Getting your fuelling and hydration strategy right on race day is crucial if you want to perform at your best during a bike race.

Here's some advice to help you nail your plan, including a guide to what'll be available at the feed stations on course...

90k

Failing to fuel and hydrate appropriately is a leading cause of underperformance in sportives.

Your plan should focus on ensuring that you take in enough carbohydrate, fluid and sodium to fuel the work required and keep you hydrated.

These are the 3 key elements of a solid fueling plan, everything else should be considered secondary to understanding and hitting these numbers.

Before the race

Fuel

What to do

  • Aim to carb load in the day or two before your event, to top off your stored energy (glycogen) levels
  • Eat an energy gel (such as our PF 30 Gel) in the final 15 mins or so before you start. This'll provide additional fuel to be utilised in the early stages and increase your focus and energy levels

Why?

  • Carb-loading is a well-known tactic used by endurance athletes
  • Think of your glycogen stores as the fuel you have in the tank before a long journey. To this point, the more you start with, the longer you can keep going before you need to top-up
  • Simple carbs taken in the last 15 mins will hit your bloodstream around the start of the race, increasing energy availability just as energy use is ramping up in your body

Hydration

What to do

  • Your race pack will include a packet of our strongest electrolyte drink, PH 1500
  • Mix it into 500ml of water and aim to drink it about ~60-90 mins before you start
  • This is known as ‘preloading’ and it can significantly improve your performance
  • Finish your drink ~45 mins before you start to allow your gut to absorb it
  • Drink the electrolytes in water you’d have drunk anyway so you don’t overdo it
  • DON’T just drink lots of water before a race! You can end up diluting your blood sodium levels, increasing the risk of a race-ruining condition called hyponatremia (low blood sodium levels)

Why?

  • It’ll boost your blood volume, a proven way to enhance performance during intense exercise, especially in the heat
  • It’ll help your cardiovascular system cool you down and deliver oxygen to your working muscles. This reduces fatigue and enables you to maintain your performance for longer
  • PH 1500 electrolyte drink is a very effective preloader as it contains 3x more sodium than typical sports drinks
  • Preloading may also help you avoid cramp, which can be triggered by sodium depletion

During the race

Fuel

What fuel is available at the feed stations?

  • PF 30 Energy Gels. Each gel contains 30g of carbohydrate
  • PF 30 Energy Chews, a mixture of Original and Mint & Lemon flavours. Each packet contains 30g of carbohydrate, delivered as 2 15g chews
  • A selection of food and drink such as bananas (cut into thirds, about 9g of carb oper third), flat coca-cola (about 10g of carb per 100ml) and jelly babies (or similar, about 5g of carb per sweet)

What to do

  • Use our Quick Carb Calculator to get an idea of how much carbohydrate you'll need per hour to perform at your best
  • Many athletes racing a sportive of this distance will benefit from higher intakes of 60 to 90 grams of carbohydrate per hour, perhaps even more than 90g, as long as the amount consumed doesn’t cause stomach problems
  • The higher the amount of carbohydrate you’re aiming to ingest, the more crucial ‘training your gut’ in the lead up to your race becomes
  • An hourly intake of ~60-90+ grams per hour is not something all athletes can achieve immediately and it can take a bit of time to build up to this rate of consumption, especially if you’ve been prone to suffering from GI issues in the past

Why

  • When it comes to powering high intensity endurance exercise, carbohydrate is the main source of fuel used by your body
  • Glycogen (stored carbohydrate) is a finite resource. 90-120 minutes of hard activity will generally deplete your stores enough to significantly compromise your performance. So, at some point, taking in carbs is necessary to maintain a high level of performance

Pro tips

  • Time your intake of fuel to coincide with straight stretches of road or on a gentle downhill. This makes it easier to eat comfortably
  • If you prefer liquid calories on the bike, consider using PF 30 Energy Drink Mix in your bike bottles. It contains 30g of carb and 500mg of sodium per 500ml serving, so can provide some or all of your carb requirements, depending on the total amount that you drink
  • Carry your own fuel if possible. Gels/chews weigh very little and this approach allows you to use some you’ve properly tested in training. It also means you won’t accidentally miss picking one at a busy feed station and can eat them whenever you like
  • Generally speaking, the more energy you can consume in the early stages of the ride, the stronger you’ll be able to finish, so don’t restrict your carb intake if you’re tolerating it well

Hydration

What hydration products are available at the feed stations?

