MTB rider - fueling for stage races
Cyclist – fueling for stage races.

Fueling for Multi-Stage Races


Do you have a stage race coming up and are concerned about how to fuel? Keto-adapted athletes are doing some pretty amazing things. The science behind the benefits of keto-adaptation is growing.  Athletes like Romain Bardet and ultra runner Zach Bitter have inspired us. These athletes are winning races and breaking records. This has motivated age-group athletes to jump on board to this superior way of fueling.
Are you a coach or a self-experimenters? Are you trying out keto-adaptation and not getting the results that you desire?  The many nuances of keto-adaptation. This takes a new way of thinking compared to a glucose-dependent athlete.
Athletes who decide to change their race fuel sometimes go to extremes. They try to jump in from burning sugar to all the time to no fuel at all. I applaud their efforts, but this is not likely to produce good results.
Athletes would like hard and fast rules to follow as a keto-adapted athlete.  There are some guidelines, but keto-adaptation is more about listening to your body.  Fat burning is the base of the program, everything else is trial and error finding what works best for you.
Please do not try anything new for race day. I don’t care if you are mimicking Romain Bardet’s exact diet. We are all individuals. You will need to find what works for you, not for someone else.

Carbs are a LEGAL performance-enhancing drug for keto-adapted athletes!

The popularity of the keto-adaptation has made many athletes afraid of carbohydrates.  Carbohydrates are not bad. If you time them right they are a performance enhancement drug. Using carbohydrates call the time cause damage to the body.
Many factors are in play when adding carbohydrates.  The first factor is how insulin sensitivity or insulin resistance is the athlete is.  If you need to eat every couple of hours, you are likely insulin resistant. If you can go all day without eating, you are likely insulin sensitive.

Before the event:

If you are insulin sensitive, you can add carbohydrates to your diet before the event. Add the carbohydrates in with protein and fat the last meal before the event or hard training day.
If you are insulin resistant, do not add in carbohydrates before an event.
Meals before the event should be small and light.

During the event:

Allow for at least a 30-minute warm-up.
After the warm-up, you may choose to start adding in carbohydrates. This amount varies 20 -150 calories every one to two hours.
Please use caution when adding the carbohydrates to the diet during training. A small amount of carbohydrates increases performance. Too many carbohydrates make the keto-adapted athlete feel sluggish.
Some keto-adapted athletes do best when the carbohydrates consumed with some protein. Sports drinks like Accelerade and Hammer PERPETUEM® are good options.

Post-event each day:

Do not eat for at least 30 minutes after they stop.  After the 30 minute mark, if you are not hungry, do not eat.

Nutrition for Performance

Protein is the most important macro nutrient for keto-adapted athletes.

Nutrition for multi-day events should include at least one gram of protein per lean mass. This will help you bounce back quickly. Many keto-adapted athletes are afraid of too much protein because of gluconeogenesis.  This is not a problem for athletes.
If you don’t feel you bounce back well, trying adding more protein.  If you feel bloated and have a hard time stuffing down more protein, it is too much.  Instead of measuring, I recommend to my clients to eat until satiated.  If you are still hungry, add more protein.
Protein is best assimilated in a high fat/low carb environment. Athletes should avoid snacking. The gallbladder is full so you get a good bile response to emulsify the fat/lipoproteins. This allows the body to absorb the protein better.

Fats are best friends for keto-adapted athletes.

Fats are an important macronutrient in hormone production. They also make a handy fuel source.  When an athlete is well keto-adapted, the body uses fat as the primary fuel source. We only have a couple of hundred calories of carbohydrates in our body at one time. Even very lean athletes have thousands of calories of fat.
Saturated fats work best for keto-adaptation athletes.  Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats from natural sources are good too. Avoid polyunsaturated fats, they become oxidized. Examples of good fats are coconut oil, avocado oil, lard, tallow, duck fat, butter, or olive oil.  \
Test the types and amounts of fats before your event.  If you loose stools, check the number of fats added to the diet.  Too much fat can lead to weight gain or digestive issues.
If the weather is warm, do not add fats during events or in training. In cold weather, it is ok to use fats during events or training.

Fiber is not for keto-adapted athletes.

I don’t recommend a high fiber diet for keto-adapted athletes during multi-day events.  If bowel movements are a problem, add more sodium and/or magnesium. If you consume a lot of dairy or grains consume a lot less and generally, movements will normalize.

Minerals magic keto-adapted athletes.

Minerals are especially important for keto-adapted athletes. Symptoms of low sodium are fatigue, headaches, fainting, and loss of lean mass.
When in doubt, add salt.  There are many electrolyte replacement supplements out there.  I have found NUUN and Sports Legs very helpful.

Hydration for Stage Races

Drink water to thirst. Too much water leads to hyponatremia. If you are not taking vitamins, the color of the urine is a good indicator of your hydration. Clear urine means overhydration. Pale yellow urine is the color to aim for. Dark yellow, orange, or brown urine means dehydration.

Supplements for Performance

Supplements are not necessary to be keto-adapted.  I don’t agree with anyone who says they are.  Do they make you faster and give you a performance edge if you take them? Yes, they do.
Amino Acids can be helpful in the body’s ability to convert fat to fuel.  I use Vespa Power, and amino acid peptide, for training and races.  A keto-adapted athlete would consume one Vespa packet 30 minutes to 1 hour before the event.  Then consume Vespa every 1-3 hours during the event depending on intensity.
Some keto-adapted athletes use Master Amino Pattern (MAP) or Pure Encapsulation Amino Acids.  
There are varying protocols for this.  Some athletes grind up the amino acids and put them in their water bottles.  I have tried this and find I don’t drink enough fluids when I add the amino acids.  I am pretty finicky when it comes to tastes and textures during events.  Like many supplement protocols, there is a certain amount of hyperbole. Vegan and vegetarian diets benefit more from the use of amino acids. Do not overuse the amino acids. It is hard on the kidneys.
Exogenous Ketone Salts have hit the market by storm.  Ketones will provide an extra fuel source to a fat-adapted athlete.  They are also a great salt delivery system to the body.  Some ketones salts are pretty tasty and will help you consume more fluids.  Some ketone salts have a horrible taste. Since taste and texture are big factors in your ability to use the ketone salts, test a variety of the salts.
Supplements are helpful. They are not so helpful that you can use them without dietary changes. Teaching the body to use fat as fuel is essential to achieve the best results.

Having the right mindset will help performance.

Being keto-adapted isn’t dependent on the foods consumed. Stress management plays a big role in the body’s ability to burn fat for fuel. If you are finding it difficult to see performance gains, look into lifestyle factors.
Being keto-adapted is the best way to ensure good performance in a long event or multi-day events.  Nutrition and nutrition timing is important.  Always test your nutrition strategy in training.
There are many factors that lead to optimal performance for keto-adapted athletes.  
Women with Gravel Bikes
Gravel Riding Ladies training for a stage race.

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