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MTB Race: Nutrition Do’s & Don’ts

MTB Race: Nutrition Do’s & Don’ts
Quintus Vermeulen during the Prospector MTB Stage Race © Quintus Vermeulen 2022

Confused about what to eat before a race? We previously shared 10 Tips for Race-Day Nutrition with a look at what to focus on when it comes to nutrition.

We wanted to get a cyclist’s perspective on what and when to eat so we asked Alison Hutton, a dietician currently living in New Zealand, about the best approach to sports nutrition, specifically relating to mountain biking.

Her insight comes from her knowledge of dietetics and nutrition, but also, more importantly, from her first-hand experience as the fairer half of a couple that loves exercise, being outdoors, and mountain biking.

Her partner Quintus Vermeulen is an avid mountain biker and has been climbing the ladder (er, mountain?) in the sport.

She gave us a look at his schedule as well as some tips to help you prepare for your next race.

A Typical Pre-Race Eating Schedule:

  • Evening meals leading up to the race are carbohydrate-heavy dinners, preferably some sort of pasta dish.
  • Dinner before a race is always pasta, garlic bread, and steak.
  • Breakfast of oats with peanut butter and honey, and a cup of coffee, two hours pre-race.
  • 30-60 minutes before the race he’ll snack on a banana or jelly sweets.
  • During the race, he’ll have an energy gel every 30-40 minutes and an energy bar when he starts feeling hungry.

How to Prepare for Your Next Race:

The perfect race-day breakfast © Alison Hutton 2019

Race-day nutrition in a nutshell:

  • It’s easy to forget about hydration so keep sipping throughout!
  • Don’t try new products on race day! Trial your products during training sessions to see what works for your body.


  • Maximise your carbohydrate stores by carbo-loading before the event.
  • 36-48 hours pre-race aim for carbohydrates of 10-12g/kg body weight per day.


  • Go for fast-release carbohydrates. According to the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, studies consistently show that maintaining a “high carbohydrate availability” improves your performance of a prolonged high-intensity exercise.
  • For endurance events of more than 2.5-3 hours aim for carbs of up to 90g/hour.
  • Eating on a bike isn’t always possible. Look for foods that are easy to consume such as isotonic drinks, energy gels/bars, dates, bananas, or jelly sweets.
  • Electrolyte drinks and water – drink to thirst (drink when you’re thirsty and stop when you’re not).
  • Avoid foods that are high in fibre to prevent potential gastrointestinal issues.


  • Adequate recovery requires a combination of carbohydrates and protein.
  • Refuel with carbohydrates, repair with protein, and rehydrate with fluids and electrolytes.
The Sabie Xperience

The Sabie Xperience is one of the first 3-day stage races in Mpumalanga, and certainly one of the finest when it comes to terrain and scenic views. We take the nutrition and hydration of our entrants very seriously and our refreshment stations are the stuff of legend.

Most of the stations are outsourced by local businesses and charity organisations. Expect to be fussed over and spoiled for choice at various points throughout the race.

Register for the race today. Enjoy extended payment options at zero interest!

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