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World Champ Catharine Pendrel on Nutrition: There’s Nothing Wrong with a Little Indulgence

by Sandra Walter

July 20, 2012 – With the London 2012 Olympic Games only a week away, Pedal caught up with Canada’s top female mountain-bike racer, Catharine Pendrel of the Luna Pro Team, and favourite to win gold in London on August 11. It was only natural that we quizzed Pendrel, an Elite athlete backed by a nutrition company, about how she fuels her World-Championship-winning body. As always, her answers are down to earth and they illustrate that a complicated or strict diet is not necessarily vital to high performance – she can have her cake and eat it too!

What is your recovery regimen after a hard workout or race?
Catharine Pendrel: I end my hard rides or races with a 20-minute recovery spin to help clear my legs, then I focus on getting in some recovery food right away (within 30 minutes). After a hard workout, you want to ensure you are consuming a protein-carb blend to restore your glycogen reserves and to starting rebuilding the muscles. After a race, it’s usually a mint Clif Builder’s bar, and at home, roasted veggies with toasted almonds over a bed of rice is one of my favourites. Then stretch, shower and put my feet up for a bit.

What’s your favourite Luna Bar flavour?
CP: Chocolate-dipped coconut.

What do you eat for breakfast before a race?
CP: Oatmeal with cinnamon, berries, nuts and seeds.

How many hours before the race do you eat?
CP: Usually three to four and then a strawberry Clif Shot with a 1/2 shot of caffeine 15 minutes before the start.

What’s your favourite post-race dinner?
CP: Luna always celebrates with a team dinner, no matter how the day goes. I love going out for Indian or a nice salmon dish with the team.

Does the weather affect how you fuel?
CP: Less the weather than the duration or intensity of the event. The higher the intensity, the faster you burn through your glycogen stores, so you need more immediate fuel sources such as gels. For longer events, my food might contain a bit more fat and protein to carry me through the day. In the heat, you need to be very conscientious of your hydration, making sure you have some electrolytes in your drink.

What do you eat during your race and how often?
CP: My mountain-bike races are typically only 1.5 hours now, so one Clif Shot in the race at the midpoint as well as my electrolyte drink are enough to fuel me to the finish. I try to finish at least 3/4 of a 500ml bottle each 20-minute lap. Don’t wait till you’ve bonked to eat or drink, and try your race food during a hard training day to make sure it works for you.

Do you have a specific nutrition plan in the days leading up to your race?
CP: Not really. I always try to eat healthy balanced meals so that I have optimal fuel for training and recovery, so more of the same. I do typically go with a simpler carb with my dinner the night before
the race – pasta or rice. It could be a curry or a pesto pasta with veggies and some protein.

Have you always paid close attention to your diet?
CP: [Laughs] No. I am blessed with a high metabolism! Food and cooking are fun. I am surrounded by so many good influences that healthy food just looks and tastes better than unhealthy stuff. I get cravings for salad rather than for greasy food! It is way more exciting to make a colourful savoury dish than to grab something pre-packaged. That being said, chocolate always looks amazing! I guess that’s because it’s good for you.

When you treat yourself, what is your indulgence of choice?
CP: Muffins and chocolate-covered almonds. In moderation, there’s nothing wrong with a little indulgence.

Thanks for your insight on nutrition and best of luck at the Games!
CP: Thank you.

1 Comments For This Post

  1. Ben Aroundo, ON, Canada says:

    We have “educated” dietitians in Canada and some actually are connected to the National Cycling Team. Those are the people who should be asked about “what and when” concerning cycling and nutrition. Unfortunately cyclist like the general public are bombarded by advertisers who push their particular type of cycling Mcfood and only guess on how to feed properly. Misinformation can cost you a race.

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