How to the pros prepare for racing season?

In conversation with Stephanie Scheirlynck, nutritionist for Team Lidl-Trek


Valerio Cinelli - Equipe Enervit

We caught up with Stephanie Scheirlynck, nutritionist for Team Lidl Trek, to find out how the pros are preparing for the start of the racing season after the winter period.

Team Lidl-Trek 2024

We’ve been the team's Official Nutrition Partner for some time, and this has forged a relationship of mutual exchange between our experts and the technical staff, which has allowed us to work with the pros to develop innovative products and targeted intake strategies to support their performance, both in racing and training.

Equipe: How do professional athletes alter their nutrition to achieve their ideal weight?

S.S.: Our athletes slowly begin to reduce weight and fat mass in the period leading up to the race season by creating a "caloric deficit" between the amount of energy (expressed in Kcal) that they "spend" in their daily activities compared to that which they intake with food. Indicatively, this deficit translates to about 250-300kcal up to a maximum of 500 fewer Kcal’s per day in order to diminish energy reserves accumulated in the form of fat. What doesn't change is their consistently high quality of training, in which they take care of supplementation before, during, and after each session. Some sessions involve a lower carbohydrate intake, but always with careful monitoring and only if the training session is low intensity.

E.E.: Given what the pros do, are there any tips or suggestions you feel like giving amateurs?

S.S: Yes, there is some advice, although as always, it is best to refer to your nutritionist.
- Eat less than you burn: from 250 to a maximum of 500 fewer kcal per day.
- Use an app (but even a simple notebook will do, ed) that monitors how many calories are consumed during the day. Then you can understand where you can intervene to make different choices. Apps can give us a reference to get an idea of where to "cut back."
- Start by evaluating what you don't really need, such as snacks, cookies, cocktails, sugary or carbonated drinks, alcohol...and figure out what you can cut back on: cheese, sausages, meat, refined grains...while increasing your consumption of fruits and vegetables (in season if possible), and whole grains.
- When you train, always remember to bring everything you need to supplement, from salts to gels to bars. This is to keep the quality of your training high and to avoid being caught in the grip of a hunger that would compel you to eat everything you can get your hands on once you're done.

E.E.: What would you recommend as a type of training? What are some suggested changes for getting in shape to be ready to compete?

S.S.: When you start training again after a break and start building your fitness base, begin with longer sessions at a medium-low pace, which, when combined with a proper nutrition strategy, stimulate the body to use fat and lose weight. Once racing begins, it’s difficult to lose weight and can even be risky. It's better to start the season with your ideal weight, or even a few kilos more (1-2 kg).

E.E.: How much time should be dedicated to changes in training?

S.S.: What I can recommend to those who want to get back in shape is to include some fasting, for example in the morning, so as to stimulate the use of fats, given the scarcity of available carbohydrates. This type of fasting allows you to burn fat if it is done at low intensity. Another strategy could be to incorporate HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) sessions or one long one. In these cases, however, it is advisable to have a good breakfast first, with the right amount of carbohydrates. When you are more fit, then you can afford to lengthen the training session and it will also be easier to maintain your ideal weight.

The most important thing is to adapt your diet to your training. On rest days you consume less energy, so it's good to focus on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and to limit pasta and rice. On the days when you train intensely, you can increase the intake of pasta, rice, and pancakes in addition to sports drinks, bars, and gels that serve to replenish. If you adapt your nutrition strategy according to your scheduled efforts and training, it will be easier to achieve a good state of fitness and recover well.

Equipe Enervit advice:

It’s important to remember that each athlete is different and has his or her own characteristics, idiosyncrasies, and needs, which must be considered both when making ideal choices relative to the different types of training, and for optimal supplementation management before, during, and after training.

It’s essential not to neglect any aspect, starting from the approach to training, which provides not only the use of optimal slow-release carbohydrates, but also of other molecules, such as flavonoids or amino-acids, which contribute to improved sports performance. Proper rehydration must then be taken care of with isotonic solutions of carbohydrates and mineral salts, then structuring an intake strategy during training (especially the most intense sessions) consisting of gels, bars, or drinks with different types of rapidly absorbed carbohydrates, which allow a constant supply of energy to reach the body.

Finally, the all-important recovery phase, containing precise "steps", to which a series of optimal products for each phase is dedicated.

Nutrition also plays a fundamental role in improving performance, in fact, correctly balancing carbohydrates, proteins and fats allows us to better control hunger pangs, in addition to supporting our muscles. Careful attention must be paid to proper distribution of protein in all daily meals, in fact often during breakfast and snacks it’s more difficult to reach the optimal amount. Ready-to-use products with a 40-30-30 balance, which helps achieve a proper diet that tastes good without interfering with our habits, can be used at these times.

The goal is to achieve the correct balance between ourselves and our goals using training, nutrition, and intake as valuable allies.