While many mountain bike athletes put a large focus on training, fitness, and nutrition, however many cyclist tend to neglect and put off recovery especially when they don’t have the time. Making time for recovery is critical for optimal performance on the bike.
From 212-2017 racing as a Professional mountain biker, I was lucky enough to get to the Transylvania Epic Stage race along with many others. Here are the three main recovery methods I have found work great for me and the hundreds of mountain bike athletes I've coached over the years:
1) Excellent on the bike and post-race/stage nutrition
3) Additional recovery aids
To finish a stage race strong and any endurance race over 4 hours, you have to make nutrition a top priority. Good nutrition during stage racing takes a lot of discipline and organization to nail it down. The main goal is to minimize going through your glycogen, or carbohydrate, stores and then maximize getting them filled back up for energy the following day. Doing this gives you the strength and energy to survive both mentally and physically for both the longer 4+ hour endurance races or days, and for the multiple days in a row in Stage Racing.
Come race day I of any stage race or single day event, make sure to take in plenty of calories while racing and immediately after each stage or race. The number to shoot for is pretty close to 2 x your body weight in pounds per hour. At 150 lbs, that is 300 calories per hour. I find most athletes work well with that number although sometimes I find myself taking more in especially on slower parts of some stages. So for a longer 4 hour stage you will aim for around 1200 or more calories just while riding. I tend to like to mix these calories up between 70-80% liquid calories and the remainder coming from solids when possible, but this part is personal preference.
Next, make it a huge priority to take advantage of the “window of opportunity”. This window occurs within the first 20 minutes immediately after you cross the finish line. At that point, aim to get in about 90 grams of high glycemic, fast absorbing carbs. One of my favorites is yogurt with fresh strawberries, bananas, honey, and granola. Research has shown that during this window your body can absorb carbohydrates at about 4 times the normal rate. That’s optimal for recovery for every day that follows in the stage race. Make a huge habit out of scarfing down this post-race meal or recovery drink right when you get done.
Finally, during a multi-day event, such as a stage race, continue to take in small meals every 1-2 hours after each stage. Stick with lean meats, low glycemic carbs, and good fats such as salads, potatoes, chicken, steak, yogurt, fish, almonds, and your favorite fruit. But most important is to never cut yourself short. Eat and eat a lot between stages and after big, long races/days in the saddle!
Sleep a lot! During sleep your body makes a ton of repairs by releasing growth hormone and testosterone. In addition to this it will help you mentally rejuvenate to be ready for another tough day in the saddle the next day. Try to get a 1-2 hour nap in about an hour after the stage and before dinner, and also after any hard day in the saddle (whether training or racing). Then I head to bed as early as possible to get 8-12 hours of sleep.
Additional recovery aids. Some of these I live by while others are tough to say whether they work or not. My best recommendation is to find what you like by trying them after a hard day in the saddle and see what you like. The additional recovery aids are as follows:
-5 Grams of Glutamine prior to bed: aid in rebuilding muscle and recovery
-5 Grams of Hammer BCAA’s immediately after race day: also aid in muscular recovery
-Elevated Legs: these are one of the only true recovery aids I live by. They are better then ice baths and far better then just get your legs up. These help push blood, and other accumulated lactate and it’s counterparts back to the heart to recirculate. Plus they feel really good. Feel like a massage while laying down! I use these every day after hard days and highly recommend all my clients use them also.
-If you want a pair of these, you can order them directly through me at a discounted rate (as I know the owner as we have raced together!). Click here for details on Elevated Legs and to get the discounted price....
-Get off your feet! If you don’t have Elevated Legs, then get your legs above your heart and let gravity pull those fluids back to the heart.
-Ice bath: if you have access to a river or stream, or an ice bath, try to hop in for 10-15 minutes. Not always easy to find, but depends on the race
-Stretch: this works better for some people than others, but I am strong believer in it. It relieves soreness and tightness in muscles/joints, and helps prevent overuse injuries. To maximize the benefits during racing or a hard training week, stretch 2-3 times a day: 1 time 2 hours before race time/training, 1 time after, and 1 time before bed with each session lasting about 15-20 minutes each. Yoga is also excellent if you are into that.
I’ve found that these three steps work great. The closer you follow them, the better you will perform as the race goes on.
Hope you find this article helpful and are able to put the info to use.
Thanks for reading!
Coach Drew Edsall: Professional Mountain biker, Head Coach and Founder of Mtbfitness