Endurance Nutrition

This post was written for Epic Gravel Rides by guest blogger Dan McGehee, an accomplished endurance athlete. We hope you will find these tips useful as you begin training for the Chino Grinder! 


Of all the race preparation details, nutrition is often my biggest enigma! Over the years, I have tried so many varied “formulas” and it is still a work in progress. However, there are a few items that I adhere to (almost religiously) when it comes to the week before an endurance event. I need to stress at this point that every human body is different and what I find works for me could be the exact opposite with another person. But, for me it is really the journey that I enjoy, and the search for what works the best is a big part of the adventure.

1. Training and eating go hand-in-hand, so I want to discuss the training build-up first. You can not go harder and/or longer with efficiency in an endurance event by over-training within the 2 weeks before the event. If you do not have your endurance riding and intensity workouts in by 14 days before, then you are too late to make a difference for that event – plan better for the next one. However, if you are planning to do another event a few weeks later and are looking to “train-through” the event, then you have to make sure you do not burn-out or run down your immune system trying to use one event as a spring-board for another. If I am doing a 8+ hour event on say Dec 14 or 15, the week of Dec 2 – 8 will be the “easy” week in my training cycle. The 6-to-2 days before the event, I will build-up to the event by alternating longer slower rides with shorter rides of more intensity. The day before is usually easy with a few “jumps” but mostly using my time to make sure all my gear is ready.

2. I alter my nutrition regime in the 2 weeks listed above. In that “easy” week I have to force myself to not eat too much (or everything in sight) as the training reduction requires less caloric intake but the eating habits can carry over from the previous harder weeks. In this time period I focus on more sleep, more stretching/yoga, and more quality in my diet. I eat very little red meat and never within 5 days of an event – it takes the digestive system longer to process and you do not want any of it hanging around come race day. Similarly with chicken/turkey which I give at least a 72-hour window. Slowly moving towards being a full vegetarian, there will come a day when I may not have this regime at all. Starting 2 days before, I switch completely to fruits, vegetables and pasta as solid foods and take in a bit more protein in liquid form. The day before, I skip lettuce and higher fiber foods as I seem to need to “evacuate” more in races when I have had a regular amount of fiber the day before or the day of. I use the FLUID recovery formula for my increase in protein – it has easily digestible proteins and I need these for endurance races. For shorter events, I do not focus on the protein as much before, but still push the FLUID in after for recovery.

3. During an endurance event, I vary the intact based on the length/duration of the event. Knowing I will benefit from some protein later in the event, I mix my bottles with FLUID Performance and Recovery and eat Clif Bars. On 12+ hour events, I will even use Ensure in the first few hours to keep the calories up. As the event progresses, I find that taking in more complex carbs is beneficial and I use FLUID Performance along with Clif shot bloks and gels. In general, my intake of solid foods is minimal during events under 24-hours. It is messy, and time consuming, to have to go to bathroom. It does take some practice to figure out what the caloric needs are leading up to the event and then balancing that with what is taken in during the event – and I have certainly hit both ends of that pendulum, neither of which is pretty and can make for a long day on the bike.  It does come down to racing how you train – or racing so much that you can systematically try different scenarios to find the best combination.

4. As I have aged, it has become increasingly more obvious that training consistency and injury prevention are huge factors to focus on. One on my best allies in this has been yoga (particularly Birkram Yoga Tempe). This addition has given me an increased range of flexibility, an ability to recover more quickly, a more diverse mental focus, and an expanded lung capacity. It is also a killer tough and sweaty workout. Another on the top of the list is my chiropractor – keeping the body and mind in alignment is not just critical to an event, but is of paramount importance when looking at my busy life as a whole. This is where I get to give my plug for the Drs. Hefferon – a Tempe husband/wife team of Chiropractor and Naturopahtic Physician that have done wonders for me. Like the AZ Lottery says: You can’t win if you don’t play. If I’m gonna play to win, I am gonna do everything I can to be prepared for it!!!

Dan McGehee
Mesa, AZ
Cycling specialty: Ultra-endurance
(Major event highlights only)

Ironman World Triathlon Championship 1993, 1995
UMCA 12-hour Champion and Course Record, 2002
Eastern Sierra Double Century, 2003 – 1st Place
Furnace Creek 508 (508 miles: Valencia, CA – Death Valley, Twenty-Nine Palms, CA)
Solo Champion 1998 (www.the508.com)
2-Man Team Champion and 2-man Record Holder, October, 2003
2-Man Team Champion, October 2008
LOTOJA 2005 – USA longest USCF sanctioned race – 6th Overall, 3rd place 40-45 masters
UMCA sanctioned 200-mile World Open Road Record: October 22, 2005 – 9:02:41
Race Across America 2006- 1st Place 4-Person Mixed Team, 3rd Place 4-Person Teams Overall.
3043 miles, 6 days, 19 hours, 59 min. Mixed team 50+ RAAM Record time
My data: 933 miles, 45 hrs 23 min, 33,100 ft climbing
Cochise County Classic 252-mile Champion 1996, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007,
2008, and 2009, and 2010 (234-mile, new course)
Course Record holder: 252-mile – 10:26:04, and 234-mile – 11:15:02
2005 Cochise County Dedication Recipient.
2009 Perimeter Bicycle Association of America (PBAA) Tour de Phoenix Dedication Recipient.
UMCA sanctioned 100-mile Time-Trial World Open Road Record: May 22, 2005 – 4:11:09,
September 25, 2005 – 4:10:09, October 6, 2007 – 3:56:03 (current record)
Sonotia – Patagonia Time Trial (USCF). September 21, 2008. 1st Overall
Furnace Creek 508, October 2008 2-Man Team Champion, Overall fastest time, and 30+
Team Record, 26:06:22
100-mile World Indoor Time Trial Track attempt – June 20, 2009 3:47:35. Fastest recorded
time in the Northern Hemisphere – 3:47:35. Eight (8) seconds short of World Record
Stagecoach Century TT, Ocotillo, CA. (note: considerable climbing, relative to a flat time-trial
course or velodrome)
Jan. 16, 2010. 1st overall, Course Record – 4:38:30
Jan. 15, 2011. 1st overall, Course Record – 4:37:20
Fastest time ever recorded on course for solo or 4-man division

Posted in Chino Grinder, nutrition