Australian pro cyclist Nick Schultz has been riding in the pro peloton since 2016. A natural climber, Nick has been consistently successful as a domestique in supporting his team leader to win major races (Tour of the Alps), as well as finishing in the top 10 general classification himself on multiple occasions (Herald Sun Tour, Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali, Tour of Norway). In 2013 aged just 19, Nick's pursuit of his racing dream saw him swap Brisbane for the mountains of France and Italy where he picked up his first world tour contract and joined Orica-Scott (now BikeExchange-Jaco) and moved to Spain.
“It wasn't until I started perodising my carbs that I started to see how having zero strategy impacted my racing, I could associate almost all the inconsistencies in my Grand Tours to poor nutrition”
How the world of nutrition changed
During a brief break from his busy schedule, we caught up with Nick to chat about the world of cycling and how Carb Coding has changed the way he looks at his nutrition. As Nick reminisces about the start of his career, he smiles to himself “when I first turned pro, it was still a very old school culture - your carbs were pasta and protein was chicken - and that was that, it was very basic and not actually thought out around what we were actually doing”. When asked how his nutrition changed over the years, he gets excited; “My nutrition has changed MASSIVELY!! - I think getting my nutrition dialed is the single biggest enhancement in performance throughout my career. Every step I make in nutrition, I almost see a direct correlation with performance.”
Nick recalls the struggle he faced as a young cyclist: “I can think back to the first grand tours I did and I’d have these inexplicable bad days - I had no idea why, I just thought it was GT racing. It wasn’t until I started perodising my carbs that I started to see how having [previously] zero strategy impacted my racing, I could associate almost all the inconsistencies in my Grand Tours to poor nutrition.”. Nick recalls how his focus changed from just getting food onboard to a more considered approach: “I started looking at, ok what was the output today? What do I need to put back in the tank? And what does tomorrow look like? That's a very recent way to approach nutrition, and its created a lot of consistency in my performance”
How Nick fuels his training
During our conversation, Nick talked about adopting a “fuel for the work required” approach to his nutrition around training and racing. This means changing how Nick thinks about the amount of food he needs (especially carbs). Like many athletes Nick’s fueling used to be about the session ahead, now it is about focusing on that 72 hour block, making sure he is recovered from yesterday’s session, prepared for today’s training and already thinking about his recovery and fuelling strategy for tomorrows session. By doing this, Nick ensures his body has the right amount of fuel to hit his training goals but isn’t over-fuelled as this is suboptimal for training adaptations and allows him to maintain an optimal body composition, which is very important in a sport like cycling.
Putting this into practice, Nick makes simple but meaningful changes to his diet that allow him to alter his carbohydrate intake in the same way that Carb Coding does in the hexis platform. “For breakfast, I’ll often have a pretty similar breakfast, for smaller days, I’d have a small amount of oats - I’m a creature of habit. I like that [oats] to start the day. I’d add more yoghurt and fruit to increase the portion size [and] make it look good. But on bigger days, I’ll probably double the portion of oats to get the carbs I need for training.”
Light days, hard days and rest days.
To get the most out of his nutrition Nick thinks about the type, time and intensity of his training for each day and how this affects his energy needs. Thinking about the specifics of training allows Nick to really dial in the types of foods and, importantly, the amounts of food that his body needs to make the most out of his training. On easier days when his training is lower intensity and has less energy cost Nick will have fewer carbs while still ensuring he is getting enough protein. This is a smart way to approach training because having too many carbs can reduce the adaptive response that can occur from training, but also having a lot more food and energy than you need can lead to an increase in weight.
“During an easy day or recovery ride, I won’t take any food with me, I might stop for a coffee, but not fuelling during the ride - and having a pretty light lunch after - an omelette on a slice of bread, something like that.”
When Nick’s training is intense and requires a big energy output, he fuels up so he can hit his goals for the training (e.g. completing threshold efforts or going for 5 - 6h) and then makes sure he is refuelling to start the recovery process as soon as possible: “If I’m REALLY cooked, I’ll be tucking into my first bowl of cereal before I get into the shower” he states, “Generally, my focus will be around having some eggs with some bread or bagel if it’s been a big day I’ll follow that with some yoghurt and fruit and cereal if needed.”
By Carb Coding his meals and making each day’s nutrition specific to the training he is doing, Nick gives his body exactly what it needs to train smart, adapt effectively, and recover quickly so he can continue to perform at the highest level in the pro peloton.
Nick’s training is fuelled differently depending on the type, intensity and duration of training he has on each day. Day 1 consists of 3 hours hard training which will have a large calorie requirement, and because the intensity is going to be high his body will need carbs to keep the quality of training high. Day 2 Nick still has 2h of training and so still needs fuel to complete the training, but the intensity is lower and so his body will be able to burn more fat during training, as such the amount of carbs he needs is lower. Day 3 is a recovery day, because Nick’s only training is 30min of yoga, his energy requirements are much lower than the previous 2 days, and his body will need much less carbs. Nick’s meals change depending on what his body needs each day, and this is what allows Nick to continue to train, adapt and perform at the highest level.
Take a look at the numbers behind Bob Jungels' 60km solo breakaway at stage 9 of the 2022 Tour de France. Feel that something is holding you back from reaching your potential, or just looking to optimise how you fuel your body? Like Nick you can unlock that higher gear by investing in your performance with a hexis membership. Find out more.