What does Graham Briggs eat to fuel himself through the gruelling UK criterium races? He takes us through his nutrition on a typical day when racing late in the evening.
After returning to Rapha-Condor-JLT for the 2014 season, Briggs has already won Round Two of the Tour Series in Barrow, and claimed podium positions at another two events. Juggling two of these intense crit races a week, usually along with a race at the weekend, means riders need to be on top of their game.
Fuelling their bodies correctly is one way to ensure they are ready and able to race from the gun each time. We spoke to Briggs after the Canary Wharf round of the Tour Series, where the sprinter and crit specialist came in 20th, helping his team win overall on the night and maintain their series lead.
We had breakfast at 7.30am; I had poached eggs on toast and a coffee. We headed out on an hour’s easy training ride at about 10.30am.
Eggs are a great food to have for breakfast, as the protein in them is the best quality you can find in pretty much any food. It helps fill you up for longer, sustaining your energy levels as well as helping repair and build muscles.
The steady and sustained energy levels stop any surge in blood sugar or insulin levels, so no energy ‘crash’ occurs when blood sugar levels drop again suddenly. This means you don’t suddenly get hungry, and it is a great food to help maintain weight or aid weight loss. The white/brown toast adds some carbohydrates to breakfast.
At about one o’clock I had some plain white rice and chicken for lunch. Throughout the day I kept sipping on water to keep my hydration levels topped up.
The rice is a good source of carbohydrates for Briggs’s lunch; however, white rice is a refined carbohydrate, which means its energy is released quickly. White rice is preferable to brown rice on race days as it is more easily digested and has less fibre than brown rice so is unlikely to cause stomach problems. As a lean protein source, chicken is a great meat to have pre-race.
“Riders don’t want anything creamy or fatty that could provoke issues during the race”
With little fat content compared to red meats, it ensures Briggs gets essential proteins that build and repair tissues in the body. Without the addition of sauces, Briggs keeps the meal simple — this is important before fast-paced intense racing like the Tour Series. Riders don’t want anything creamy or fatty that could provoke stomach issues during the race.
I had dinner between 4pm and 4.30pm; I ate a small omelette with some couscous.
It’s an early dinner for Briggs as his race is around the time he’d normally eat. Having a solid meal that will fuel him ready for the race, but not sit too heavily on his stomach, is vital.
He eats a good three hours beforehand to ensure everything is fully digested come the start of the race. The eggs in the omelette give that steady, consistent release of energy that guarantees Briggs stays fuelled all the way through until the race starts.
The couscous is the perfect source of carbohydrates to make sure he is fuelled ready for racing. The complex carbohydrates in couscous mean energy is once again released slowly.
After 10 minutes of warming up for the race, at around 6.45pm, I take an SiS GO Isotonic gel. Then at the start line I have an SiS GO + Caffeine gel and a 600ml bottle GO Electrolyte drink during the race.
By taking on specifically designed foods, the aim is to get useable energy straight into the body. Briggs has a caffeine gel just before the start to give him the extra kick needed for the fast racing. Caffeine is the most widely used stimulant in sport and offers the biggest performance benefits of a legal substance. However, having his caffeine gel on the start line may not be best for Briggs’s performance.
Research has shown performance improvements in endurance sports can take as much as an hour after ingesting caffeine, so in a race just an hour long, the gel may not kick in until after the race. It’s impressive that Briggs is able to drink a 600ml bottle during such fast-paced racing. This will keep him hydrated during the race, and aid his riding.
Within 20 minutes of finishing I have SiS REGO Rapid Recovery which I grabbed before the presentation. Once I’m back at the hotel after the race, at about 9pm, I have some cereal and milk mixed with SiS REGO Protein Powder to top up on the protein content. Before bed I finally have a 600ml bottle of SiS GO Hydro.
After racing, riders have a very short window to refuel properly to gain the biggest benefits. With podium presentations and drugs testing this can be an issue, but Briggs is careful to get a protein shake into his system quickly. The protein and carbohydrates in REGO Rapid Recovery rebuilds muscle tissue and replenishes energy stores quickly. Briggs then continues to top up on the vital nutrients with more REGO on his cereal, just to ensure he’s fully reloaded his body with carbohydrates and protein.