Diet and nutrition predicatbly plays a huge part in the lives of professional endurance athletes. When it comes to enduro racing, riders face two full days of practice and two full days of racing – a massive physical undertaking that requires perfect fuelling.
EWS: How important is eating properly during race week for you?
ALN: Fuelling for race day actually starts way before the race day itself, so I’d say fuelling during race week is super important. I have a pretty low key relationship with diet and my needs. By that I mean that I don’t really stress my food intake, and I can adapt my diet to the people I’m with or the country I’m in — I think this really helps!
ALN in action at Specialized EWS Zermatt, earlier in the year. Pic: Duncan Philpott
A couple things I do on race week is make sure my water intake is top notch. Dinner portions may be a little bigger than normal since I know that I may be in calorie deficit when practice is done and racing comes around. I usually have trouble eating enough on race days so I eat a bit more leading up to it as a way to counter that. Yes, I still have race day nerves and can barely get my breakfast down morning of race… it’s actually a running gag on the team. I have to wake up earlier because it takes me longer to eat!
Is food and diet something that you've always had an interest in or something that you've developed an interest in as a result of racing?
When I used to race XC, the notion of power/weight was introduced to me and I’ve seen a lot of my friends struggle with their relationship with food. It was a strange weight to carry around and I am not really cut out to limit myself in terms of food… If I want desert, I eat desert! I saw my relationship with food be challenged a couple of times when racing internationally in XC. I didn’t like that. It made me super self-conscious of my body and blurred the line between what was the fuel I needed and what I felt I was allowed to have.
Carbohydrates such as pasta play are a key energy source. Pic: Duncan Philpott
I’ve grown up eating amazing food from my Mom. She cooked so it tasted good and sharing good food was a big part of my life growing up. So I definitely have always liked cooking and what you can do with food when you prepare it with love! It goes in fits and starts though, I could be keen on making a big fancy dinner one day and the next day I ask my boyfriend to whip up something cause I don’t feel like cooking.
One highlight meal from team dinners was in 2019 in Les Orres in France. I made a risotto with Italian rice, parmesan, and speck (smoked prosciutto local to the region of Canazei where we raced the weekend before) and I deglazed it with the grappa I had won on the podium. Then bought some French leeks and gosh it was amazing!
Race day supplies. Pic: Duncan Philpott
Does travel make eating well difficult?
Sometimes, yeah! But honestly, you can always kind of make it work. We always try to have accommodation where we have a kitchen so we can do our hometown classics and feel a bit more at home, which really helps. I enjoy trying the local cuisine when I go to foreign places, I usually get really adventurous only after race day though. Haha!
What do you tend to eat in the run up to a big race weekend?
My diet is pretty simple. On race week I usually watch how much dairy and gluten I’m eating but I don’t heavily limit myself. Cow milk in my coffee although I do like a good oat-cap from time to time, butter, and cheese are in there. I don’t eat red meat like a steak.
I focus on having balanced meals with good ingredients. I also take more care about my lunches during race week, making sure I get a good lunch instead of just a little something on the go. Likely a salad with tuna, chickpeas, or soft boiled egg.
Lunch, consumed amidst practice and racing, is an essential meal. Pic: Duncan Philpott
I think we can make a big impact on the environment with our diets, so I do tend to try to limit animal products. I would want to tell you I have the best environmental-friendly diet, but I don’t. When travelling it’s harder to navigate a diet that’s not really established in your life. At home my diet is more vegetarian than on the road.
What's on the menu the night before and the morning of a race?
Night before we have Tara’s classic chicken pesto pasta because pasta makes you fasta!
It’s short pasta of the chef’s choice, pesto, chicken, peppers, zucchinis or variable veggies, and you can eat LOADS of it. As a team we split cooking duty over the course of the race week but when racing comes around we become useless gopro-watching-non-moving monsters so Tara steps in and cooks for us.
The calm before the storm – fuelling up ahead of EWS Shimano Enduro Tasmania. Pic: Duncan Philpott
The morning of a race is a hard one for me … nothing tastes good at that time. I usually go for a bagel, or maybe an oatmeal if I think I can get it down. If it’s going to be a particularly big race day I try to get an egg in too. Coconut yogurt maybe. UGH! As much as I like food it’s funny how I can’t eat it morning of race day.
And what's your 'go to' after a hard day on the stages?!
CHIPS (can be found internationally)! Gelato if in Italy. We usually have pizza in the pits too. Anything I’m craving really! Treat yo’self!