Fuelling your ride — Q&A with Gareth Winter

Fuelling your ride — Q&A with Gareth Winter

Ahead of the March Hare, we put some of your questions to Team Veloforte member, Gareth Winter, to share his event preparation insights and fuelling wisdom

Why should cyclists care about Veloforte?

GW: That’s an interesting question. The reason I joined Veloforte is because I wholeheartedly back the real food revolution, and no one else creates nutrition products to the Veloforte standard. I think cyclists should care about Veloforte’s message and not just our products: eat real food and natural ingredients — avoid all of the nasties typically found in commercial sports nutrition products.

I've found nutrition to be the most vital pillar to my health — the second being training, and the third recovery. Nothing is more important than the food you eat. The better the quality of your nutrition, the better all aspects of your life become: training, sleep, immune system, recovery, energy levels, body image, brain function, mental health, etc. It all starts with what you eat, and Veloforte products are hand-made from the finest natural ingredients. That’s why I care so much about Veloforte and promote the real-food message — so that others can experience the same benefits that I have.

What Veloforte products do you use most and why?

That’s easy. I adore the Avanti energy bar and the Forza recovery bar. Avanti is my go-to before training, as it tastes fantastic and has 40g of carbs to energise the my first hour of training.

I always carry a packet of Fresco chews when I’m cycling. The zesty-mint freshness opens your airwaves and delights your tastebuds while sending fast-acting carbs to keep your legs spinning. Then, when I get home, I like to blitz a nova recovery shake with frozen bananas and some nut milk for an indulgently thick shake that tastes far too good to be healthy…

What was your biggest success and what do you attribute it to most?

I would say my biggest success to date is taking Rapha’s Manchester to London course record: 354km in 11:43:10. It would have been considerably quicker without a headwind for 95% of the journey...

I’d attribute this success to my commitment. When you do everything within your power to succeed, you arrive at the start line full of self-confidence. Whatever happens happens, but having left no stone unturned in your preparation is very reassuring. Commitment means prioritising your training, nutrition and hydration, rest and recovery, health and wellbeing. This can be as foundational as your fuelling strategy, or as minimal as clipping your toenails the night before, to reduce the possibility of shoe discomfort — the ‘marginal gains’ mindset is highly effective.

In terms of on-bike fuel, I ate homemade date and almond butter balls rolled in cacao nibs and sea salt (not dissimilar to a Veloforte bar). I got through a lot…

What has been your biggest failure and what did you learn from it? 

I kick myself now. It seems so obvious in hindsight. Non-athletic people told me I looked too skinny, and I should “go and eat a burger”, but I dismissed everyone because I was trapped in the mindset of skinny = fast. I told myself they didn’t understand what It takes to be a high functioning athlete.

The truth is, I became drastically underweight in my quest to have a pro-level ‘power to weight ratio’. I put too much emphasis on losing weight and not building power, to the point of becoming powerless. This has taught me to 'fuel and train' and not to 'diet and exercise'. When you focus your energy and attention on performance, you learn to love your body for what it is capable of, not how it looks. Ironically, the image side of things indirectly takes care of itself as you become more powerful, stronger and faster.

What equipment do you use? Any upgrades that made the biggest difference?

I’m going to leave you with my grandads advice to me: “Use the best bib shorts and wheels you can afford.” Good bib shorts with a quality chamois pad will keep you sitting comfortably, while good wheels will roll smooth and true.

My personal advice is to dial in your bike fit. I have learned that 'comfort is speed'. When you optimise the comfort of your position, you're free to focus all of your attention on your effort, and the road in front of you — not on having a stiff neck and shoulders, numb hands, knee pain, or saddle discomfort.

What’s your favourite event you’ve taken part in and why?

I grew up idolising the Tour of Flanders — one of professional cycling's greatest monuments. The race is typically 250km long and has 15–20 cobbled sectors. It’s a one day race, where the greatest cyclists in the world go head to head. So riding the Parcours always feels like a pilgrimage to me.

For people looking to do their first sportive or an 100 mile, what are your top nutrition tips for the day?

I try not to overload beforehand — this can be quite taxing on your digestion and always makes me feel sluggish to start. I like to have a substantial breakfast — typically a bowl of porridge with nuts, fruit and honey — then I eat little and often while on the bike.

One of my favourite things to do is chop up a few mixed Veloforte bars and place them into a zip-lock bag in by back pocket. This way, I have neatly portioned ‘lucky dip’ mouthfuls to enjoy along the ride. I set a reminder on my bike computer to say “eat” every 30 minutes or so, as it’s easy to forget when you get carried away while cycling.

A simple rule is, 'eat before you get hungry' — as if you feel hungry, it is too late. Once you have depleted your energy stores, it takes a long time to recover — so best to top up and avoid the hunger knock AKA 'the bonk.'

Do you fuel on the turbo as well as when outside riding?

I absolutely fuel on the turbo. For me, indoor training is a workout — the place where I go to focus and structure my training. The intensity is much higher indoors, so fuelling becomes even more essential. Out on the road, you can conserve energy by coasting downhill, riding in someone else's slipstream, etc. There is no hiding indoors — you are there to expel energy, not save it. I like fast-acting sugars for intense sessions, such as Veloforte gels or chews — as they sit lightly in my stomach.

What’s your best tip to building endurance for back-to-back riding days? 

Back-to-back days require you to get the basics right. You need to fuel before each ride, top up your energy during, and refuel immediately after — as yesterday informs today, and today informs tomorrow.

Veloforte's recovery shakes, Nova and Vita, provide the optimal combination of post-ride recovery nutrients with a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. The carbs deliver the proteins to your muscles to begin the rebuilding process. The next ingredient is sleep (I find that ear plugs are essential when travelling).

Best place you’ve ridden?

It has to be Tuscany and riding the white roads of the Strade Bianche. I have ridden all across Europe, but Tuscany has won my heart. Coincidentally, it is where Panforte originally comes from, a sweet dessert made from dried fruit, nuts and spices, which is the inspiration behind Veloforte. So I think joining Veloforte must be fate.

How do keep yourself entertained during a 3–5 hour bike ride? Do you listen to music? If so, what kind?

When I ride outdoors, that is my entertainment. However, I regularly take on 2-3 hour indoor sessions, and they certainly need music and podcasts. I usually crank up some Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin when training at intensity. I’ll go for something like the Beatles or Frank Zappa if I am riding endurance pace. Watching The Beatles: Get Back has rekindled my Beatlemania.

Otherwise, I these are my favourite podcasts: The Geraint Thomas Cycling Club, Sigma Sports Presents Matt Stephens Unplugged, The High Performance Podcast (Jake Humpfrey) and Happy Place (Fearne Cotton).

What's your favourite post-ride treat?

I could live off smashed avocado and poached eggs on fresh sourdough toast.I mash my avocado with salt flakes, lemon juice, diced red chillies and shallots, coriander and Thai basil. Heaven.

What's your go-to cheat meal — you can't be healthy all the time right?! 

I love a proper Neapolitan pizza — with a saucy marinara base with buffalo mozzarella and basil. But I think it's the size of the pizza that determines whether it's a cheat meal!