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Daily Fueling as a Modern Pro
Carbs, proteins, First Endurance, and… ice cream.
by Larry Warbasse
This year I feel very fortunate to have had the chance to work with First Endurance as a sponsor. It’s a company whose products I have used from the very start, when I first started racing on the road at 15 for the Priority Health Development Team. A whopping 17 years later and here we are. A bit older and more experienced – we’ve both grown and evolved – but I am proud to say that I love the products every bit as much as I did back then!
Making it official
I was really excited to work with FE again this season, as I have been purchasing First Endurance products myself nearly every year of my career to get me through the Grand Tours, altitude camps, or even just hard training blocks. It is probably the only brand that I have been such a loyal customer of for such a long period of time! So now, we’ve just made it official.
Working closely with them this year, I have gotten the opportunity to use the products every day, something that has been very beneficial, because they allow me to function at my best day in and day out, to get the most out of my training and racing.
Nutrition changes everything
I really believe that nutrition is the number one department in terms of progression of performance over the last few years – meaning that our changes in nutrition have led to the greatest gains in performance. This is especially true in professional cycling, where our races are so long and with such frequent bouts of high intensity that glycogen is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, limiting factors of performance.
When I started racing all those years ago, I remember I would do six hour rides (yeah I was a crazy kid with some crazy training partners) with nothing but maybe a bar in my pocket and some drink mix in my first two bottles. Of course, I would bonk every time. I thought it was because of my age or my lack of endurance, which may have partly been the case, but I’m sure it was mostly down to a lack of fueling. Back then, not eating much was almost a badge of honor – who could go the longest on the least amount of food. Only now do I realize how stupid that was!
Fast forward to just a few years ago and the game has totally changed. Now the competition is pushing the upper limit of how many carbs we can consume or digest per hour! And I can’t stress enough that this change has probably led to the biggest improvement in performance in cycling in the last 10 years. Deep carbon wheels, tubeless tires, skinsuits, crazy aerodynamics – don’t get me wrong, all those are important, too. But! You get nutrition wrong, and you don’t have a base for your pyramid, no foundation for your house, and all that material tech is just wasted on a lacking engine.
A day in the life of Larry
So what do good nutritional practices look like for me? Let me walk you through a typical day, one with a lot of hours and efforts to give you an idea.
Say we start at 10 am. I might meet some guys for training, or if I really have a lot of efforts planned, then I will go alone. Regardless, I usually try to wake up one hour and twenty minutes before rolling out. I try to get a 10-minute meditation session in on waking, but often that can fall by the wayside – it really helps if I can do it though!
I’ll take my MultiV first thing when I wake up, and – depending on the time of year or upcoming objectives – OptygenHP as well. Accompaniment is my classic oatmeal breakfast. It’s probably the staple that has been most present in my life as a cyclist – I eat it nearly every day, and I still love it. I’ll do 100g of whole oats, a banana, and 15g of cranberries, all cooked in water and then treated to a heaping teaspoon of good honey mixed in once it’s cooked. Basic but delicious. I will usually have Greek yogurt either on top or on the side, my favorite being Fage 2%. Cause it tastes SO good.
I try to consume 1-1.5 bottles per hour and I prefer to have nearly every bottle with EFS-PRO.
In my bottles, I’ll mix EFS-PRO on most days, as I am a pretty salty sweater and the high electrolyte content really seems to help me there. Plus, since I love the flavor (especially Sour Watermelon [Sour Watermelon is the superior flavor. - Ed.]) I find it really easy to drink high quantities, which is necessary when training hard. It also seems to be really easy for me to digest, which is very important as well!
I try to consume 1-1.5 bottles per hour (of a normal-sized 500ml bottle – if I take bigger bottles in summer, then just 1 per hour), and I prefer to have nearly every bottle with EFS-PRO in it to get the calories necessary to fuel these higher intensity sessions. I will also carry some single serves for when I stop and fill up my empty bottles at fountains.
Solids & Shots
I bring a mix of food with me. When I am really on top of it, I will make my own rice cakes, using glutinous (sticky) rice, because it sticks together super easily and without the use of much additional fat, which can slow digestion. So it’s pretty much just rice and sugar, and I liven it up with a bit of coconut butter or maybe some dried fruit for some added taste.
To supplement this, I’ll usually carry a banana in my pocket for the first part of the ride, and I bring a bunch of Liquid Shots, as they are super easy to eat in between efforts. I try to have the solid food on the less important or less intense parts of the training, and I pop the gels when I am really going hard. On a hard day, I try to consume a Liquid Shot between every effort I do, as this really seems to help me stay strong through the course of the ride.
On my way home it’s usually a descent, and I’m already dreaming of my Ultragen recovery shake when I get back. Cappuccino is my favorite and honestly I just don’t think I ever get tired of the flavor! I’ll have an Ultragen shake mixed with some almond milk when I walk in the door, and then a more solid meal of rice and a protein like eggs or chicken later. If I’m in a rush or it’s already dinner time, I’ll pour the Ultragen shake into some cereal like Golden Grahams or Smacks to get a really solid boost of carbs to replenish the glycogen. I think I’m still a kid at heart, cause I find that super delicious!
Cereal aside, I do try to eat a balanced meal for dinner. This is usually a good portion of carbs, especially if I have another hard or long session the day after, and then some type of protein, usually chicken or turkey but occasionally red meat. I almost always also have a salad on the side. And I nearly never forget my dessert either – I eat an ice cream pretty much every day. (Yes, I guess I really am a kid at heart!!!)
Avoid the pendulum effect
I try to keep everything balanced and I find that if I do that, I am able to stay focused for a longer period of time and get to my race weight in a healthy way, without overdoing or pushing it. In the past, I perhaps restricted too much too often, but I felt that I always kind of regressed to the mean – meaning that for every period of restricted eating I went through I had an equal if not greater period of binging after. Not really a healthy way to go about eating – or living for that matter. So I have found a nice middle ground that works well for me, though I think that balance can be different for everyone.
Nutrition is the basis for the big training loads we put in, the intense fueling on the bike allows us to train harder and sustain higher training volumes than we otherwise could without. And First Endurance plays a huge role in that for me. I am really grateful that I get the chance to use their products in my daily life as they really complement my training and racing! Just remember that nutrition throughout the rest of your life – from waking to post-ride meals – is just as important as what you’re taking on the bike.
I hope this insight can help you all a bit in your pursuit of your athletic objectives and if you have any questions or interest about other types of training or fueling, let the FE guys know, and I would be happy to write again!
Until Next Time!