Whitworths CEO Cycling 12 Stages Of The Tour De France - Whitworths

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Whitworths CEO Cycling 12 Stages Of The Tour De France

We have a very exciting start to July as a company, as our CEO, Mark Fairweather takes on the challenge of a lifetime; to cycle 12 stages of the Tour de France! This blog post has been written by Mark to give you an overview of his preparation for the event.

An Introduction From Mark

I thought I would start with a short introduction….

I’m past my midlife crisis, so cycling isn’t a substitute for anything else in life! I just want to enjoy life as I get older, so staying fit and healthy is important.  I also have three wonderful Granddaughters, with whom I would like to spend more time with and be part of their lives as they grow up.

By finding something to focus on in terms of fitness and health, combined with raising money for charity, it keeps me committed to achieving my personal goals as well as helping others and this is why I have set myself the challenge of completing 12 stages of The Tour de France with Le Loop and supporting a great Charity – The William Wates Memorial Trust at the same time.

The William Wates Memorial Trust is a registered charity set up in 1998. The Trust exists to celebrate the life of William Wates (1977- 1996) by supporting projects that help dis-advantaged young people fulfil their potential and stay away from a life of crime.  If you would like to donate to this charity, a link to my fundraising page can be found here  WWMT – Mark Fairweather.

Cycling 12 stages of the Tour de France for fun!

Just like any amateur sports person, to complete 12 stages of the Tour de France there are no shortcuts when it comes to preparation and what I have discovered is the importance of improving my nutrition. I have spent a couple of years training to improve my strength, endurance, and performance and in the early stages of my training I realised I was missing the nutritional fundamentals in my everyday diet.

I didn’t see real progress until I addressed the nutritional requirements I needed to perform as an ‘older’ cyclist. Making changes to what I eat daily has enabled me to deliver sustainable results. Hopefully I will now enjoy my cycling challenge/adventure rather than just endure!

I only started taking cycling more seriously as a hobby during the first COVID lock down, it was then I thought of a longer-term goal with an endurance charity ride. I then had to focus on increasing my training and it was then I really noticed my nutritional deficit.

In discovering what works for me isn’t necessarily good for everyone, but I would point out I’m 59 so most probably I need little more help nutritionally!

As CEO at Whitworths, I have a bias to Whitworths’ amazing, quality products but

I have learned a significant amount from the Team here at Whitworths.  I have also challenged my approach to diet in general, specifically understanding the balance of protein and carbohydrates. I won’t spend too much time on protein but you cannot underestimate this requirement. I did move to a vegetarian diet for nearly nine months and benefitted from this with my general wellbeing, but realised that as a Vegetarian, consuming the quantities of protein I need was very difficult when training for endurance and performance, needing circa 120 grams of protein daily. 

To help with my protein requirements, I find that range of Whitworths Protein by Nature is a great help (20g per serving), as is the range of nuts that I snack on (cashews & Cali. Walnuts).  Dried beans and pulses are good but I found that to consume enough protein, I would be eating them all day! I have had to reverted to include some meat in my diet, combined with some protein powders/shakes. The impact on strength and performance has been transformational, which is great news, but I also needed the endurance and this is where the dried fruit really kicks in.

Through trial and error what have I learned?

For me it’s all about ‘mix’ planning your ride and supporting it with nutrition is fundamental.  I need to consume somewhere between 50 to 80 grams of carbs an hour to deliver the endurance and performance, so how do I approach this?

What To Eat For Cycling Endurance

Breakfast

Before a long ride (70 to 100 miles) I normally start with a two-egg omelette with a little cheese and plenty of salt (Himalia pink slat). I also have some soaked oats (overnight in milk, with pumpkin seeds, chia, and flax seed), high protein yogurt, prunes, flame raisins and honey. I try to have this at least two hours prior to the ride. It sounds a lot and a bit of a mix but it really works!

What I eat while riding (based on a 4 to 6 hour ride)

What I always need to remember is that I will use more fuel (carbs) than I can absorb during the intensity of the ride, especially when climbing. Fuelling is about offsetting that deficit and remember there is always tomorrow!

A mistake I used to make was waiting until I’d been on the bike an hour before I started fuelling with carbohydrate. I thought I would have built up the all the stores beforehand, but what I didn’t understand was that the body uses more than it can possibly take in, so I ended up hitting the wall when I ran out of available carbohydrate stores. So how do I avoid the ‘wall’?

I aim for 20g of carbs every 20 minute and I can have a good mix of snacks to provide that. As I say for me it’s all about mix, so in my back pockets I will carry:

  • 5 apricots (about 40 grams of carbs)
  • 5 dates (about 40 grams of carbs)
  • A handful of raising (my favourite is Whitworths Flame Raisins, I normally have these when I stop, it’s not easy on the bike)
  • I do use gels, a very quick boost but no more than one every two hours
  • I also make the Whitworths recipe for Date and Coconut Flapjacks, which tastes great and is a good slow-releasing energy
  • Rice Cakes, Sky’s recipe but I load them with Raisins

I also understand I need to maintain hydration.  Water is good for transporting nutrients around the body, but you need to include electrolytes, especially sodium. This helps your body retain and use the fluid rather than just passing it through, which is what happens when you just drink pure water.

Some sports drinks combine energy and your electrolytes in one product, which saves you having to carry as much on the bike. I always have these drinks in both bottles, so that it makes things as easy as possible to maintain the fuel.

After the Ride

Once I finish the ride I focus on recovery and the ride I have tomorrow.  I eat within 30 minutes of finishing, regardless of appetite, as your blood is still pumping around the body and your muscles are acting like a sponge trying to absorb as many nutrients as possible.

I aim for 30g of protein and 40g of carbohydrate within that post-workout window. Nuts and dried fruit works great, as it’s a snack not a meal and is just something to replenish the glycogen stores. I’m also a big fan of a recovery drink within 30 minutes, I may double up on nutrition, but it works for me! And don’t forget hydration, and more hydration.

I also have a full meal within a couple of hours. Ideally, again making sure there is protein (30g) and plenty of carbs.  Rice works for me and it also works by adding raisins, dessert is dates with a little honey.

Bring On The Tour De France!

I have learnt a lot about myself and my capability over the last two years, and working with the Team at Whitworths has really helped me understand nutrition and how to fuel myself for my sport and life.  For me it’s been an experience that has helped me get to a good place in terms of fitness and general diet and this approach has helped me lose 10kg in two years.  I now understand it’s more about what you eat for good nutrition and health.

Bring on the Tour!!! Well, 12 stages… and please donate the a fantastic cause: WWMT – Mark Fairweather.