A world icon event takes place in South Africa on Sunday the 12th of March, the Cape Town Cycle Tour. A lot of preparation goes into being ready for this road cycling spectacle. With this in mind, you don’t want to find yourself losing your way in the week leading up to the race. Mark Wolff, tells you how to get to the start line fitting fit, on this episode of 32Gi Sports Nutrition.
Welcome back to 32Gi Sports Nutrition, Mark Wolff joining myself, Mr Active, David Katz. We’re talking a big cycle event, well maybe I should call it an absolutely huge cycle event. 35 000 cyclists have registered and entered the 40th edition of the Cape Town Cycle Tour. It takes in some of the best sights that South Africa and maybe the world have to offer.
It’s a world renowned race, not just locals, people from all over coming and doing it and it’s an important event. It’s a cycle event people spend all year training and building for this one, a lot of training goes in, a lot of nutrition goes in. It’s very important in that last week not to lose it.
There’s the chance of getting ill because all of a sudden you’re changing things, so very important, last week before a big race like this, especially for the cyclists to know that they’re going to be arriving on the start line in peak form.
Mark, is that a problem a lot of people; I think we find that with any form of exercise, you’ve done all this training, you’ve done this bulk, your nutrition matches. Then you get to your cutback weeks and all of a sudden it’s a big change for the system.
Mark Wolff: I think a lot of people feel before a big race and they’re actually toning down their training etc, they definitely feel like they’re not doing enough and they want to do some more. But as I tell people, if you want to train the week before the race, keep the training down.
But there is one thing you can really train very well and that’s your gut. In other words, focusing on your nutrition and that’s really key. If you want to get to race day in really good tip-top shape, make sure you’ve got your nutrition 100% correct the week before the race and obviously the days before and on race day. Because that is going to make the biggest difference in the end.
NB! Keep it clean in the week before
DK: Looking at that week before, of course you’ve got the week of, there’s all this excitement. You’re toning down possibly at work, getting ready to go down to the Cape, if you’re based there with the event coming up. When people are travelling diets can change, it’s hard to maintain. It’s very important to stick to what you know, stick to your regime, keep eating the clean stuff in that week in the build-up?
MW: A hundred percent correct. Don’t go and start changing your diet and consuming things that you wouldn’t normally eat as far as your regular diet goes. Make sure you’re also hydrating nicely, properly every single day. I would say that there are things that are quite beneficial.
That’s definitely toning down your sugar intake as it gets closer to the event. In other words, not taking in too much sugar, not eating too much junk food at all. In actual fact, keeping it nice and clean and nice and lean. The reason I say that is because the last thing you want to do when you taper before any event is actually gain excessive weight. A half a kg or a kg overweight on race is day is going to impact you because you’re not used to that even during training.
That’s the one aspect and the other aspect is you want to get to race day nice and healthy. There’s one sure way to make yourself unhealthy and to lower the immune system and that’s actually eating nonsense. By eating cleanly, hydrating properly and trying to keep it as wholesome and as natural as possible as far as the diet goes, you’re actually keeping your immune system strong and then obviously mitigating the risk of falling ill.
DK: Mark, looking at the days before, you talked about cutting down things, cycling and coffee, they tend to go hand-in-hand. But there’s a big benefit isn’t there for cyclists to cut down on caffeine. Then maybe use something like the G-Shot product during the race, it’ll have added benefit if they’ve reduced it in the week leading up won’t it?
How to get the best out of caffeine
MW: Look, caffeine is definitely shown to give performance benefits, without a doubt. There are two reasons why caffeine is important, actually maybe three reasons why caffeine is important. Number one, it does wake up the brain, it wakes up the mind, it makes you feel more alert, it’s a natural stimulant.
The other thing is that caffeine has the ability to free up a large amount of free fatty acids which can be utilised for fuelling and that’s freely available fuel which is very powerful. The last thing that caffeine does is it actually helps speed up the replenishment of glycogen when consumed with a carbohydrate post-exercise.
Caffeine does have its benefit. I think if you get very big caffeine consumers who are constantly consuming caffeine all the time, the biggest issue is that they actually, they don’t become caffeine intolerant. They’re very tolerant of caffeine and the impact will be far less when they actually take in.
I see this, some guys consume a large amount of caffeine every single day and then what actually happens is when it comes to race day, they try and take a similar amount of caffeine, but it doesn’t have a major impact. The other thing and this is very important to note is that you don’t know how much caffeine is in a cup of coffee.
You can go and drink a cup of coffee and it can be very strong, but there’s no way to tell how much caffeine in it. The strength is not related to the caffeine content whatsoever. Measurable caffeine intake is really the key thing here when it does come to racing.
You need to know how much caffeine you’re consuming before or during an event and make sure that you take in the right amount. Generally we look at 1-2mg of caffeine per kg of body weight consumed a couple of hours before the onset of a race. If you want to maximise the impact of your caffeine before an event, the best thing to do is to try to wean off the caffeine a little bit. Then hit it obviously on the day of the event.
The problem is that if you’re a very big coffee drinker and you drink 4-5-6 cups a day, which some people do, or even in the form of maybe tea, which is also very high in caffeine. The problem is that you cannot just cut it out because if you cut it out you’re going to land up with withdrawal symptoms. You’re going to feel absolutely terrible. The best thing to do is to actually tone down the caffeine little by little.
You don’t have to cut it out completely but make sure you cut it down to a certain extent that when you take it on the day it has a nice impact. Again, the caffeine needs to be measurable, it’s impossible to tell how much caffeine you’re consuming without knowing how much caffeine there is in any particular product.