  • PH 1000, a low-carb electrolyte drink containing 1,000mg of sodium per litre (~2x the sodium found in typical sports drinks)
  • Water

What to do

  • A 90k sportive is too long to go without drinking, so you’re going to need to be knocking back a reasonable amount of fluids and electrolytes during the ride
  • The aim is to try to avoid under-drinking to the point that dehydration hampers your performance, whilst avoiding over-drinking, which can lead to hyponatremia (low blood sodium levels)
  • Most athletes will need to take in between 500ml and 1L per hour during a ride of this duration. The exact amount depends on the conditions, your own sweat rate and past experiences
  • Experimenting within these guidelines, whilst learning to listen to your body, is the best way to work out how much you need to drink during a race
  • On the day, factors such as your pace and the weather will influence what you actually need and you should adjust your intake according to how you feel as the race unfolds

Why

  • Taking on board an appropriate amount of fluid and electrolytes is essential to maintaining your blood volume and supporting the cardiovascular effort you’ll be putting in
  • A 2015 study found that athletes who adequately replaced the sodium lost in their sweat finished a middle distance triathlon an average of 26 minutes faster than those who didn’t
  • As well as maintaining fluid balance, sodium plays an important role in the absorption of nutrients in the gut, maintaining cognitive function, nerve impulse transmission and muscle contraction
  • Hydration is, of course, particularly important during longer events, when your net sweat losses can really mount up. That's especially the case if it'll be hot on the day

Pro tips

  • Consider carrying some blister-packed Electrolyte Capsules in case you run out of sports drink during the latter stages of the ride. Swallowing 2 capsules per 500ml of water you consume would deliver the same ratio of electrolytes to fluid as a bottle of PH 1000 from the feed stations

Checklist for adjusting your intake

Signs you may need to drink more include:

  • Feeling thirsty/dry mouth
  • Heart rate drifting upwards when compared to power output or effort
  • Tight, twitchy or crampy muscles

Signs you may need to drink less include:

  • Feeling bloated
  • Feeling water ‘sloshing’ in your stomach
  • Peeing too frequently

Signs you may need to increase your energy intake include:

  • Hunger
  • Attitude or mood deteriorating
  • Craving sugar

Signs you may need to decrease your energy intake include:

  • Feeling/being sick
  • Bloating
  • Upset stomach

Try the on-course fuel/hydration in training

"Nothing new on race day" has always been solid advice.

Grab a Castle Race Series Taster Pack to thoroughly road-test the on-course fuel and hydration before your race.

Don't forget to use the 15% off code you can find in emails from Castle Race Series.

Questions?

Book a free one-to-one video call with one of our fuelling experts or email hello@pfandh.com.

180k

Failing to fuel and hydrate appropriately is a leading cause of underperformance in longer sportives.

Your plan should focus on ensuring that you take in enough carbohydrate, fluid and sodium to fuel the work required and keep you hydrated.

These are the 3 key elements of a solid fueling plan, everything else should be considered secondary to understanding and hitting these numbers.

Before the race

Fuel

What to do

  • Aim to carb load in the day or two before your event, to top off your stored energy (glycogen) levels
  • Eat an energy gel (such as our PF 30 Gel) in the final 15 mins or so before you start. This'll provide additional fuel to be utilised in the early stages and increase your focus and energy levels

Why?

  • Carb-loading is a well-known tactic used by endurance athletes
  • Think of your glycogen stores as the fuel you have in the tank before a long journey. To point, the more you start with, the longer you can keep going before you need to top-up
  • Simple carbs taken in the last 15 mins will hit your bloodstream around the start of the race, increasing energy availability just as energy use is ramping up in your body

Hydration

What to do

  • Your race pack will include a packet of our strongest electrolyte drink, PH 1500
  • Mix it into 500ml of water and aim to drink it about ~60-90 mins before you start
  • This is known as ‘preloading’ and it can significantly improve your performance
  • Finish your drink ~45 mins before you start to allow your gut to absorb it
  • Drink the electrolytes in water you’d have drunk anyway so you don’t overdo it
  • DON’T just drink lots of water before a race! You can end up diluting your blood sodium levels, increasing the risk of a race-ruining condition called hyponatremia (low blood sodium levels)

Why?

  • It’ll boost your blood volume, a proven way to enhance performance during intense exercise, especially in the heat
  • It’ll help your cardiovascular system cool you down and deliver oxygen to your working muscles. This reduces fatigue and enables you to maintain your performance for longer
  • PH 1500 electrolyte drink is a very effective preloader as it contains 3x more sodium than typical sports drinks
  • Preloading may also help you avoid cramp, which can be triggered by sodium depletion

During the race

Fuel

What fuel is available at the feed stations?

