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How to fuel for ultra-endurance rides according to Mark Beaumont

Joe Robinson
27 Jul 2017

As Mark Beaumont continues his attempt at the world record for fastest circumnavigation of the world, he gives us his top nutrition tips

A few gels and a couple of electrolyte drinks may pull you through a sportive but if you harbour any ambitions to do some serious adventure riding over multiple days, you may have to reconsider your fuelling. 

Long days in the saddle demand a huge calorie intake, and if there is anyone informed to offer adivce its Mark Beaumont

Beaumont, following in the footsteps of Phileas Fogg, is currently attempt to set a new world record, travelling around the world in 80 days, but by bike. 

Cycling around 240 miles a day, Beaumont will be looking to take on 8,000 calories a day to keep him on track for the record.

Beaumont, who departed Paris on 2nd July, talked through how he will be getting his nutrition right on long days in the saddle.

Mark Beaumont's approach to ultra-endurance nutrition

What fuelling advice would you give to someone looking to undertake a cycling adventure

Nutrition is complicated. You can’t do multiple day or big adventure rides fuelled on gels, bars and processed foods. Obviously, sports nutrition has its place but I’m very much going to keep it to the natural school on nutrition.

You need to move from this idea of having big square meals to fuelling fairly regularly. You can’t take more than 300 an hour.

One of the first things to slow down is your digestive system. As you tire your blood is going to your muscles rather than to your intestines.

And to take that nutrition to the gut wall you’re needing to stay well hydrated, the moment you’re dehydrated in any way, that absorption slows down.

People don’t realise how critical it is to stay on top of hydration so you can take in the calories you need.

The other thing is for ultra endurance you really should be focusing on metabolism. You can fuel a sportive rider or a single effort training ride or club ride on almost anything but you’re going to need the quick grab calories from easy burn sugars and carbs but when it comes to ultra endurance, you need to be a bit more of a fat burning machine, more of a diesel engine.

It takes time for you to adjust your metabolism for you to be able to do that so it take a matter of months to consistently fuel so you are more adapted.

If you are spending most of the time in band one, band two rather than three or four, if you’re focussing on ultra endurance you need to have fuels that are slow release that don’t give you the physical and mental peaks and troughs that caffeines, sugars and carbs do.

My nutritionists favourite phrase is “burn fat like a rat”, it’s all about that diesel engine that will go all day.

What is it you will be eating and fuelling yourself with?

We’re carrying things like staples that won’t perish. Anything we need to add in, things like electrolytes, using SiS Go Hydro, we obviously carry those with us as I have a support vehicle but most of the calories will come from food we find on route.

So it’s obviously totally different when you’re in Outer Mongolia than when you’re in Australia. I’ll be having a lot of liquid meals  - chucking stuff in a blender is a good way of cheating hydration as well at the same time as getting calories but it’s also easier to get that fuel through the gut wall.

Starchy foods in particular start to make you feel quite bloated and as you sit on the tri bars you need to eat food that is easy to digest.

How many calories are you expected to burn each day?

I’m expected to burn around 8,000 calories a day which is a lot of food.

Not many people are going to need that, if you’re doing a normal ultraride between 100 to 200 miles a day you might need 6,000 calories. But I’m on the bike at 4am, I’m riding four hour sets, riding sixteen hours a day.

After five hours sleep, I’m back on the bike. So I’m having a consistent fuelling strategy which basically goes from 3:30am until 10pm is my key.

Will your nutritional plans change depending on location and conditions?

Not really, I might substitute hot drinks for cold drinks but that’s about it.

Food wise in terms of calories that doesn’t change massively. You’re already warmed up on the bike so it’s not like you’re burning massively more calories.

It’s not like an arctic explorer who are eating calories to stay alive. The first thing I’ll do in the morning is stand on the scales to make sure I’m not losing weight.

Do you have any guilty pleasure foods you’ll be taking with you or picking up on the way

Yeah chocolate.

It’s a good mental target you know it’s a good pick me up. But I am careful about it because you don’t want to be having sugars and caffeine all the time because it can become a mental rollercoaster.

Sugar is a nice to have.

For more information about the Around The World in 80 Days Cycle Challenge go to artemisworldcycle.com or follow @MrMarkBeaumont on Twitter

Wiggle, the world's leading online cycle retailer, is supplying kit and nutrition to Mark Beaumont's World Record breaking attempt to cycle round the world in 80 days.  www.wiggle.com

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