Nutrition is Key – Mallorca Training Camp by Paul Clucas

Having returned from my annual trip to Mallorca in which I spend a week out on the island, at a similar time each year, which is a dream for a cyclist, I thought I would share my reflection on the importance of nutrition. These are my thoughts and opinions based on years of competing in several sports but to be fair only just starting to understand and appreciate this crucial element of training.

The body is a remarkable machine that can out-perform the brain in most cases, when it starts to hurt, it’s the head that quits first, even though the body may be hurting, if the mind is willing the body will usually follow. But to allow the body to perform to its full potential it needs the right fuel at the right time in the right quantities.

Over the 6 days of cycling I averaged 100km a day in the saddle, this always involved elements of climbing to a greater or lesser degree. Now, if I was driving down to London in my car I wouldn’t do it on an empty tank of fuel, the same applies to cycling, you should always ensure you are fuelled for the journey. Each day started with a hearty breakfast knowing that I would be burning quite a few calories. But riding for 6 hours will need more than breakfast. With support from Monster Supplements, each day I would prepare drinks which were high in carbohydrates, a couple of energy bars and gels. For some of the rides these were not required but on others I came back with nothing left in my pockets and the tank in the red.

On one of the longer rides, from one side of the island to the other, a group of 8 of us rode really well along the beautiful coast which involved a lot of climbing, having done 120km I noticed one of the group starting to bonk! This if you are unaware is a cycling term for sudden fatigue and loss of energy caused by the depletion of glycogen stores in the muscles, similar to hitting the wall in running. The feeling of no energy to turn the pedals and feeling as weak as a kitten with at times blurred vision, as well as getting ratty with anyone who speaks to you, (except if they offer food) is what is commonly referred to as Bonking in the cycling world. It’s not nice but can be fixed quickly by high carb/sugary foods or drinks, but you don’t always recognise it in the early stages and it can have a rapid onset.

The 5 stages put simply are:

  1. Denial – Everyone else is suffering right, grit your teeth and push on
  2. Anger – You want to scream at your friends for attacking in your moment of weakness, even though they are not
  3. Bargaining – Your body needs fuel so the brain throws out any social niceties to get it, maybe if you eat a gel and sit in it will be ok
  4. Depression – You find yourself sobbing into your spandex wondering why you had a light breakfast
  5. Acceptance – You obtain food and consume as many snickers and coke as you can get your hands on

With another 20km still to go we stopped as a group and basically turned our pockets out and shared what food we had left and this included emergency rations. This calmed down some of the symptoms recognised above allowing us to return as a group and laugh about it afterwards, character building!

Fuelling before and during is therefore key to enable the most willing body and strongest mind to be able to perform and is something that should be given great thought. The final part is the recovery side. After exercise the body not only needs to rest to be able to repair and come back stronger but equally important to aid this process is the nutritional replenishment. The right mix of carbs and protein could be debated forever but I am no specialist so won’t even try. What I do know is that by trial and error and the support of Monster Supplements I have worked out what works for me. A couple of my favourites are the MyEndurance 4:1 Recovery shake and high protein flapjacks, aiming to consume within 30-60mins of my workouts. This along with electrolyte fluid replacement is key for my recovery which often involves training twice a day.

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