Scientists pull a Zwifty to unlock power of sports nutrition

Cyclists who retreated indoors due to COVID-19 restrictions could discover the nutritional keys to maximised performance.

A new Australian Catholic University study aims to investigate the fuelling habits of recreational and elite riders who have taken to their turbo trainers and online training platforms such as Zwift and TrainerRoad during the coronavirus pandemic.

The body can only store enough carbohydrate for one day’s worth of normal activity, which means executing an effective fuelling strategy to meet the high intensity energy demands of a key training session or race can be a challenge out on the road.

Removing all the variables by heading indoors, however, can mimic in the home a laboratory setting scientists can harness to investigate cyclists’ nutritional knowledge and practices.

“There are limitations out on the road during a long ride and replenishing stores can be difficult. But there are no excuses not to nail it when you’re on the indoor trainer,” principal researcher Dr Andy King from ACU’s Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research said.

Running low on carbohydrate leads to loss of pace or power and could ruin that bid for a personal best performance. Unlocking higher rates of carbohydrate use can fuel higher intensity training and faster racing.

There is an even greater risk, according to study co-investigator and dietician Rebecca Hall, when the tank runs dry.

“The brain runs on carbohydrate, which is kind of a big deal,” she said. “During endurance exercise, when the body runs low on carbohydrate, exercise intensity drops as energy production is reduced, fatigue onset occurs sooner, and concentration and skill execution is impaired.

“That’s not a problem when riding indoors. But a skill error on the road or in a bunch ride can be calamitous.”

/Public Release. The material in this public release comes from the originating organization and may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. View in full here.