Corey Hilliard’s Been Tackling Some Serious Climbs—Here’s How He Fuels

Molly Hurford
·6 min read
Photo credit: Courtesy of Corey Hilliard
Photo credit: Courtesy of Corey Hilliard

From Bicycling

Corey Hilliard has always been faster than your average bike messenger, though he’s known as @CoreyTheCourier on Instagram. Still, the racer has racked up numerous pro wins, including the 2015 fixed gear cyclocross world champion title. He’s also the event organizer of Not So Friendly Laps in Brooklyn, New York, and has recently swapped his slick road tires for knobbies with an eye toward gravel and mountain bike races.

When the 2020 race season—including the Leadville 100 mountain bike race he’d been looking forward to—was canceled, Hilliard had a bit of a mourning period while hunkering down in Brooklyn.

“March, April, and a good chunk of May, I was just sitting on the couch drinking White Claw and eating Oreos. I felt like racing wasn’t going to happen,” he told Bicycling.

But when June rolled around, Hilliard realized that life wouldn’t be returning to normal anytime soon—and that Oreos weren’t making him feel any better.

“I still had all this extra weight I got from my snacking on the couch, and I decided I’d better to do something about it so I’d be ready when it does start back up,” he said. “So, I started doing ridiculous mileage. For the first part of the summer, people were doing all kinds of challenges, which helped me get motivated. I was supposed to do the Leadville 100, but they canceled it and created a 100,000-foot climbing challenge. And there was the Everest challenge. Suddenly, I had to do a bunch of climbing. I was going over to do Bear Mountain repeats and hill repeats in Morristown, New Jersey. I was just doing all kinds of climbing.”

Fueling all of those 100+ mile efforts—not to mention all the elevation climbed—requires serious dedication to eating as well as pedaling. Here, Hilliard breaks down how he shifted from White Claws and Oreos to nutrient-dense, satisfying snacks on and off the bike.

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A Unique Spin on Cereal

I have to really moderate what I eat because I need so many calories, and they have to be simple on the bike, so it’s always a balance of good nutrition and stuff that’s calorically dense.

My new favorite thing to eat for breakfast is frozen blueberries on top of a bowl of Raisin Bran. But the really weird thing here is that dairy doesn’t do good things for my sinuses and breathing, so I try to avoid milk. I was using almond milk at first, but then I got thinking, ‘Who deemed it necessary that I have to have anything milk-related on my cereal?’ So I just start pouring cold water onto my Raisin Bran and the frozen blueberries just made the water colder. It’s weirdly great. Sometimes I use the Floyd’s of Leadville protein powder, since it’s kind of milky, for big days. I just throw a scoop of that powder on top of the Raisin Bran, add water, and I’m set.

I also have cold coffee first thing in the morning, not because I need it to wake up, but just because it helps activate my digestive system.

On-the-Bike Fueling

On the bike, I just drink water and add Floyd’s of Leadville hydration mix to it. I started out using [Floyd’s] protein powder, and sometimes I would drink that because it had more calories in it and was more sustaining than the hydration mix. I use their energy bars, too.

Here’s the thing: CBD is really good for recovery. But with me doing so many miles and being out on a bicycle so long, eating all those CBD bars was actually making me sleepy. So, I had to cut back on them.

I did fall asleep riding in August on a 240-mile ride—but I knew that eating something with some fat in it, like cheese, would help keep me going, so once that happened, I was able to turn it around. I like to pack two turkey and cheese sandwiches on wheat bread, put them in a little baggie cut in half, and tuck them in my Camelbak pack so they don’t get crushed. One hour into my ride, I’d have an energy bar and the next hour, I’d have half of a sandwich.

Turkey and cheese is just easy, since a lot of the time on long rides, I’m not near any place where I could get anything to eat. Half of the sandwich is just the right portion for what I need to keep the calories coming in, but not get sluggish from my body going into digestion mode as opposed to ‘charging up’ mode.

And then every once in a while, I do a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I realized that I didn’t want to get sick of my turkey and cheese, so I mixed it up, and I’ll have one turkey and cheese and one peanut butter and jelly sandwich some days.

It’s all about the jelly-to-peanut butter ratio though: You have to be careful or it’s a huge mess. Last month, I went to Nebraska to do a gravel grinder, and at one of the checkpoints, they had these mini peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It was nice having something I was already used to, and it’s super easy to find wherever I go.

Nutrient-Dense Salads

Sometimes I bring an extra sandwich for training because I would ride away from the city and then take a train back home, so I’d have a while before I’d be back to make dinner. That snack would satisfy that immediate protein need and hold me over until I could get home and take a shower. Then I’d eat a salad for the rest of the calories, fiber, and it even has water in it, plus all the other nutrients.

I would make a salad with a cheese, some chopped up vegetables, nuts, and anchovies on it. I slice up slice up a head of romaine lettuce, throw on some parmesan cheese, cashews, and almonds, and toss that together, maybe with a bell pepper or whatever I had around—kind of like a deconstructed Caesar salad. It’s easy to prepare and it doesn’t involve cooking.

Frozen Treats

My biggest indulgence is probably a half a gallon of ice cream—something like rocky road, or whatever the most decadent, most calorie-dense option is.

My favorite treat when not having ice cream right now is a frozen banana, frozen fruit, Floyd’s of Leadville vanilla protein powder, and a cold water smoothie immediately after a ride. And when I have time, in Brooklyn, I like to go to Peter Pan bakery in Greenpoint on Manhattan Avenue for donuts and bagels.

Flavored Hydration

Aside from drinking plain water, I get a lemon and then squeeze it into like a glass or a quart of water and then just drink that down. It’s refreshing. Sometimes I even add a couple drops of mint essential oil in it, because even if the water isn’t cold, that mint taste makes it cool in your throat as you drink it. It also soothes your stomach a bit after a long day.

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