  • PF 30 Energy Gels. Each gel contains 30g of carbohydrate
  • PF 30 Energy Chews, a mixture of Original and Mint & Lemon flavours. Each packet contains 30g of carbohydrate, delivered as 2 15g chews
  • A selection of food and drink such as bananas (cut into thirds, about 9g of carb oper third), flat coca-cola (about 10g of carb per 100ml) and jelly babies (or similar, about 5g of carb per sweet)

What to do

  • Use our Quick Carb Calculator to get an idea of how much carbohydrate you'll need per hour to perform at your best
  • Many athletes racing a sportive of this distance will benefit from higher intakes of 60 to 90 grams of carbohydrate per hour, perhaps even more than 90g, as long as the amount consumed doesn’t cause stomach problems
  • The higher the amount of carbohydrate you’re aiming to ingest, the more crucial ‘training your gut’ in the lead up to your race becomes
  • An hourly intake of ~60-90+ grams per hour is not something all athletes can achieve immediately and it can take a bit of time to build up to this rate of consumption, especially if you’ve been prone to suffering from GI issues in the past

Why

  • When it comes to powering high intensity endurance exercise, carbohydrate is the main source of fuel used by your body
  • Glycogen (stored carbohydrate) is a finite resource. 90-120 minutes of hard activity will generally deplete your stores enough to significantly compromise your performance. So, at some point, taking in carbs is necessary to maintain a high level of performance

Pro tips

  • Time your intake of fuel to coincide with straight stretches of road or on a gentle downhill. This makes it easier to eat comfortably
  • If you prefer liquid calories on the bike, consider using PF 30 Energy Drink Mix in your bike bottles. It contains 30g of carb and 500mg of sodium per 500ml serving, so can provide some or all of your carb requirements, depending on the total amount that you drink
  • Carry your own fuel if possible. Gels/chews weigh very little and this approach allows you to use some you’ve properly tested in training. It also means you won’t accidentally miss picking one at a busy feed station and can eat them whenever you like
  • Generally speaking, the more energy you can consume in the early stages of the ride, the stronger you’ll be able to finish, so don’t restrict your carb intake if you’re tolerating it well

Hydration

What hydration products are available at the feed stations?

  • PH 1000, a low-carb electrolyte drink containing 1,000mg of sodium per litre (~2x the sodium found in typical sports drinks)
  • Water

What to do

  • A 180k sportive is too long to go without drinking, so you’re going to need to be knocking back a reasonable amount of fluids and electrolytes during the ride
  • The aim is to try to avoid under-drinking to the point that dehydration hampers your performance, whilst avoiding over-drinking, which can lead to hyponatremia (low blood sodium levels)
  • Most athletes will need to take in between 500ml and 1L per hour during a ride of this duration. The exact amount depends on the conditions, your own sweat rate and past experiences
  • Experimenting within these guidelines, whilst learning to listen to your body, is the best way to work out how much you need to drink during a race
  • On the day, factors such as your pace and the weather will influence what you actually need and you should adjust your intake according to how you feel as the race unfolds

Why

  • Taking on board an appropriate amount of fluid and electrolytes is essential to maintaining your blood volume and supporting the cardiovascular effort you’ll be putting in
  • A 2015 study found that athletes who adequately replaced the sodium lost in their sweat finished a middle distance triathlon an average of 26 minutes faster than those who didn’t
  • As well as maintaining fluid balance, sodium plays an important role in the absorption of nutrients in the gut, maintaining cognitive function, nerve impulse transmission and muscle contraction
  • Hydration is, of course, particularly important during longer events, when your net sweat losses can really mount up. That's especially the case if it'll be hot on the day

Pro tips

  • Consider carrying some blister-packed Electrolyte Capsules in case you run out of sports drink during the latter stages of the ride. Swallowing 2 capsules per 500ml of water you consume would deliver the same ratio of electrolytes to fluid as a bottle of PH 1000 from the feed stations

Checklist for adjusting your intake

Signs you may need to drink more include:

  • Feeling thirsty/dry mouth
  • Heart rate drifting upwards when compared to power output or effort
  • Tight, twitchy or crampy muscles

Signs you may need to drink less include:

  • Feeling bloated
  • Feeling water ‘sloshing’ in your stomach
  • Peeing too frequently

Signs you may need to increase your energy intake include:

  • Hunger
  • Attitude or mood deteriorating
  • Craving sugar

Signs you may need to decrease your energy intake include:

  • Feeling/being sick
  • Bloating
  • Upset stomach

Try the on-course fuel/hydration in training

"Nothing new on race day" has always been solid advice.

Grab a Castle Race Series Taster Pack to thoroughly road-test the on-course fuel and hydration before your race.

Don't forget to use the 15% off code you can find in emails from Castle Race Series.

Questions?

Book a free one-to-one video call with one of our fuelling experts or email hello@pfandh.com.