Fueling on Cyclocross Race Day

Just wondered what everyone eats & drinks before their Cx races, and what timings you use.

My schedule:
-3 hours before race start i have my last ‘real food’ meal; a bowl of rice or a Bagel with PB&J.
-Over the next two hours i drink 700ml of carb drink (maltodextrin), this also covers course inspection and preride.
-Starting at an hour before my race i have another 700ml carb drink which lasts the hour and covers my warmup.
-On the line i have a gel and wash it down with what ever is left of my drink.

My results have been quite rubbish and id like to make sure im fueling correctly.
Writing it down like above it seems alot for a 50 minute race.

I’ve recently listened to a podcast where they talked about sugar rebound, (although i didn’t fully understand if I’m honest). I did wonder if I was suffering from this.
Could that bottle over the final hour be having a detrimental effect on my lacklustre performance?

I’m interested to hear your thoughts and what you do. :+1::checkered_flag::bike:

Good info here: Reactive hypoglycaemia

However I do something similar to what you do, but no gel before the start anymore, because it made me feel sick. So now I drink up until about 10 min before the start, and even have a handful of sweets about 30min before. So I do everything wrong, lol. However, I don’t feel sick and I don’t run out of energy, so I don’t feel like changing it.

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Based on what? Your expectations? Previous results? Need to know how you are classifying this…

but based on what you posted, it does seem like a lot of calories but perhaps not in the best combination. I would go with more calories in your last meal and fewer in between the meal and race. One bottle of nutrition, maybe a piece of fruit about an hour before and then go race.

Fueling is one of those highly personal things…what works for some doesn’t work for others. For me personally, I would not do anything special for a short race like CX or a crit.


Both of these things really. I’m not fighting for the front in any way, but I feel on race day I never quite go as well as I could.
I have a race this weekend so will try something different; cutting out the drinks between and have nothing but water until on the line and have a gel and a big swig of carb drink maybe.

I personally have never found it necessary to do any “special fueling” before a race that’s less than an hour. I eat a normal, healthy breakfast, and I drink plenty of water. My goal is just to not have undigested food in my stomach (and not have to poop!) at the beginning of my race. For such a short effort, assuming I’ve eaten healthy meals in the days leading up, I already have all of the glycogen in my muscles that is likely to be helpful. If it’s your first race of the day, and you bonk in an hour of riding, then you’re probably not eating and/or recovering well enough in general.


The only thing I’d add is more food around 1hr-45 min before. A bar, banana, some blocks or gummies, a half pbj if that’s easy to digest. Getting carbs only from a fluid source and only eating 3 hours before doesn’t sound like its working for you. This is just my experience and what I’ve learned from / observed from other CX pros, as it was really hard for me to figure out nutrition for a super high intensity 50 min race, and I was surprised at how much volume they ate the morning of + leading into the race, but it was all really simply/easy to digest stuff.

If it helps speak to how much we are eating on race day, after last weekends C1/C2, my travel companions had to force down breakfast Monday am because they were, quote: “SO sick of eating”. :rofl:


Would this be on top of everything in my original post Ivy? Or if I was cutting out the drinks.

Very confusing topic and ultimately personal I guess. Some people say no need to eat anything extra, others say eat it all, the post on the reactive hypoglycemia says don’t eat anything 3 hours before then contradicts itself by saying if the length of race is below 90 minutes then it doesn’t matter!

This. Its so tough, and I myself (along with lots of other experienced CX riders) start drinking electrolyte mix in the morning even if its a hot day, and still eat again an hour before a race after the 3-hour prior meal. Its honestly so much, but works for many.

My best advice is to practice nutrition before key, hard workouts to see how you feel, whats working, what feels like too much, and when your good performance is correlated with calories. Keep a journal and see what works!

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I always eat a clif bar or as ivy said something like a PB&j about an hour before a race.
“No diets or worrying about extra calories on race day” is my motto.

I do the same thing for every race. Doesn’t matter if it’s a CX, XC, Marathon XC, or 65 mile Gravel Race.

I leave so I can get to my race an hour before the start. This can be 2 to 3 hours before my start time.

First I stop at a Wawa and grab a bagel with egg, bacon, and cheese, a hash brown, and a 6 pack of Tastycake chocolate donuts. I also grab a 16 ounce can of Coca Cola.

I down all the things I bought as fast as I can during my drive. Once I get to the venue, I register and get my set up my bike. I try to do a pathetic warm up and about 15 minutes before my start I down a sleeve of Clif Bloks and take a couple swigs of water.

So… it looks I’m doing everything wrong. I eat real food (rice) about 3hrs before the race and than nothing until 10min before warming up when I have a gel and then gel 5min before the start… I was told to not to eat between 2hrs and warming up to avoid rising blood sugar levels and insulin raction…

You won’t get an insulin reaction if start exercising withing 15 mins of taking in your gel so your timing seems about right, similar to what I do. Normally I have a bottle with sugar and during the warmup/pre ride, go change and pin numbers etc, take a gel to the line and plain water and then toss the bottle at the start line to retrieve later

I have changed up what I am doing this year a bit (eating more) and so far it seems to be working well. I’m not finding myself feeling empty in the last part of races. My races are 60 mins and I am usually finishing around 65-66 minute mark.

Listening to the US XC nationals podcast made me question that I was maybe fuelling too little as it seemed like all the pro MTB athletes eat a TON before and during the ~1.5 hour race and I ate very little prior to a 60-70 min CX race and nothing during. I added a bit more carb focused lunch and an extra bottle of SIS Go from last year.
It’s enough that I don’t feel an energy dip after 45-60 minutes and haven’t had any stomach issues so far.

I usually race around 2-3 pm for context.

Breakfast: Carb focused but ‘normal breakfast’ with some fats (avocado, etc)
Mid morning Snack of whatever is handy.
Lunch 2-3 hours pre race: White rice, 2 eggs, and olive oil and soy sauce.
Coffee on the drive to the venue: (2 hours prior)
During Warm Up (from 1 hour to 30 mins pre race): I try finish 1 bottle of SIS GO and have a gel 10-15 minutes before the start.

I’m by no means a pro but this seems to allow me to perform at my best.

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I don’t think your rubbish results are a result of poor fueling unless you’re having some weird reaction to the carb drink you’re ingesting prior to the start of the race.

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I’m well aware of why my results are rubbish, and wasnt trying to blame my fueling routine, however if there was a chance that it was holding me back any, I would like to rectify it. (I had concerns that my body was trying to digest the food when I needed it to work in other ways).

I could have structured that sentence better!

I raced this past weekend and tried a different approach, in a bid to find what works for me; so I ate 3 hours out as before (big bowl of rice & soy sauce), then 1 hour before race start I had half a pb&j bagal. No carb drinks and no gel on the line. I had the best race out of the four I have had this year. Felt alert and as strong as I could be. However, after the race and for several hours after I feet absolutely exhausted, even eating soon after the race. Next race I will try eating a little more at the hour mark. They say not to have any food over 15 minutes from exercise but the warm-up is part of the exercise i guess so will see how it goes.
Thanks to everyone that has contributed, hopefully it will help others as well.