One thing all athletes struggle with is finding that fine balance between eating enough to fuel their bodies through workouts of different intensities and durations, without under eating or overeating. Under eat and your body won't be able to take the strain of the workout. Over eat and you'll negate your hard work.
The truth is, many people over estimate how many calories they need to get through a workout. At a moderate to high intensity, you only go through about 500-900 calories an hour. This includes the calories your body would naturally burn through if you were not exercising.
Workouts Under Two Hours:
MODERATE EXERCISE: In a moderate workout that is under two hours, hydration
is much more important than calories. You should be highly focused on replenishing fluids and your electrolyte stores. If you workout is moderate, you do not have to be as focused on filling up with calories during your workout. You should be more concerned with being calorically fueled going into your workout, and then depending on how your'e feeling, recovering with adequate calories and nutrients.
INTENSE EXERCISE: If your workout is more intense, and you're doing things like multiple sets of 20' LT intervals, you probably want to focus on consuming some carbohydrates between intervals. By the time you get to that last set, having some fresh fuel in your system will probably pay off. During these situations we suggest fueling with carbohydrates that hit your system fast: gels and chews. Make sure you consume them at a steady interval of about every 30 minutes. This will help you avoid a bonk. After your workout, see how you're feeling. Now is the time to use recovery
to repair muscles, rehydrate you completely and replenish your glycogen stores. SiS Rego
are two of our favorites.
Workouts Over Two Hours
Fueling for long rides varies greatly person-to-person. We know some people that can ride for hours on their morning breakfast and a single Rip Van Wafel
, while others go through 2 Pro Bar Meal Bars
and countless Honey Stinger Energy Chews
. The thing that is indisputable is that hydration remains ridiculously important. Dehydration, even the slightest touch of it, will reduce your ability to perform. For this reason, on long rides, carry electrolyte hydration singles
in your pockets along with your food.
What you need in terms of nutrition and hydration also has a lot to do with what you sweat out. Some people sweat more fluid (salt & electrolytes) than calories. While others sweat more calories than fluid. If you sweat calories, you need calories in your bottle, and you need to eat more. The salt sweaters will need to increase the number of electrolytes. Popping two CamelBak Elixir
tables into a bottle could be more beneficial than doubling the carbohydrate content in their bottle.
When it comes to food, things like gels
are straight sugar and your body will burn through them quickly. Once you begin popping gels and chews, you need to sustain this intake of carbs. Bars
are more nutrient dense. They contain the fiber, proteins and fats that will slow down the rate they hit your system, making you feel fuller longer, and also provide more of a steady drip of energy than the rush that comes from gels and chews.
However while bars provide a nice steady source of energy, they also require more fluid to digest, so don't forget to drink when you eat! As you workout, look at the different ingredients that make up your bars. See how you feel when you ingest different amounts of fiber vs fat vs protein. This will help you figure out what type of nutrition gives you the best feel.
Post Workout Recovery:
You don't always need a special recovery drink. GASP! Yes, its true. You need it when you've gone harder than usual, longer than usual, have had back-to-back workout days, or just feel absolutely like crap post-workout. If you like grabbing a recovery drink after you workout, go for it. But don't over do it. Listen to your body, learn how you feel, and then react accordingly. Clif Shot Recovery
has all the protein, carbohydrates, and electrolytes your body needs in 160 calories. If you did some max intervals, this will do the trick. If a recovery drink and a small meal helps you from stuffing your face after a long ride, kudos. If it will keep you from picking at every piece of food all day, do it. Just be mindful of your body, because what it's asking for it what it needs.
Also consider using your hydration mix to help you recover. When you get home, continue drinking. Drop a scoop of Skratch in a bottle, and drink up. In 24 hours your muscle glycogen can repair naturally after an easy to moderate long workout. But if you have already fall victim to dehydration, you will can stay that way and will really feel the effects tomorrow.