How to Fuel for BMX Racing Motos 1130x600
Training Tips

Do's and Don'ts for BMX Racing Nutrition

How to Fuel for Fast and Furious Efforts in BMX Motos

Road racers have it easy. They roll to the start line once, ride their race, and the first person to the finish line wins. In contrast, BMX racers have to advance through multiple motos to reach the finals, and only then do you have the chance to race for the big win. Each moto is a high-intensity, max-power effort that demands razor-sharp reflexes and spot-on technique. But in the course of a BMX race day, whether it’s at your local track or Grands, you’re going to be at the track for hours and only race a few minutes. What you do between motos is what determines your performance during motos.

To perform at your best in BMX it is absolutely essential to have strong between-moto nutrition and hydration strategies. While it is true that peak power output for sprints is less affected by dehydration and/or low blood sugar than performance in longer cycling efforts, mental acuity and reaction time are diminished by either or both. In practical terms this means dehydration and/or low blood sugar lead to slower starts and more mistakes out on course. Not a winning strategy.

Creating a winning strategy is all about creating positive habits. The power for BMX success comes from stored carbohydrate (glycogen) in muscles. The mental acuity comes from blood sugar feeding the brain. A successful day of BMX racing starts in the days before the race. You don’t necessarily need to carbo-load, but you should consume balanced meals that include carbohydrate, and you want to prioritize rest. Rest and balanced nutrition promote full replenishment of muscle glycogen stores, and full glycogen stores promote faster recovery between motos.

With all of that in mind, here are some nutrition Do’s and Don’ts between your BMX motos:

Drink water and/or sports drink

Even at local races where there might only be 10-15 minutes between motos, consuming fluids between motos is a good idea. Sweating is your body’s primary cooling mechanism, and to avoid overheating it is essential to replace the fluid you lose through sweat. During a shorter local race day plain water is likely all you’ll need. A sports drink containing electrolytes would be a good choice during day-long events with long wait times between motos, especially if you’re going to be waiting outside in warm weather. Carbohydrate-rich sports drinks can be useful, but you have to be careful not to overload your digestive system with too much carbohydrate if what you really want is the fluid. Especially on hot days, it’s advisable to separate consume fluids and calories separately (water + food, or electrolyte drink + food) so you can increase fluid intake in response to increased sweat rate without elevating risk of gastric distress.

Skip the energy drinks

The differences between sports drinks and commercial energy drinks are the amounts of carbohydrate (sugar), electrolytes (primarily sodium), and stimulants (caffeine, taurine, etc.). A sports drink’s ingredients are designed to rapidly move water, carbohydrate, and sodium into your body. Commercial energy drinks often contain so much sugar they need to be diluted in the gut, which is a slower process. Perhaps even more important, commercial energy drinks are loaded with caffeine and other stimulants. While small to moderate amounts of caffeine can improve focus, alertness, and reaction time, large amounts of caffeine lead to nervousness, jitteriness, and nausea. Children and adolescents are more vulnerable to the acute negative effects of caffeine, and caffeine consumption by children and adolescents can increase the risks of negative behavioral and health outcomes in adulthood (Temple, 2009).

Eat a variety of real food

There is no one perfect food to eat between motos. Rather, the optimal foods are ones that work best for you. You want to bring a variety of real foods to the track with you so you have a range of nutrients, flavors, and textures to suit your changing tastes throughout the day. Good choices include bananas, carrots, apples, cheese, nuts, Greek yogurt, pretzels, and cereal/granola bars. Sandwiches are good choices as well, including nut butter & jelly (peanut butter, almond butter, etc.) or turkey and cheese. Having a variety of these types of foods ensures you have carbohydrate, protein, and fat on hand. This is especially important on long race days because the carbohydrate provides high-octane fuel and the fat and protein help you feel satisfied longer.

Skip the concessions stand

Some kids and adolescents can perform well on just about anything, but their choices during race days also help establish positive or negative eating behaviors later in life. Generally speaking, there’s no performance benefit to eating nachos, chili dogs, and other greasy foods before or between motos. Candy bars provide sugar, but there are better ways to get that carbohydrate. If a trip to the concessions stand is part of the fun of race day, that’s fine. It would still be better to save that experience for after the racing is done.

Schedule full meals during long race days

At some of the bigger BMX events, riders may have 4+ hours between motos and be at the track all day. When this is the case, structure your nutrition plan to include full meals 2-3 hours before your next moto, and then consume smaller snacks as necessary up to about 30-60 minutes prior to your start. Consume fluids (water and sports drinks mostly) throughout the day. Full meals are important during all-day race events because they are more calorie and nutrient dense. Snacking all day long is more likely to result in feeling perpetually hungry, because you’re never consuming enough calories or volume to feel comfortably satisfied.

Don’t get superstitious

There is no perfect food or drink you absolutely need to perform at your best. The best athletes are those who can adapt to their environment and still perform when it counts. The flavor of your sports drink doesn’t affect your performance on the track. There’s nothing lucky about eating some particular food before a moto. The danger of believing your performance depends on a specific food, drink, or eating behavior is that you’re setting yourself up for a crisis when that food, drink, or situation isn’t available.

Most of all, have fun and go fast!


Temple, Jennifer L. "Caffeine Use in Children: What We Know, What We Have Left to Learn, and Why We Should Worry." Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 33.6 (2009): 793-806.