Motocross and enduro riding are some of the most physically demanding sports out there. Many riders fall short when it comes to meeting the nutritional demands.
It makes sense; planning your nutrition isn’t as sexy or fun as just getting out there and shredding or just plain ole’ sending it.
But think about it - in a race, you’re redlining for anywhere between 35 minutes to 6 hours each day in some enduro or desert events. And spending 3+ hours out on training rides is common. Handling your bike for that long is not only physically demanding, but you also have to stay 100% mentally focused throughout.
Whether you’re riding motocross, enduro racing, rally, desert or just hitting the trails, proper nutrition for dirt bike racing requires replenishing hydration, calories, and minerals for performance, health, and safety.
But you don’t have to take our word for it, here’s what MX superstar Ryan Dungey is burning:
“I wear a heart-rate monitor whenever I train,” says Dungey. “On race day we typically burn 5,000 to 5,500 calories, but on a training day it’s closer to 3,500 to 4,500.”
That’s some serious work! It’s work that requires a careful look at your nutrition. Fortunately, we’ve got your back, and we’ve made dialing in your mx nutrition plan, simple, and straightforward.
There are three main components to proper enduro/desert or mx nutrition - hydration, fuel, and timing.
Hydration is critical for basic human survival, second only to oxygen. And for performance? It’s key. We don’t think we need to remind you to breathe out there (how to breathe is another story - article coming soon), but staying properly hydrated takes a bit more awareness.
Just a 1% drop in body weight due to water loss (sweating) puts you in a state of dehydration. When you’re dehydrated, your body’s ability to perform critical functions diminishes, along with your performance.
Dehydration is bad, but let us introduce you to hypohydration. Yeah, it’s worse.
Hypohydration is when you have a sustained loss of 2% or more of your body weight to water loss. This is when you can really get into trouble both mentally and physically.
When you consider that most of us A) train and race in warmer temps with higher humidity and B) wear a good amount of protective gear, you can see how easily you can slip into this state.
Check out how serious hypohydration is, how easily it occurs, and how to avoid it over here on our blog or just take a look at these key figures:
- 8.3% Loss of Muscular Endurance
- 5.5% Loss of Muscular Strength
- 5.8% Loss of Anaerobic Power
- Higher RPE (Rate Of Perceived Exertion)
For tips and tricks on hydration planning, understanding your sweat rate and more, take a look at this article.
Where hydration makes sure your body’s essential functions are “all systems go,” fuel is the energy that allows your body to really get after it.
But fueling is more than just filling up the tank with whatever calories you have laying around. On a normal day to day basis, having balanced meals (complex carbs, protein and healthy fats) comprised from whole foods is key. Once you are into your activity, moving to simple carbs in liquid or gel form is the best way to keep your energy levels going, see timing below for more info.
In some endurance sports circles, it’s become trendy to head out training in a fasted or semi-fasted/low-glycogen state (ie: you restrict carbs enabling your body rely on fat for fuel.) The problem here is that the concept of “training low” isn’t supported by science as translating to increased performance for the average athlete, it will help certain elite athletes become more fat adapted over time, but it’s a very difficult practice to get right.
Therefore, it’s important to fuel for the work required. Rather than depleting energy stores (muscle and liver glycogen) prior to a workout, you need to top them off. If you want to get the most from your morning workout, breakfast is your friend, but some time to digest is too.
We can hear it now - “But I need to drop a few LBs. I heard that a quick way to do that is to limit my calories before I workout.”
If you are looking to cut weight while working on your moto skills, be careful not to fall too much into a calorie deficit. Low energy availability (LEA) can have detrimental effects on your physical performance and (even worse) your mental clarity which could lead to a crash. Focus on cutting weight super slow and steady - not more than 1.5 to 2 LB per week.
Using a calorie tracking app like MyFitnessPal and tracking your calories can help keep you on the right track to cut some weight while not being detrimental to your performance.
*Side note: Thus far, low-carb and keto diets haven’t been proven to provide any benefit to endurance athletes either, so be wary of fat-heavy, carb-light training. (source)
Starting a ride on a full stomach for most is a recipe for disaster as you’ll likely end up with some unfriendly gastro-intestinal distress (bloating, cramping, heaviness etc.) A better idea is to have a carb-rich, balanced meal about 3-4 hours prior to your session, then move to liquid or gel-based carbs just before.
When prepping for a race, you may want to try carb-loading. Check out this article from Mayo Clinic for info on how increasing your carbs for several days prior to the race can be beneficial.
Even if you’re properly topped off before your ride, it’s still important to hydrate and fuel during. Follow these fueling guidelines to ensure you keep your brain sharp and muscles happy:
Sessions lasting 1 - 2 hours: Consume 30 G carbs per hour
Sessions lasting 2 - 3 hours: Consume 40-60 G carbs per hour
Sessions that last 3+ hours: Consume up to 90 G carbs per hour (starting at the 2.5 hr mark)
*Consuming carbohydrates in excess of these guidelines can lead to day-ending, performance-crushing GI issues. (source)
For hydration, you first need to determine your sweat rate to figure out how many ounces of water you’ll need per hour. You can find instructions for that here.
The good news: you can hydrate and fuel at the same time, using just one product.
Mx nutrition is so important to get right - not only for performance, but for your safety as well. Check out how improper fueling and certain supplements can lead to arm pump here. Most athletes find consuming solid foods while riding, training and/or racing to be difficult. We agree.
That’s why we developed SUSTAIN, our fueling/hydration intra-endurance drink mix launching in August, 2022. SUSTAIN contains a clean and simple mix of natural, organic carbs and electrolytes, without any unnecessary (or even dangerous) “extras.” Put a scoop or two into your water bottles and, just like that, you’re good to go.
Curious about Sustain or wan’t to get 10% off your first order? Join our email newsletter list.
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