Tour of Sufferlandria 2015: Nutrition for Time Crunched Athletes

One our biggest selling items this year has been our new nutrition guide for the high-intensity/low-volume 'time crunched' athlete. Called 'Eating to Suffer,' the focus is on maximising your 'Return on Suffering' through nutrition. We asked the author, Alan McCubbin, to share his thoughts on how best to approach the Tour of Sufferlandria.  

The Tour of Sufferlandria – Eating your way to Honour, Glory & Victory

by Alan McCubbin – Next Level Nutrition

So you’ve committed to the Tour of Sufferlandria. Nine days, nine brutal stages through the agony and misery of Sufferlandria. Sure, you’ve done Sufferfest workouts before. You may have even strung a few together over the week. But are you prepared for the brutality of stage racing in your torture chamber? And not just to cruise your way through to the lava snow of Mt Sufferlandria, but for your legs to do some serious damage to your poor bike and trainer, not the other way around? It’s going to take a lot of watts, a lot of Sufferlandrian Holy Water, and a lot of Suffering. And decent nutrition. Back in October 2014 we launched Eating to Suffer, our nutrition guide for getting the most out of the high intensity/low volume training lifestyle. Here we will provide you with some insights into this approach, as well as some tips for preparing each day during the Tour of Sufferlandria. The aim is not to reduce your Suffering (a disgraceful thought), but to maximise your Return on Suffering (RoS), the amount of watts you can put out for any given level of agony.


Requirements of stage racing

Maximising performance in a one-off Sufferfest video can be summarised fairly simply: Adequate fuel (carbohydrate) to maximise your power in all those high intensity intervals + adequate fluid and carbs during the session if it’s long enough to need a top up. What this translates into depends on the length and intensity of the session. 

  • Longer session? More carbs the day before and during.
  • Shorter session (shorter - but not easy - there’s no “easy” day in this Tour)? A bit less will suffice. Eating to Suffer includes a guide with suggested amounts of carbs the day before and during each of the Sufferfest training videos, as well as tables that translate this quantity into examples of food servings.

As for fluid: for the duration of Sufferfest training videos it really doesn’t need to be any more complicated than 'drink if you’re thirsty.' Severe dehydration isn’t going to be an issue even after two hours of dedicated Suffering – even if it’s a sauna in your torture chamber. Drinking as little or as much as your thirst dictates will be sufficient to optimise your RoS. Just make sure you have enough fluid available to meet those needs. That could be as little as 100mL an hour if your torture chamber is in the Arctic Circle, or as much as a litre an hour if you’re Suffering in the tropics. So that’s all well and good for a one-off session, but the key to stage racing is the ability to back up your performances from one day to the next until, on the final day of racing, you show the world why only Sufferlandrians dare to take on the lava snow.

There’s 3 things that you’ll need to pay special attention to during the ToS, especially in the first few hours after each stage:

