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10 Tips for Race-Day Nutrition

10 Tips for Race-Day Nutrition
Post-snack smiles, no doubt.

Knowing what to eat before, during, and after a cycle race plays a huge role in your performance and recovery, no matter your skill level.

Your individual nutritional needs will vary across riding disciplines and training intensity. Fuelling your body with the correct nutrients is an important part of your training routine.

Not eating enough energy-dense foods and fluids can leave you feeling dehydrated, fatigued, and unable to ride at your maximum strength.

All of this puts stress on your body in the process. Endurance riders are especially at risk of losing momentum throughout an event if they don’t maintain their energy intake. 

Setting yourself up with a nutritional game plan will help keep your body operating at peak performance, maintain your energy levels, and improve your post-race recovery. 

More important than what you put into your body before and during an event, are the timing and consistency thereof.

Nutrition should come into play from your very first day of training and not as a last-minute thought a week before the big race.


  1. Carbs are king! Load up on carbohydrates for at least three days before an event by eating nutrient-dense meals. Include some form of the following: pasta, rice, quinoa, wholegrain bread, fruit, and vegetables. 
  2. Write down your race-day nutritional plan and incorporate it into your training rides. It should become muscle memory by the time the event rolls around. Forgetting to eat and drink while you’re riding is more common than you’d think. 
  3. Hydrate! If you wait until you’re even slightly thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Restore lost fluids by taking small sips throughout your ride. Experiment with a hydration pack or bottle and see which one makes it easier for you to keep you drinking enough throughout. Use hydration salts in your water, there are plenty of great options to choose from.
  4. Avoid a heavy meal before the race and opt for something light and easy like eggs on toast, porridge, wholegrain cereal, oats, plain white rice, or muesli. For longer rides, incorporate more healthy fats like avocado or nuts. Stick to snacks like energy bars, gels, nuts, and dried fruit during the ride.
  5. Your race-day breakfast time will depend on how early you start but aim to have breakfast about three hours before a race, with a snack at least an hour before starting. 
  6. Decrease your intake of fibre-dense foods for a few days before the race to prevent potential gut problems. 
  7. Eat small amounts of protein and carbohydrate snacks every hour during your race, such as energy bars, gels, bananas, dates, and fruit. Aim for small bites/sips often to carry you through, instead of larger amounts less frequently or when you remember. Try these recipes for homemade energy-packed snacks.
  8. Replace the calories you’ve burned and eat even if you aren’t hungry. Intense bouts of exercise can leave you without an appetite but don’t skip meals, especially if you’re taking part in a multi-day event.
  9. Remember your post-race recovery! Replenish, restore, and rehydrate with a recovery drink to repair your tired muscles. 
  10. Spoil yourself with your favourite meal post-race – you’ve earned it!
Someone’s got the right idea.

In our next post, we’ll take a deeper dive into what to focus on to fuel your body for an event, with tips from a dietician and a cyclist’s race-day routine.

If you’re looking for an event to put these ideas to the test, register for the Sabie Xperience. It’s one of the best and most affordable 3-day stage races in Mpumalanga. Bring the whole family to Sabie and enjoy a weekend filled with fitness, fun, and fantastic views!

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