Interview | Puck Moonen

Dutch cycling star Puck Moonen has been lighting up the world of cycling since 2015 when she took part in Gent-Wevelgem, the Ronde van Gelderland and the Omloop van de IJsseldelta. The following year Puck was a star in the Tour of Belgium but was forced to retire through injury.

After joining Lotto Soudal Ladies team in 2017, Puck has been an almost permanent fixture in international cycling; we had a few moments with the cycling and social media star to quiz her about her nutrition…

Puck, thank you for taking some time to chat with us, in the weeks before a major competition like the Olympics or similar, a lot of athletes have said they'll eat really healthy, then 24-48 hours out from a race/comp will just eat whatever as it's all about energy and calories at that point: the night before you compete, what are you eating? “The night before a major event I'll eat some vegetables, a piece of lean meat and of course plenty of carbs. My diet doesn't differ too much from when I am not competing, as all of my training already requires a lot of carbs. I do avoid eating the real fatty foods like fries, sausages or mayonnaise”. 

The morning of a race, what sort of meals or food do you go for, if you eat at all? “Pancakes are my favourite, but I perform fine on bread as well. I try to eat as many easily digestible carbs as I can, like white bread and 'normal' wheat pancakes, a little bit of protein and a tiny bit of fat. Usually I eat 1-1.5 hours before the race, as I tend to get hungry pretty quickly even after big meals”.

So after a race, can you eat whatever you like? “I always have a protein/carbohydrate shake within 30 minutes after the finish and I slowly start eating some more carbs in the 30 minutes after that, after I have showered and dressed. Typical things I eat post-race are a sandwich or cold pasta salad, or if I'm really down for it I'll have some McDonalds on the road.

Sometimes I bring a bag of cashews to eat after as well, because they contain a lot of protein and healthy fats. When I arrive home it's usually pretty late already and before bed I'll eat a bowl of yogurt with granola, maybe some sweets as well. I just make sure I do not go to bed hungry and am properly stocked with protein before sleep!” 

Protein shakes are a must on both racedays and the more intensive training rides with intervals
— Puck Moonen

Does your diet change much in the 'off season', or are you fairly consistent throughout the year? “It changes a tad, during the off season in winter I eat slightly more protein and fat. I need to have a little higher fat percentage to train through the cold in winter so I gain some weight which I lose again in spring. I also tend to eat fries on a more frequent base in winter”. 

How important is hydration to an athlete at your level? “It's one of the most important things! Especially in longer and hotter races we drink many many liters of water and isotonic drinks to stay hydrated and refill salts, minerals and some sugar as well. Even during training I avoid getting thirsty”. 

A lot of athletes have spoken about how important sleep is to recovery, do you find the same? “Sleep is so underestimated, once you get into a good rhythm you'll wake up feeling so much more energised. One bad night of sleep can get me completely out of that rhythm and into an entire week of barely sleeping and feeling tired. I value my sleep immensely!”

What does a gym session look like for an athlete like yourself; is it lots of cardio or are weights equally important? “I only do gym during the off season to gain a little more power and explosive strength. I do weighted exercises for the legs and coordination/stability for the rest of the body”.

What recipes do you rely on the most at home? “All recipes I use are my mom's! Most of them contain a combination of meat, vegetables and potatoes”. 

What is your cheat meal? “Fries!”

What are your thoughts on protein shakes and energy gels? Do you rely on them at all?  “Protein shakes are a must on both racedays and the more intensive training rides with intervals. I only take gels during races when I constantly ride at high intensity and burn a lot of sugar. On other days I avoid smashing gels and have some real foods instead during training”.

What sorts of foods/drinks are you having mid-race (if anything)? “I try to drink at least 1 bottle of isotonic each hour and eat a bar every 2 hours. And I have a gel for the last hour or 30 minutes, sometimes earlier when the racing is really intense. I also eat a lot of Haribo during the race, they're easily swallowed and in small portions. I just try to make sure I take in plenty of energy to prevent hitting any walls!”

Is there anything you actively avoid, either because it is bad for you or you don't like it? “Apart from the foods I don't like I don't really avoid anything. Food is fuel so I try to eat efficiently without constricting myself too much from the things I like. I ' cheat' on a pretty regular base, but just make sure it somehow fits my diet/training schedule”.

Is there anything unusual in your gym or kit bag people might not expect? “A bag of Haribo. I take that with me during the race to eat. I also have a massive supply of elastic hairbands because well, us women lose around 30 of those per year per person and there's always someone on the team who's lost theirs and needs to borrow one”.

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