  • Carbohydrate for the following stage – if the next stage is a big one (Stages 2, 8 and 9 in particular) then you’ll need to start refuelling with carbs pretty soon after the previous stage. Having a meal or snack ready to go within the first hour after the stage is always a good idea to get things going, then continue to eat plenty of carbs for the remainder of the day. This is not so crucial on the other stages because the duration is shorter. You’ll still need carbs for maximal RoS, but the amount required is less and for most people can be achieved through their normal diet (provided it’s not low-carb/high-fat). Again, Eating to Suffer has more detail about specific quantities to eat the day before each of the Sufferfest videos. But for those unsure, high-carb foods include breads, cereals, pasta and rice, fruit, starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn, milk and yoghurt, and processed foods made with any combination of starch and/or sugar.
  • Protein for recovery – Following a Sufferfest workout, we need protein. Firstly to repair the damage to the muscle fibers inflicted by your glorious Suffering. Secondly, after each training session our body undergoes a series of training adaptations in order to make us fitter and stronger – that’s why we train in the first place (or maybe you just love to Suffer, and we love that about you). Protein is the component of food we need to do this. Aim for a decent serving of protein within the first hour after each stage, then every 4-6 hours over the rest of the day. The quantity required is around 20-25g of protein by serve if it’s from animal foods (meat, fish, chicken, eggs, dairy products and commercial protein products), or 30-40g from plant foods (legumes, tofu and other soy products, some plant-based protein products). 
  • Fluids following the session – You’re going to lose a lot of Sufferlandrian Holy Water during each stage. It’s one of the great pleasures that Sufferlandrians get to experience in life. And as mentioned earlier, there’s no need to replace every drop lost during the stage in order to maximise your RoS – just drink according to thirst. However, several days of this could lead to an ever diminishing level of hydration, ever increasing thirst on each subsequent stage, and a point where the amount of fluid required is beyond what a Sufferlandrian stomach can keep down during the stage. Therefore it’s useful to replace the fluid lost after each stage, in order to start from the same point the next day. You can weigh yourself before and after each stage to measure the un-replaced fluid loss (after accounting for any food eaten or trips to the bathroom – or a lactate inspired vomit). The remaining weight lost is essentially Sufferlandrian Holy Water. 1g of weight lost is 1 mL of Holy Water. Aim to replace 125-150% of the un-replaced Holy Water in the six hours following each stage. In many cases this won’t require anything special, just normal eating and drinking. But for those whom Holy Water flows like a fountain, this may take a bit of effort and planning ahead to have the fluid available.

Other Considerations

There’s a few other considerations that may help to maximise your RoS. If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere then the Tour of Sufferlandria occurs in the peak of summer for you. If your torture chamber is of the non-climate controlled kind then it’s quite possible that your core body temperature will limit your RoS. The elevated core temperature during exercise comes about because you’re producing heat as a side effect of the power plants in your legs making energy faster than minions can shovel coal into a boiler. When the environmental temperature around you is cool and there’s plenty of airflow then it’s easier to dissipate the heat. But if it’s hot and there’s no airflow (as occurs on a stationary trainer), then it’s harder for that heat to escape. Your brain doesn’t like it hot, and the subconscious part will send messages to your muscles to go easier, and to your conscious brain to feel more Suffering. Suffering without maximising power – that’s not good enough, especially when it comes to the Tour.

So how can we keep that walnut in our head happy and all the while carry on producing maximium watts in the heat? Firstly, getting a decent fan in front of you will help. The airflow helps take heat away from your body. Cyclonic head winds won’t slow you on a trainer, but they will keep you cooler. Secondly, you can actually lower you core body temperature prior to the stage, so that there’s more room to move before your brain gets unhappy with your legs. Pre-cooling by having a snow cone, ice slushie or the like just before riding has been shown in studies to improve power output in time trials by more than 1%. And they taste great. More about this in Eating to Suffer.

Another factor that many Sufferlandrians may want to consider is (legal) dietary supplementation to really go to the nth degree of maximising RoS. There’s a few supplements that may help you achieve this, including caffeine, nitrate (beetroot juice), beta-alanine and sodium bicarbonate. Each have distinct pros and cons, and research suggests that the effects are not additive, so it’s important to pick your pill or potion of choice well in advance and stick to it. Looking at the parcours for the Tour of Sufferlandria I’d suggest caffeine or beetroot juice would be the supplement of choice. There’s more info on the exact doses, timing and practical considerations for each supplement in Eating to Suffer.

So that’s about all there is to it. Match your carbs to each stage of the Tour, keep up the protein to recover each day, have ample fluid available (but only drink it if you feel the need), keep cool and pre-cool if it’s summer where you are, and if you really want to truly maximise RoS then there’s a few nutrition supplements to consider. I would say good luck for the Tour, but Sufferlandrians don’t need luck. They make luck through Suffering. For HONOUR, GLORY and VICTORY! See you on the Tour.   

David McQuillen
David McQuillen


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