Eat to Win
by Kirk Layfield, PhD EMT-P
Training for motocross or supercross is probably one of the most grueling tasks anyone can do if they are truly training the way training is meant to be. I filter through a ton of questions every week and one of the most often asked is what should I eat? The answer is not always as easy as most think it should be. The human body is the most complicated machine to figure out in terms of optimal performance and it simply requires some knowledge, a few trial and error sessions, a lot of patience and the desire to do whatever it takes to win. For the purposes of basic education in Virtual Trainer, I thought I would give a general outline of what could work for you. Remember to check with you doctor for any special considerations you may have.
This plan is what I like to refer to as the meal of champions and it could potentially help you leave the competition in the dust if you have the discipline to follow it. Fueling up for your training sessions and race day means more than just picking the right octane. What you eat before, during and after any and all sweat inducing stint can be the difference between crushing the competition and costing on fumes.
There are several phases that you need to be aware of when it comes to meal plans, such as the training phase, 2-3 days before, race day, mid-event and finish line phases. Let’s take a look at what each involves.
Training Phase: The training phase is just as it indicates; during the week as you go to the gym and to the practice track to ride. The average daily consumption of a fairly serious MX rider will consist of 400-600 grams of carbohydrates such as whole grains, vegetables, potatoes and fruit. Carbohydrates store Glycogen which in turn feed your muscles and produce energy. The average protein consumption to balance things out would be around 80-100 grams. Protein sources like chicken, fish, low fat dairy products along with high quality protein bars will do the trick. Protein helps rebuild and repair muscle tissue which is a constant battle in a physically demanding sport like motocross. Please keep in mind again that this program will not work for everyone, it’s a general guideline and you may need to tweak it a bit to fit your body’s chemistry.
2-3 Days Before Phase: The next phase starts out somewhere between 2-3 days before the race. At this stage you should intake a moderate rate of carbs such as two rolls at lunch in addition to your meal and an extra serving of rice at dinner. Try to avoid those monstrous plates of pasta. The idea is to ramp up your carb stores, but do it sensibly. Overstuffing yourself will just make you feel sluggish and tired.
Day Before Phase: The day before the race, a healthy carbohydrate/protein combination is what you’re looking for. This can be accomplished with foods such as spaghetti and meatballs or chicken and vegetable stir fry with rice. Healthy carbs, such as vegetables, will help keep you from feeling slow and sluggish the day before the race. The carb/protein balance is very important in this phase.
Race Day Phase: Your breakfast menu should include items such as whole wheat pancakes, oatmeal, fruit, whole grain toast and possibly some eggs or egg whites. How much you eat depends on how early you wake up. If its 3-4 hours before your race, eat about a 1,000 calories of any of the combinations listed above. If your cutting it closer, stick to something smaller like an individual packet of oatmeal, a piece of toast and banana or a bagel with jam. Always make sure to down plenty of water, at least 16 ounces with breakfast. Packing in these types of carbohydrates will give you a slow burn throughout the race day; consider it a time released capsule of glycogen.
Pit Stop Phase: This phase will be mid-event or during the race day. It’s always difficult to judge what and when to eat with most amateur races except for Loretta’s or a Pro Supercross because of the schedule. For the most part you’ll want to consume about 30-60 grams of quickly digested carbohydrates like sports drinks, gels, or energy bars every hour. Again, depending on the schedule you will need some protein but you don’t want to have a lot of heavy food on your stomach and you will need to drink generous amounts of water throughout the day. During the day your muscles use the glycogen stores in your body while your brain runs on glucose. Your glycogen stores can be depleted quickly, even at a moderately paced day within about 2-3 hours. If you don’t replenish them you may feel sluggish and light headed and most likely be at the back of the pack instead of the front.
Final Phase: I like to call this phase the finish line for obvious reasons. The race is over, you’re done for the day, and you need some fuel ASAP at least within a half hour. I suggest a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or turkey on a bagel with a sports drink and protein bar. About 2 hours later you should be ready for a bona fide feast – again rich in carbohydrates and protein such as a few slices of pizza with a salad and lots of water. The first 30 minutes after crossing the finish line is the optimal time to replenish your glycogen stores. If done properly, you can cut your recovery time in half; in general it takes about 24 hours, but if you follow these guidelines you can reduce that to about 12. The research also indicates a recovery meal of four parts carbohydrates to one part protein will also jump start the muscle rebuilding process so you’ll be less sore the next day and be stronger the next time around.
So there you have it, a basic nutritional outline for MX. Of course this is only intended to guide you in the most basic manner. A more detailed plan would require at least a personal consultation or more in depth reading on diet and nutrition on your part. If you would like to find out more details about how important nutrition can be to your riding performance, please drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and please include Racer X in the subject line.
About the Author - Innovation Training Systems (ITS) is a fitness, nutrition & wellness consulting and healthcare education business. ITS is dedicated to serving the needs of amateur, professional and occupational athletes, as well as those who aspire to be the best they can be in everyday life – no matter what they do. They also offer convenient education programs for the healthcare, wellness and fitness industry. ITS is owned and operated by Exercise Physiologist/Firefighter/Paramedic/Former Professional Motocross rider, Kirk Layfield, who originally hails from Gainesville, Florida and now resides in Clermont, Florida.
That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness.