Food & DrinkThe Athens Diet

Here’s How Local Cyclists Fuel Up for Twilight and Beyond

Editor’s Note: As the coach who develops the nutrition programming for 706Pchicks, a local cycling team that will see many of its riders compete in Saturday’s events, sports nutritionist Namrita Kumar knows a thing or two about eating well. In advance of Twilight, she spoke with one of the group’s elite cyclists to ask how she fuels up on race day, and also offers advice for anyone prepping for a longer ride.

Fueling right for a nighttime criterium such as Twilight poses a few challenges if you’re used to mostly racing during the day. Also, if you’re used to doing longer events (two to three hours or more), fueling for a 60-minute race that’s hard from the start can also be a challenge. 

Judah Sencenbaugh, who will race this weekend and is also a vegetarian, explains how she typically eats the day of an important race. You’ll notice that the foods are pretty heavy on the carbohydrates, which is important before a race.

For breakfast, it’s “buckwheat pancakes with almond butter and honey,” she says, “plus a yogurt and coffee.” A mid-morning snack is “two pieces of multigrain toast with avocado, salt and pepper, plus a piece of fruit or a cup of fresh pineapple.”

The foods are also simple and familiar to Sencenbaugh—she eats them on a regular basis and wouldn’t include anything new on or near race day. She hydrates all day long—“with kombucha [and] water with electrolytes”—and has small, frequent meals. Lunch is a “spinach wrap with tempeh, tomatoes, avocado, a few leafy greens and sprouts,” while a mid-afternoon snack is “rolled oats with honey, raisins, a few almonds and almond milk.”

The closer she gets to race time, the more simple the foods are, lower in fat and fiber, so she can be fueled but feel light and snappy. 

“An hour before the race,” she says, she consumes “coffee with almond milk and a banana, plus a bottle of water with electrolytes. After that, I’ll keep sipping on my Sword sports drink and take a caffeinated gel pretty close to the race start time.”

For an athlete who is competing in a longer endurance event, like Maria Carrelli, co-director and racer for the 706Pchicks cycling team, who may race for up to two hours—such as the cross-country mountain bike race that is the morning following Twilight—her dietary intake the previous day would be pretty similar, with high-carbohydrate foods and frequent meals. I’d also suggest two small dinners that are carb- and fluid-heavy, but not too fiber-rich.

Breakfast should be pretty simple for a morning race. A good pre-race breakfast might be a waffle topped with maple syrup, berries and a spoonful of flax and hemp seeds. Or, a bowl of cooked rice eaten as cereal with milk (rice, almond, cashew, etc.) and add-ins such as dried fruit, banana, blueberries, dried coconut, date paste, maca powder, cinnamon or vanilla. Plus, your caffeinated drink of choice, along with adequate water with electrolytes.