Race Day Countdown–What to Eat 24 Hours Ahead

For most professional cyclists the do’s and don’ts before practice riding are clear cut and routine. Most regular cyclists take care of their bodies with the right kinds of foods and avoid too much fat, sugar, caffeine and alcohol. A rigorous training program is enhanced by correct nutrition and most cyclists have firm favourite energy foods that they prefer to eat and drink before a ride. Do different rules apply before a race day? Are there additional steps you can take to ensure sufficient energy reserves for the long haul?


The 24 hours before a big race usually finds riders feeling edgy and replaying strategies in their minds. If you don’t keep this in check you could find yourself mentally exhausted before the day begins. In addition to a strong mental attitude you’ll want to ensure that what you eat supports the extra energy you’ll need to get to the finish line. Here are some guidelines that will help you decide what to eat and drink 24 hours before the big day:

Keep Hydrated

The difference between a great or disappointing performance during a race could be as simple as not drinking enough water. Improper hydration levels could see you fail to finish or struggle throughout the race. Losing just one percent of your body weight in fluid can decrease your performance by up to ten percent. Consuming watered down sports drinks will help you maintain the correct electrolyte levels. It is better to begin the race with adequate fluid reserves rather than trying to correct hydration levels later on.

Aim for Balance

When it comes to fluid, only drink as much fluid as will turn your urine a light or clear colour. If you drink too much water it could keep you awake all night making frequent trips to the bathroom, and you’ll emerge exhausted. This will result in a poor start to your race, and one you may not recover from.


The current trend amongst long distance runners, cyclists and athletes is toward liquid diets on race day. Liquidised calories are easily digested and ensure that hydration levels are kept in check. Some people prefer a solid breakfast on race morning. If you’re one of them, make sure to eat at least two hours before a meal and avoid heavy, fatty meals which are hard to digest.


What you should eat the night before race day is always the subject of much debate and each cyclist has his particular favourite. The best meals are those which are easily digested and won’t require a restroom stop along the way. Meat, eggs, fibre and high processed meals are best avoided in the 24 hours before a race.

These foods take a long time to move through the digestive system. Light foods are best and should be eaten at least twelve hours before the race begins to ensure that the food is fully digested when the race begins.

Feeling Salty?

A little extra salt is recommended in the days leading up to the race. This is because salt helps the body retain water and ensures that you won’t be dehydrated when the whistle blows. This is especially recommended if the weather is likely to be warm, but don’t overdo it. A little extra salt with regular meals is adequate insurance against dehydration.

Whether you’re a seasoned cyclist or a novice experiencing the excitement of a race, your food choices and hydration levels are as important as your attitude, mental state and physical condition. Our bodies respond to the food we eat and will succumb to dehydration after several hours if steps aren’t taken to prevent it. Paying particular attention to your food and drink in the 24 hours before a race can provide an extra edge that will help you get primed for a winning race.

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