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Van der Poel's race nutrition strategy

Updated: May 25, 2022

For an endurance athlete carbohydrate and fat combustion rates are among the most important features INSCYD can provide. Precisely knowing fat and carbs combustion rates helps one monitor training progress, set accurate training intensity zones, this will result in improved training and racing performance.

Though the sports science community are looking at ways athletes can improve carbohydrate storage, capacity is relatively limited in the human body. So it's crucial to maximise the uptake rate an athlete can tolerate when training and racing. The average athlete has an upper ceiling of carbohydrate intake per hour is around 60 - 90 g/h; depending on the mix of carbohydrates. However, elite athletes are now using fuelling strategies where they will consume 100 - 120 g/h.

Van der Poel’s nutrition sticker from Flanders offers a glimpse into the way Alpecin-Fenix share rider nutrition plans via simple symbols that represent a specific fuelling method.

The sticker symbols, filled-in circles are rice cakes, the rectangles are energy bars, the gel-like graphics are, well, gels, and the bottles are bottles of energy drink. The smiley face emoji visible at the 200 km mark – shortly before the penultimate ascent of the Oude Kwaremont – represents a caffeine gel. Within each fuelling method, different colours represent different options.

As Van der Poel’s nutrition sticker at Flanders shows, the fuelling method is based on the calorie demand per hour, race day temperature and the type of course to be ridden. Rice cakes and bars early on when the pace is easier and gels and extra fluids later on. Colder conditions would require more calories from food, warmer conditions more calories from liquids plus additional water and electrolytes.

You'll notice that riders will have a gel taped to a bottle when they receive a feed, just to make sure they always have enough carbohydrate for the next 30 - 45 minutes. MVDP consumes between 100 and 120 grams of carbohydrates per hour at a race like the Tour of Flanders, which equates to 400 to 480 calories in carbohydrate form per hour.

MVDP has had to train his gut to maximize the uptake. If you take an INSCYD PPD test its possible to determine your carb and fat combustion rates. Once you understand these values there are many training and dietary strategies you can use to train your gut and then use combustion rates to pace your training and racing.

The perfect pacing strategy depends on three elements:

1. How many grams of carbohydrates do you combust?

2. How big are your glycogen stores?

3. How many carbohydrates can you absorb in an hour?

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