© Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool

How I fuel: Evie Richards

The British cyclist on learning how she overcame chronic under-fuelling and her love of Jamie Oliver.
Written by Howard Calvert
Evie Richards has learned plenty of lessons about fuelling and nutrition on her seemingly unstoppable journey to the pinnacle of cross-country mountain biking and cyclo-cross.
Evie has acknowledged that she used to struggle with eating the right things, and this not only led to a major dip in her cycling performance but her periods stopping. “I went through a stage where I was really under fuelled, and it just never ends well,” she says. “You always think it will make you faster and it doesn't – it's always a negative thing.”
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She began working with nutritionist Renee McGregor, and the result was a huge difference to her training and her performance in the saddle. “Nutrition is overlooked by a lot of people, but for me it’s so important. I feel like now I know when I'm hungry and what my body wants. It's quite easy now, but it was quite a task when I started working with Renee.”
Here, the reigning XCO MTB World Champion and two-time World Cup winner shares her day on a plate and what she eats when she's not training…

What do you eat on an average day of training?

Evie used to ride for five hours without taking any food or gels
© Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool
For breakfast I’ll have oats, almond butter, banana and berries, and coffee. I love coffee, not for the caffeine, I love the process of making it. I normally have an Americano with oat milk. I eat mostly veggie, so for lunch today I had quinoa, chickpeas and a big chopped salad. If I have another ride in the afternoon I might have a hot cross bun before I go out and then I don't have to fuel as much while I'm on the bike.
There were many times I had to get someone to pick me up because I’d emptied myself so much I physically couldn't pedal
Dinner will be something like a chickpea curry. I like Jamie Oliver’s recipes, so it's normally from one of his books. Before bed, I’ll have Greek yoghurt and fruit, and if I've had a hard day on the bike, I'll add some bran flakes for extra carbs.

How do you fuel yourself while riding?

In the past, I wouldn't fuel at all. I'd go out for five hours and I wouldn’t take anything, and if I did take something I’d feel like I’d been defeated. There were many times I had to get someone to pick me up because I’d emptied myself so much I physically couldn't pedal. I don't get to that stage anymore. When I'm riding, I either make my own bars, banana bread or flapjacks. Sometimes I use gels, especially when I'm doing [high intensity] efforts.

How do you use Red Bull in your training?

Evie fuels up on a can of Red Bull mid-ride
© Patrik Lundin / Red Bull Content Pool
Red Bull is a good way for me to get fuel in. When I’m doing [high intensity] efforts, the last thing I want to do is eat solid food, so liquid-form is always better for me. Also, it works well in winter – when you’ve got gloves on it's easy to have a Red Bull!

What about recovery after training?

When I get in I have a glass of milk. Again, that's something I’ve got into the habit of. It's easy, it rehydrates you, gives you some protein and starts your recovery.

So what were the changes that Renee made to your diet?

The first one was fuelling while riding. And also the recovery straight after. Those are really important, because that's when your hormones can start to unbalance if you're putting so much stress on your body from completely emptying yourself. Before, I was quite particular about what I'd eat – I wouldn't eat anything white, which makes things hard when you're travelling and there might only be white rice, and I wouldn’t eat any sugars, even in fruit. So she changed my way of thinking to "well, you're burning so many carbs you need to replace them and sometimes sugar is the way you need to do it". Renee's a wealth of knowledge – she's been great.

How do you fuel yourself on a race day?

Recovery is part of Evie's nutrition strategy
© Bartek Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool
Two days before race day I’ll concentrate on fuelling well with good carbs, because when you get to race day it's too late to suddenly eat loads of carbs. I don't like feeling full when I'm going into the race, so normally I have coconut rice pudding for breakfast, and then I have a Red Bull during my warm-up, and during the race I have SiS Beta Fuel, and maybe an SiS gel. It's been the same for the past two or three years, and it's the same for cyclo-cross, so I have a good routine. I'm normally sick of rice pudding by the end of World Cup trips!

What's your all-time favourite meal?

I like a pizza with good dough. We have Friday night pizza in our house, with sourdough from the local deli and Dad's got a pizza oven, which we do outside – even in the snow. I like a margarita – when the dough is that good you don't want to ruin it with too many toppings.

Are you much of a dessert fan?

Yeah, I like desserts. I usually only have them at special occasions, and when I do have them, I go for the most chocolatey, sickly thing so that I don't eat too much – otherwise I'll just keep going.

And what would you cook us if we were coming around for a fancy meal?

I’d do a barbecue with loads of salads. I love making amazing salads, so I’d do a huge table of salads. I don’t eat an awful lot of meat myself, so I’d probably do fish on the barbecue.
What can you learn from Evie Richards?