Some time last year I noticed one of my coached athletes in bike class chomping her way through energy drink, gels and bloks in the middle of a 90 minute to 2 hours low-stress easy ride. She had been training hard, recovery was on tap, and she was diligently fueling. Now, the fact she was fueling was a good thing and she has heard me talk about the importance of fueling during and following workouts so she was following orders. However, it made me realize the need to highlight the difference among various training sessions and their specific fueling requirements.
It’s important as endurance athletes that we do a good job with fueling in training and racing, as well as maintaining overall healthy and balanced nutrition. However, we also need to distinguish between the types of workouts and the kind of fuel that is required (if any) in order to be successful in the session. Today’s post is focused on pre-training, as well as lower intensity sessions.
If you are completing a race or a very high intensity training session, you may well need to draw on some engineered food, such as gels, blocks or chews to provide the necessary fuel. Carbohydrates are important. They are a macronutrient and need to be present to help our bodies utilize the other macronutrients (fat and protein) in our daily life. With this said, our bodies should not be sugar factories and we should recognize that we have ample opportunity to use fat and protein as fuel sources in lower intensity and endurance rides (in the presence of a little carbohydrate).
It starts with breakfast! If you are heading out on a smooth endurance ride or a lower-intensity recuperation ride, then ensure you have a higher fat and protein pre-ride breakfast – eggs, avocado, coconut oil and even bacon! It is worthwhile adding some carbohydrate into the mix, with fruit, potatoes, etc. These slower release fuels can be utilized throughout lower intensity workouts, as your energy demands are lower. Even during the ride, using protein and fat (in combination with a little carbohydrate) is more than fine. You can use real food and some examples might include eggs, sushi, coconut balls, sushi rice with egg and jerky, trail mix and nut-based energy bars. Proper hydration continues to be important.
For workouts less than 60 minutes (or 90 minutes for athletes who recently had a full breakfast and where intensity is low) we only need hydration. There is no need to take in calories during the session but it does remain important to refuel with protein and carbohydrate following the session. Recovery remains critical. I am simply removing your sweet tooth one pedal-stroke at a time!