The benefit of cutting down on fibre
DK: Mark, talk to me about fibre. I know it’s something that triathletes specifically like to cut down, maybe from about three days before, also for runners also very important. But guys are doing something like a longer cycle race, is it something that they should also look to be doing in general or does it depend on how the certain person deals with fibre?
MW: Look fibre is something important to discuss because fibre is something, it’s like eating plastic in a way. If you want me to put it like that. It doesn’t get digested or broken down in the body, it actually just passes through the body.
The problem is that some people, they do eat quite a bit of fibre in their diet, which is fine because it helps with bowel and digestive function. I think the thing is though, that was is the impact of fibre when your body is performing at a very high intensity and the actual, the digest tract becomes quite a bit stressed. In that case what you’d get is sort of a gastrointestinal distress on the bowels and the reason being is that under high intensity some people get negatively impacted by fibre consumption.
You see it, there’s a severe burning or aching in the stomach etc, there could be a lot of reasons that causes that, fibre is one reason but there’s many others. In that case, if you are more sensitive to fibre intake and you do have a sensitive stomach or digestive system, I would recommend maybe yes, lowering or cutting down the fibre, maybe 48-72 hours before an event.
This last week I had an athlete who definitely has gastrointestinal sensitivity issues and instead of eating maybe oatmeal, for example, before a race or a quinoa meal or whatever it was, opted for a white rice pudding or something which was a little bit lower in fibre. Which provided the carbohydrate intake on that day.
I would say if you’ve got a sensitive stomach, try and lower that fibre intake. That means that if you’re going to eat bread, for example, don’t go and eat a high fibre bread. White bread has got hardly any fibre, so you’d rather go with a piece of white bread, even though it’s not healthy bread. You’re only going to be using it for fuelling on the day and it’s a better option to keep the fibre low. Those are just some simple examples.
DK: Mark, we talked a little bit about trying not to get sick but it can happen. It happens very often that in that week and that transition people do, adding something like maybe taking a bit of Vitamin C daily in the week up. Would you recommend something like that?
Don’t shoot yourself up with Vitamin C
MW: Interestingly enough, Vitamin C actually impacts your endurance performance. I would avoid Vitamin C because it can impact your energy level during an event. I tell people, if they’re taking Vitamin C, they should probably cycle on it and off it and not take it during bouts of high intensity. Specifically during heavy bouts of racing, because Vitamin C has been shown to impact the body’s ability to perform. It does play negatively on the energy system, but it plays positively on the immune system. You need to weight those up.
I think what I would look at more is taking things like Zinc, for example, which is absolutely brilliant and it also actually aids liver function as well. It does help with immunity, there’s Vitamin B16 and 12, like the Neurobion and the Vitamin B Complex’s which are quite nice to take. You can get that in tablet form as well for those people who don’t like to get injections by their doctors but without a doubt, that also helps boost immunity.
One of the biggest things we know that does boost immunity is, and as I mentioned before, eating cleanly and sleeping well at night. The more sleep you get and the more rested the body is, the far better as well the immune system strengthens and recovers. Just to also probably avoid places or crowded places, mainly try to stay out of gyms or steam rooms etc where germs run around rampant and the chances of infection are a lot more.
It really all depends on how hard you’ve actually been training because we know that hard, high intensity training lowers immunity. Once you’re finished a strong training bout and you want to get to some place or a race with a strong immune system; the best thing to do is to try and avoid contact with people that might be ill or any kind of places where you might have a high risk of exposure to getting illness.
DK: Mark, talking about another supplement that’s very common and of course 32Gi is a great product, TruMag. Magnesium, nothing beats training and having the right training for the intensity you want to ride at. But there is merit once again in adding some Magnesium to your diet in the lead up to an event?
Magnesium the Wonderful (how it will help you)
MW: Look, Magnesium is probably one of the most critical, I would say minerals that anybody could consume. Because there’s a lot of benefit to it. First of all Magnesium is very much utilised in the creation of ATP. ATP is really the fire that ignites the muscles and that’s basically what causes muscle contraction.
Yes, Magnesium is very critical from an energy point of view. It also helps, not just with energy but it also helps calm the nervous system. So taking Magnesium before you go to sleep at night would allow the nervous system to relax a little bit more and allow you to get a better night’s sleep. It does have its benefits and it’s also shown to delay the onset of muscle fatigue.
DK: Mark you’ve been down to Cape Town plenty, you’ve been in and around the race. To you what is the most special thing about the event?
MW: I think if you look at Argus, people say sometimes it’s not a long cycle race, it’s a short cycle race. But it’s probably a cycle race in the most beautiful part of the entire world maybe, which is along the coast. It really is an absolutely beautiful event. To cycle around there, for the people that live there, I’m absolutely jealous because they’ve got some of the most beautiful scenic cycle routes in the world. I think that’s really what makes the event truly special.
Another thing that makes the event special if you’ve got the biggest timed cycle race in the world. As you mentioned earlier, I think the numbers are what, 35 000 to 36 000 cyclists, all coming together on a single day. It’s crazy when you think about how an event like this is completely controlled with full road closure, amazing safety. If you look at it from that point of view, I mean it’s one event that’s definitely, it’s on the Bucket List, not just for South Africans but for anybody worldwide.
DK: It really is a phenomenal event. If you are racing on the 12th of March, best of luck. If it’s your debut one, your novice one, have an absolute smashing time. For everyone else, happy training and we’ll be back with you soon on the 32Gi Sports Nutrition podcast.