Team Sky’s lead nutritionist, Nigel Mitchell, has been fuelling his riders with moreish and highly nutritious rice cakes, the subject of the latest instalment in our The Little Things series. They’re a great addition to any rider’s diet, and in this post you’ll find out how to make your own version of this peloton staple.
Think about what a Grand Tour takes out of a rider. The constant need for concentration, the emotional investment in your and your team’s success, the total physical commitment, the all-encompassing tiredness that comes from racing 3,500km in 20 stages, this all puts riders through the proverbial wringer.
For an absolute measure of what is taken out of a rider, ask a nutritionist. They’ll tell you two quite startling things: 1) A rider can expend 8000kcal in a day at a Grand Tour, which represents about four times the amount of food most people reading this should consume today; and 2) Each rider will drink around 10 litres per day at a Grand Tour. 10 litres – that’s almost enough for a comfortable bath.
(All this, by the way, is part of the reason why at the post-Grand Tour parties it’s the mechanics that end up doing most of the heavy drinking while the riders walk around looking glassy-eyed and vaguely shell shocked.)
Nutrition has developed immeasurably in the past couple of decades, moving form the old cliché of soggy pasta and spoons of nutella to a world of doctoral studies and dedicated meal plans. It has become the cornerstone of a rider’s preparation – without the proper nutrition, training is wasted, as the body can’t meet the demands made of it.
When a rider’s diet isn’t right, all the other parts of his race will fall apart. Nutritionists and trainers use the phrase ‘under performance’, which is a broadly euphemistic term that means the rider suffers needlessly, gets dropped, feels terrible, and maybe abandons.
Team Sky’s lead nutritionist, Nigel Mitchell.
Part of the rice cake’s popularity is that it’s a vehicle for both macro-nutrients (in this case, carbohydrate) and micro-nutrients (all the little things with complex names that your body needs to maintain metabolism). You can load it up with other ingredients, sweet or savoury, although caution in your experiments is advised – our attempts at an egg curry rice cake ended badly. Any ingredients that might compromise the rice cake’s structure, such as nuts and berries, can be incorporated by layering rice on to a baking tray, followed by a layer of the ingredient, followed by another layer of rice and pressing down firmly, making a ‘rice cake sandwich’ that should hold strong.
Here’s the recipe, as developed by nutritionist Nigel Mitchell for Team Sky.
- 500g short grain rice (arborio or pudding rice). Not quick cook, and don’t wash it.
- Cook in a rice cooker with 1 litre of water, two table spoons of granulated sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, vanilla, or nutmeg for flavour.
- Cooking time should be about 20 minutes, making rice that isn’t too soggy. Don’t take the lid off during cooking. Leave the rice to rest for five minutes.
- Add two tablespoons of coconut oil (which, despite it’s name, is a solid substance and not an oil) and 250g of cream cheese – chocolate Philadelphia is a favourite at Team Sky.
- Mix well.
- Lay out on cling film on a baking tray. Fold the cling film over the slab of rice to create a parcel – fold while the rice is still hot so it stays sterile.
- Leave the tray to cool, then put in the fridge overnight.
- The next day, chap the parcel of rice into energy bar-sized chunks. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Do not reheat the rice cakes.