you will be eating and fuelling yourself with?
We’re carrying things like staples that won’t perish. Anything we need to add in, things like electrolytes, using SiS Go Hydro, we obviously carry those with us as I have a support vehicle but most of the calories will come from food we find on route.
So, it’s obviously totally different when you’re in Outer Mongolia than when you’re in Australia. I’ll be having a lot of liquid meals – chucking stuff in a blender is a good way of cheating hydration as well at the same time as getting calories but it’s also easier to get that fuel through the gut wall. Starchy foods in particular start to make you feel quite bloated and as you sit on the tri bars you need to eat food that is easy to digest.
Texture becomes quite important on the bike, if you are having snacks on the bike they need to be easy to eat – nothing dry as with hot weather riding it’s easy to dehydrate. Wraps are actually really good for this, you can build carbohydrates fats up and fill them with protein or whatever you want in there.
Do you have any guilty pleasure foods you’ll be taking with you or picking up on the way?
Yeah chocolate. It’s a good mental target you know it’s a good pick me up. But I am careful about it because you don’t want to be having sugars and caffeine all the time because it can become a mental rollercoaster. Sugar is a nice to have.
Are you looking forward to passing through any countries in particular for its food?
I’m really looking forward to Spain and France, that’s familiar but also there are no issues getting calories across North America. It’s not exactly culinary heaven for me but I remember the last time I cycled around the world I just love Europe, passing boulangeries, getting nice pastas or paella in Spain or whatever I could find on the roadside. It’s amazing how you can find calories in an enjoyable way but I’ve got a support team who can be running around getting that for me this time. I’ll be out of Europe after the first five to six days and into Russia where I think the food will be fairly plain, Russia and Mongolia is not famous for its culinary interests so I think that will be fairly utilitarian food.
Will your nutritional plans change depending on location and conditions?
Not really, I might substitute hot drinks for cold drinks but that’s about it. Food wise in terms of calories that doesn’t change massively. You’re already warmed up on the bike so it’s not like you’re burning massively more calories. It’s not like an arctic explorer who are eating calories to stay alive. The first thing I’ll do in the morning is stand on the scales to make sure I’m not losing weight.
You can follow Mark’s adventure on Twitter.
Wiggle, the world’s leading online cycle retailer, is supplying kit and nutrition to Mark Beaumont’s World Record breaking attempt to cycle round the world in 80 days.