Eat your way to success

Renee McGregor and Dominic Irvine explain how the right nutrition can help you last the distance. 

Be Prepared

On 7 May 2015, Charlie Mitchell and Dominic Irvine set a new tandem record by riding the 842.6 miles from Lands’ End to John O’Groats in 45:11:02. Early in their training programme they approached sports nutritionist Renee McGregor, as both riders were struggling to eat on rides of longer than 180 miles and Dominic had a history of being sick on ultra-distance rides.

Fruit and Nut Case

The biggest change was getting Dominic and Charlie to eat proper food on the bike. They settled on sandwiches (try jam, peanut butter or cream cheese as a treat), chunks of fruitcake, sweets, biscuits, nuts, fruit and gels. The food was broken into 30-minute energy portions to total between 60g and 90g of carbs an hour – a handful of raisins is roughly equivalent to half an energy bar. 

This diet provided a mix of slow and fast-release energy. The extra protein in the sandwiches and nuts also helped minimise the breakdown of protein stores, inevitable in endurance events.

Testing, Testing

Dominic overcame his sickness problems by addressing salt losses and increasing the electrolyte level in his drink. He found he could manage the situation by adjusting the salt concentration in his drink. Both riders opted for water with electrolytes; you can do this using electrolyte tablets. They were getting their energy from food, so didn’t use carb drinks. When riding through the night they drank hot coffee and ate porridge, as this was good for the soul and alertness!


We can all learn from Charlie and Dominic’s experience. On rides of over two hours, aim to take in food regularly. Practise with different fuels and methods in training to see what works for you, and add electrolyte to your drink to replace salt lost through sweating. We’ve focused on what the riders ate during the ride, but during training, nutrition intake was tailored to their training week by week, meaning they ate more during heavy training load weeks than during recovery.

Renee McGregor is the author of Training Food and a sports nutritionist and dietician.

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