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Preparation and nutrition for the Everesting Challenge: Here's how!

Everest Challenge Nutrition

The mega trend in cycling: Everesting

Once to the moon and back – a (mostly) unfulfilled dream of mankind. It seems almost as impossible as climbing Mount Everest by bike. With your own muscle power and without outside help. 

And yet: More and more cyclists are trying to fulfill this dream. In order to meet the enormous physical demands, the so-called Everesting Challenge involves the Preparation and the right nutrition or food are the be-all and end-all.

The challenges of everesting

At first, the 8848 meters of altitude are just a number. However, if you compare this with over 5,000 meters of altitude in the Ötztal Cycling Marathon or 4,000 to 5,000 meters of altitude in typical king’s stages of the Tour de France, it quickly becomes clear: it’s not quite such a simple matter.

In addition, there are also certain specifications: The altitude meters are to be conquered on a single ascent by riding up and down, electric motors, slipstream or wheel changes are not allowed. However, food may of course be taken from the outside.

In principle, there are no limits to the duration. However, most cyclists do the whole thing on a road bike on a steep track to get the elevation gain as quickly as possible.

In the spring of 2020, the previously freshly set record for almost 9000 meters of completed altitude fell to well under 8 hours of riding time: Keegan Swenson in 7:40h set in May 20020 in Park City/USA

And based on nutritional principles of this article, Frederik Böna set a world record in Double Everesting in April 2021. The MoN athlete covered the almost 17,700 meters of altitude in 23 hours and 26 minutes.

Preparation and nutrition – this is what matters in the Everesting Challenge

Physiologically, of course, “good climbing ability” is required, defined, for example, by a high continuous power output relative to body weight, a high individual aerobic/anaerobic threshold power output again relative to body weight, and a high level of endurance and strength.

You can find a lot of information on how to lay the right foundation for this in our article on basic endurance training with tips from top endurance coach Dan Lorang.

This is how high the carbohydrate consumption is

We assume a well-trained male cyclist. Weighing 70kg, aerobic/anaerobic threshold at approximately 320 watts (just under 4.6 watts/kg), maximal oxygen uptake at 72ml/min/kg and lactate formation rate of 0.45 mmol/sec. 

This corresponds to a value for a good all-rounder, “real” mountain riders or Grand Tour aspirants are somewhat lower, sprinters usually significantly higher; the lactate formation rate can be calculated, for example, from maximum oxygen uptake and threshold power or by special sprint tests. Among other things, it is a good measure of carbohydrate consumption and is an important variable in endeavors such as “Everesting”, as lower carbohydrate consumption is beneficial during long climbs.

Insights into how this lactate formation rate looks like for professional athletes like Laura Philipp, and how they adapt their nutrition to it, you can get HERE.

If this athlete would cover the ascent in the range of the aerobic/anaerobic threshold, the mountain would be accordingly steep and the ride would take place under optimal conditions, in principle a world record would be possible (VAM 1360-1380m/h, thus roughly calculated 6.5h ascent and 1h descent, thus 6.5h x 1360 HM/h = 8840 HM in 7.5h). But this is impossible for our athlete.

In the aerobic/anaerobic threshold range, our athlete’s carbohydrate consumption is about 280g/hr. Even with optimally filled glycogen stores (400g in muscles) and perfect nutrition (90g carbohydrates/h), the “fuel”, i.e. the convertible amount of carbohydrates, is not sufficient to be able to ride so fast for so long.

So, in purely mathematical terms, carbohydrate consumption at this high pace would be in the range of 1820g, which is not something that can be taken in via diet and stores. It becomes clear how important the topic of nutrition and food is in the Everesting Challenge (and in endurance sports in general).

So what pace would be realistic for our athlete?

In principle, choose a pace where carbohydrate intake and carbohydrate availability are roughly balanced. To some extent, the athlete can still live off his or her own glycogen reserves. 

So, assuming a carbohydrate turnover pace of about 125-130g/h, our athlete would be at about 265-270 watts target pace, with 70kg body weight and a correspondingly steep hill at a VAM of about 1090 HM/h. Target time would thus be under optimal conditions, optimal catering and fast descents at about 9.5h. 

Whether the calculated performance can be maintained over such a long period is, of course, another matter. Of course, it depends not only on physiological factors but also on the will to persevere. In principle, however, and with appropriate preparation, it seems possible.

What could an optimal diet and nutrition look like?

In glycogen loading, on the one hand, the goal is to fill the muscle glycogen stores as much as possible while avoiding excessive water retention in the tissues so as not to end up with a higher body weight at the start.

The following has proven to be a useful approach:

At regular intervals of about 3 hours, about 1 to 1.5g of carbohydrates/kg body weight are ingested at each meal during the last two days before the event, so about 90g in our example. 

With 6 meals per day, this corresponds to about 540g. With low carbohydrate consumption during reduced training on the last two days before Everesting, the glycogen stores should thus be well filled.

Excessive amounts of fiber, fat and protein should be avoided, and foods that are difficult to digest are not recommended. For example, soaked fine oatmeal cooked with water and a little salt, raisins and bananas, or basmati rice cooked with carrots and a little organic vegetable broth. Boiled potatoes are also highly recommended.

Small amounts of fat and protein (small portion of nuts, a little butter or olive oil, 1 soft egg, small portion of fish or meat) have a favorable effect in this context and not too far from the usual diet.

Read more about how to fill your carbohydrate stores before a competition HERE.

Liquid food during Everesting

During exercise, primarily “liquid” carbohydrates are recommended because a precise carbohydrate composition can be maintained, which is what makes it possible to absorb such large amounts of carbohydrates in the first place. This prevents digestive problems and subsequent drops in performance. Drinks like POWER CARB can be easily ingested in a dosage of up to 90g/500ml of liquid and provide physiological amounts of easily absorbable minerals that counteract possible problems caused by muscular discomfort.

Why minerals are important for you as an athlete, we tell you HERE.

Recommended for our athlete are 4 to 5 servings of 90 g of POWER CARB.

The remainder of the carbohydrate requirement of just under 900g can be covered by more diluted carbohydrate drinks, for example, FAST CARB in a dosage of 40g carbohydrates/500ml. 

Combined and, used cautiously at this high load, over solid food – for example, the PORRIDGE BAR. This provides well-tolerated carbohydrates and also high-quality, plant-based protein sources.

Effective catering as an example:

5 x 500ml Power Carb = 450g carbohydrates
8 x 500ml Fast Carb = 320g carbohydrates
3 Porridge Bars = 150g carbohydrates

= 920g carbohydrates!

 Voilà – have fun cycling! 😉 

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