Right now, (30000+) cyclists around the globe are preparing for the world’s largest mass timed cycle race: the 42nd Cape Town Cycle Tour. Featuring the most diverse group of cycling enthusiasts gathered in one place, the tour is legendary for its murderous route carved from hills, sweeps and hairpins, as well as for its inspiring views of one the world’s most drop dead gorgeous cities.

For the riders it’s often a life affirming event. And whilst training regimens range from ‘pitch up on the day and hope for the best’ to ‘Olympic level science-inspired’, most participants fall somewhere between these two extremes.

To help separate fad from fact regarding the role of nutrition during training and recovery, and to provide indisputable, evidence-based thinking to cyclists looking to boost their performance, Danone Southern Africa recently collaborated with the Sports Science Institute of South Africa (SSISA) to host a Cycling Masterclass.

Devoted to optimising the health and performance of South Africa’s athletes through the application of science, SSISA consistently produces or has access to the breaking sports science news of the day as well as the finest minds in the business.

Danone is one of the world’s largest ethically minded food and beverage companies, dedicated to bringing health through food to as many people as possible, and committed to inspiring a more health-conscious and sustainable society.

“We partnered with SSISA to help underscore the importance of nutrition and its positive effect on training and performance” says Hendrik Born, GM of Danone Southern Africa. “It’s been a perfect fits.”

The recurring theme throughout the Cycling Masterclass was the value of committed post-training recovery and the role that nutrition plays in the process.  “Recovery is as much part of a training session as sprints, hills or cardio” states Professor Andrew Bosch, Senior Researcher at UCT’s Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine. “It’s not something that should be left to the end of the race – recovery should be an integral part of your every-day training regimen; and it really is a case of what you put in is what you get out. After physical exertion and the resultant physiological stress, nutrition helps to ‘feed’ the all-important muscle recovery process.”

Dr Mike Posthumus, Senior Lecturer at UCT and Head of Sports Performance at SSISA presented his unique take on the subject of optimal training to boost performance: “There is not one endurance training programme that is ‘best’ for a cyclist. The foundation remains the volume of training. Quality sessions such as interval training are essential for boosting performance” he informed cyclists at the Cycling Masterclass. “And when you’re not going hard, you have to learn how to go easy and ‘smell the roses’”. Posthumus is a scientist with massive practical experience on the subject. Overcoming both mental and physical exhaustion, as well as a field of the world’s best, he recently placed first in the 2019 Trans Baviaans – the toughest single stage MTB race in the world. Posthumus firmly believes that “Nutrition is one of the 3 pillars of recovery” and recommends a combination of 20g of protein and adequate carbohydrates immediately after any hard training session.

Danone Southern Africa has partnered with SSISA to produce a food solution aligned with scientific recommendations in nutrition and recovery to support ardent cyclists during training.  According to GM Hendrik Born “SSISA facilitates access to credible experts like Dr Mike Posthumus and Professor Andrew Bosch who are distinguished leaders in sports science.  They reaffirm the message that 20g of good quality protein (containing leucine) and appropriate use of carbohydrate, is ideal to promote muscle recovery post training and enhance performance; this was a key consideration in the development of our DanPRO 20g drinkable yoghurt”. 

UCT’s Bosch, best known for his breakthrough work in the field of pre, during and post-race nutrition, and co-presenter at the Cycling Masterclass is another proponent of dairy-based protein in the recovery stage of training. “There are numerous studies that relate to building muscle protein when protein is eaten after training” he says.

Bosch explained that optimising endurance performance requires a multi-faceted approach. He stated that pre-race carbohydrate loading for trained cyclists requires 10g of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight two days prior to the race. Two to three hours before the start of a race, 50g – 60g of carbohydrates should be consumed. Examples of a high carbohydrate pre-race breakfast include oats, mielie meal and toast. Whilst racing, at least 60g of carbohydrates should be ingested every hour to maintain energy levels. Post-race, and after hard training sessions, 20g of milk-based protein together with 60-80g carbohydrate should be consumed to aid recovery. Bosch also spoke about dietary periodisation techniques, in which training is done on either high or low carbohydrate intake, to evoke specific training responses. However, this was best done under the supervision of an expert. 

There are volumes written on the subject of nutrition and the ‘art and science of recovery’. And both Professor Bosch and Dr Posthumus urge cyclists to investigate for themselves. “Every race and every study uncovers new evidence to support the current science and their thinking. If you’re in doubt, speak to the experts”. But the formula they both urge the (33 000) cyclists about to descend upon the Mother City to follow is a simple one. “Train well, eat well, rest well, recover well” they suggest. “And don’t forget to smell the roses”.