Deciding to climb 8848m on the bike in one ride is no mean feat. Beyond the mental and physical challenge, ensuring that you are well fuelled and hydrated to support your efforts is a key factor in your success. Here’s an insight into the nutrition planning that went behind fuelling an Everesting attempt for me.
I recently tried my first Everesting attempt in Spain. I planned my riding strategy and fuelling strategy to a T. Unfortunately I ran out of daylight hours as I hadn’t planned how insanely cold it was going to be. I had plenty of warm kit with me, but because I started out so cold, each lap took about 10-15 minutes more than I had anticipated. Add in some extra fussing about trying to get a routine in place and take photos of my donkey cheerleaders and before I knew it, sunset had arrived, animals started jumping out onto the road while I was descending and wild boars were walking about. It wasn’t safe to continue alone.
Mentally and physically I was ready and able to continue riding, but I was alone and hadn’t seen another person in over 4 hours, I decided that it wasn’t safe to continue alone in the dark for another 8 hours! I stopped with a respectable 161km, 4675m of climbing. A good days training for sure!
My anticipated riding strategy
I typically would ride for 3 hours before I might have a break on a social spin. Based on previous attempts climbing my hill, I anticipated that it would take me 40-45 minutes to climb and 15 minutes to descent – basically an hour per lap. My planned strategy was to take a 10-15 minute break every 3 laps with 5 breaks in total starting at 6am and finishing at 10pm. So about an hour and a half worth of breaks in total.
Doing the whole ride solo, I drove out in the early hours of the morning parking my car about 500m from the bottom of the climb start. I packed my car with all the food, blankets and fluids I anticipated needing (plus a few extras) so I could be self-sufficient throughout the entire ride.
How I calculated my food requirements for an Everesting attempt
I get hungry on the bike and prefer real food as much as possible. As I knew I would be riding fairly slowly, I aimed for 30-45g of carbohydrate per hour from whole foods. I prioritised savoury foods over sweet, easily digestible foods that I enjoy eating and used a mixture of liquids and solids as top ups. Energy wise I compared my nutritional plan to the energy expenditure over 6 hour long ride for comparison
Each hour I would have some solid food which was typically ever a wrap or a bar, with the higher GI foods in between to avoid overloading with solid food. I rotated between different flavours to avoid flavour fatigue. Sweet potato and hummus at ‘lunch’ REALLY hit the spot. Easy to eat, digest and a nice change from the wraps or sweeter foods.
What I actually ate and drank during my Everesting attempt
- Vegemite quesedilla (2 wraps)
- 2x naked bars
- 750ml water
- 2x chocolate milks
- 2x coconut macaroons
- 1 packet Clif bar margarita shot bloks
- 750ml water
Break 2 (lunch)
- Orange juice 200ml
- 1/2 packet of hummus
- 300g sweet potato
- Vegemite quesedillas
- packet of
- 750ml water + 2x Healthspan elite Electrolyte tablets
- Row of rice crackers (25g)
- 1/2 packet of ham
- 200ml juice
- Margarita pizza quesadillas
What I can improve on next time
Food wise I was fairly consistent with what I had planned to eat. Having plenty of savoury options was a HUGE benefit in this area. Vegemite wraps and margarita pizza wraps hit the spot just right. The only thing I’d probably change next time would be to lower the amount of bread I consumed from wraps, as this did result in a bit of gastrointestinal discomfort.
Fluid wise there is room for improvement! Even though I planned to drink 500-750ml per hour, because of the cold my thirst sensations weren’t triggered meaning that I only drank about a bottle every 3 hours.
Things to consider nutritionally for an Everesting challenge
- Time of day – what kinds of foods will you WANT to eat at 6am.
- Solids vs liquids – can you eat solids on the bike or are liquids and gels more suitable for you?
- Fibre content – it’s easy to overload with fibre!
- Volume of food – A mixture of high and low GI foods will help
- Taste preferences – make sure you have lots of foods that you LIKE to eat. You need to eat a lot.
- Fluid intake – Don’t forget to drink! Especially if it’s cold. Your speed and power will decrease if you get dehydrated
Tips for improving your nutritional intake during an Everesting attempt
- Aim for a minimum of 30-45g of carbohydrate per hour – depending on the speed and intensity
- Have a variety of foods available, sweet and savoury. You never know what you might start craving mid ride!
- To minimise time messing about on breaks, plan your food intake in advance and separate it into different bags for different meal occasions. You want to just grab and go. Alternatively have friends present to literally hand you what you need when you need it!
- Finger food and soft foods that you can eat on the bike and don’t require much effort to open are important. It may be worth pre-opening some bars if the wrapper tends to be difficult (especially in cold weather when wearing gloves).
- Use your Garmin or watch for alerts to remind you eat and drink every 15-20 minutes