Balancing Energy Blood Glucose Levels

Ask Dr. Rafa: Balancing Energy needs & Blood Glucose Levels

30 December 2014

What do Team Novo Nordisk riders eat before, during and after training or racing?

ASK DR. RAFA: Balancing Energy needs & Blood Glucose Levels

Team Novo Nordisk Medical Director, Dr. Rafael Castol, has the answers.

Well thanks to everyone who asked about what the guys eat, including Mark, Jake and Graham from the UK, and Tristan from Australia. I also had quite a few questions specifically about the use of energy gels, powders, drinks.

Like other endurance athletes, Team Novo Nordisk riders need a nutritious, well-balanced diet.

But they need to carefully balance food to keep their blood glucose in target range.

Specifically what they eat varies among each rider individually, but also according to the intensity, the type and the duration and amount of exercise they’ll be engaging in.

So, let’s say, taking a 5 hour race as an example:

Pre-race, let’s say the breakfast, it needs to be a high carbohydrate breakfast made up of complex grains or cereals and you can add also a portion of protein. If they need to ride to the start of the race, rather than travel in the team bus, sometimes they will need an extra 15g of carbohydrates.  But, if their blood glucose levels are below target, they will need to eat something fast, such as a carbohydrate bar or an energy gel to keep themselves into that target before the start of the race.

Now the first 2 hours of the race are mainly solid food, about 80% carbohydrate / 20% protein, mixed with hydration that can be either electrolytes and salts and carbohydrates.

Then from 2 -- 4hrs into the race, mainly they’ll rely on energy bars, fruit bars, mixed carbohydrate and electrolyte drinks. Obviously if their sugars are above target they will need to avoid eating these type of carbohydrates and just maybe have a protein bar or something that will control their hunger but keeps them in target as well.

And then the last hour, when their efforts are quite intense, and obviously they are fuelling and their storage is quite consumed they need to rely on faster acting energy such as energy chews, jelly beans, glucose tablets, mixed carbohydrate  and electrolyte drinks as well.

For the full speed and the sprint, mainly at end or for the last km of a mountain stage, fast acting energy gels, liquids, mixed carbohydrate and electrolyte drinks are also a good option.

Then immediately after they cross the finish line and the race is done, the riders drink a carbohydrate drink, which is really high in carbohydrate, about 70g of carbohydrate in 1 ½ litres water.

This is to take advantage of the glycogenic window and recover the glycogen depleted storage in the muscles and in their liver in the first hour after the race has finished.

Now, in the hours afterwards, depending on where the race finishes, they will either eat a carbohydrate / protein mix meal or a protein shake to help them repair the muscle damage that is produced after a long race.

And finally in dinner, usually dinner tends to be more lower in carbohydrates because they have already replenished their glycogen stores with the post-race recovery nutrition block. So, they tend to keep dinner very low in carbohydrates to avoid this rise in blood glucose and it tends to be more focused on protein for muscle repair.

It’s also important to keep hydrated, specifically when blood glucose levels are above target, as they can lead to increase the risk of dehydration.

Remember that every rider is different and they have to learn to make nutrition and insulin adjustments individually to make sure they stay in target in the ideal blood glucose range for them to perform optimally.


Like other endurance athletes, Team Novo Nordisk riders need a nutritious, well-balanced diet. But they need to carefully balance food to keep their blood glucose in target range.

Share this story: