Your body will first cool itself before it gives you energy. So if you become dehydrated you will feel the energy draining from your system. The trick is to go into your big race with enough water on board on a cellular level that you have ample to keep yourself cool for far longer than the usual 4 to 5 hours of riding.
But of course, there is a catch!
Carrying so much water in your system will make you heavier, and you may feel a bit like the Michelin man. This in turn can make you feel slower, but only initially. Hence why this strategy is only used of long enduro races, not shorter 3 to 4-hour sprints. Bear in mind that being a bit slower in the beginning of a long ride is far better than running out of energy later. This is the difference between the slow finishers and those that finish strong and fast.
The trick is to get as much stored energy in your muscles as possible as well as water in your cells before you race. This is achieved through increased glycogen stores in your muscles. Glycogen not only responsible for immediate available energy, but it also holds three times its volume in water. Bonus!!
So how do you increase your glycogen stores for race day?
The first step is to deplete your current glycogen stores on the 4th and 5th day before your race. This is achieved through strategic exercising and limited carbohydrate intake. The point is to deplete the glycogen stores in your muscles, so when you reintroduce glycogen in the days to follow your muscles will hold on to more than it did previously. Eating: Drop your overall carbohydrate intake, without reducing overall calories, so replace the carbs you cut out with protein. Exercise: Keep exercise sessions short but still push to near exhaustion without causing any muscle soreness. It is very important to train your entire body evenly as only muscles exercised will benefit from the increase in glycogen levels when carbohydrates are re-introduced.
Please note that you will feel tired on the second day of doing this, it’s normal and temporary.
The next step is the fun part, the re-feeding. Eat carbohydrates again. Your body will convert these carbohydrates to glycogen but in higher quantities than before as the muscles are coming out of a depleted state. Eating: It is very important NOT to increase your overall calories when increasing your carbohydrates again. You will need to eat less protein and fat at this point to make up for the increase in carbohydrates.
Drink about 50% MORE water than you would on a normal day. Exercise: Drop the intensity of your training to only very light, even shorter sessions but still working the whole body evenly. We just want to keep moving so joints don’t stiffen up and reaction times are kept quick.
On race day keep your carbohydrate intake high with less focus on protein. All your muscle development work was complete long before now, so the focus is the need for energy. Make sure you have a solid carbohydrate-based breakfast about 2 hours before racing. Keep taking in water right up until you race.