Let's get at it today!
This training module will take you through a detailed look at fueling for performance.
Nutrition is even more individualized than each person's training. Here is what you need to keep in mind:
- Experimentation is key - Use this guide as a means to figuring out what works best for you - We all: • sweat at different rates • convert food to fuel at different rates • possess different levels of stored fuel • burn different amounts of calories per hour during activity.
The truth is, what works for me, or your friend, or some pro may not work for you.
With that, let's learn something!
The average person is able to process around 60g or +/-240 calories per hour of fuel (food and/or drink combo). If totally topped off before a ride, the average person stores around 1800-2000 calories of glycogen (carbs).
During hard efforts: • Your body is likely burning between 600-1000+ calories per hour. • Majority of these calories come from carbohydrates (glucose in the blood stream and stored muscle glycogen) • Limited percentage of your energy is coming from fat sources • Your body is likely burning more energy than it can replace/process with the fuel you eat. This makes it more important to start a ride fueled up. • This running calorie deficit is a main cause of "THE BONK"
- John is only drinking water during a hard 3 hour ride - He is burning 900 calories per hour from stored carbohydrates (muscle glycogen) because he is pushing himself - John had a full dinner the night before and a solid breakfast. He has 1800 calories of stored muscle glycogen available to him - Roughly 2 hours into the ride, the primary fuel source for John has been fully depleted.
THE BONK HAS ARRIVED!
The higher the intensity, the more calories you will burn per hour. On the easy side of the spectrum, cycling generally burns about 600 calories per hour. At higher intensities, calories burned easily reaches 800-1000 per hour.
If you are going out for a 3 hour easy ride, you can expect to burn 1800-ish calories. Take note, that a 2 hour hard ride can burn more calories (2000-ish), and require more fuel.
When trying to figure out total calories needed to take in during the whole ride, you can estimate that number by using the following equations based on your pre-fueling plan:
Solid dinner and breakfast: (Intensity Value X Duration) - 1800
Early or little dinner but good breakfast: (Intensity Value X Duration) - 1200
Solid dinner but little to no breakfast: (Intensity Value X Duration) - 800
Early or little dinner and little to no breakfast: (Intensity Value X Duration) - 400
Example: Jane had a solid dinner and a solid breakfast the morning before her 3 hour hard ride.
(800 X 3) - 1800 = 600 or roughly 200 calories per hour
All of the following things can increase the overall intensity of a ride:
- Heat - Humidity - Wind - Course Route and Profile - Your buddies that only know how to ride hard....
The hotter it is, the harder your body has to work, which means more calories (and fluids) are required. Riding into a headwind or up a hill will cause a spike in effort, which means more calories will be required. Consuming a lot of calories right before a hard effort will likely lead to stomach issues. Avoid filling up your stomach when you know hard efforts are coming (hills, headwinds, Strava segments, etc.)
Solid foods are the most calorie and nutrition dense fuel choices. The caveat for some is the ability to digest certain solid foods while exercising. Examples of solid foods are:
Coach Dale's Solid Foods of Choice
Coach Bryant's Solid Foods of Choice
Semi solids are what you see in the hands of just about every rider out there. These are mostly in the form of a gel or gummy. Semi solids are very convenient to take with you in your pockets, or attached to your bike. They also offer a lot of flavor options, as well as the addition of caffeine in some flavors. The downside to semi solids is that some people's stomachs don't handle the type of carbohydrate that a certain company uses. More so than any other type of fuel, semi solids should be tested at both lower and higher intensities.
Semi Solid Examples:
There is a lot of research being done right now on using liquid calories as a sole source for calorie replacement. We don't normally recommend going to liquid calories only, but have worked with some people who have done well with it. The big issue with using only liquid calories (specifically for long durations) is the risk of bloating or over hydrating. We have seen people get bored of the flavor during a ride or race, and stop taking in calories because they couldn't stomach anymore. Not ideal.
We generally say get your calories and some electrolytes from solids and semi solids, and get your fluid and the majority of your electrolyte replacement from liquids.
The simplest thing you can do to know how much fluid to need to take in is to know your sweat rate in various conditions. We recommend testing this on both easy and hard workouts, and also in cooler temps, as well as hotter and/or more humid temps. We want to get the balance right so we aren't grossly over or under hydrated. Your body starts to lose cognitive and muscular performance at just 2% loss of fluid so we need to get this right!
So if you haven't already, go follow the Calculate Your Sweat Rate training module to figure this out.
Let's assume your sweat rate test resulted in a need of 24 ounces per hour.
- Under normal temperate conditions, moderate durations, and intensities, simply drink to thirst - For warmer, longer, and/or harder workouts, try drink as close to your sweat rate as possible. No need to drink more than your sweat rate, as that can have ill effects as well. - If your sweat rate exceeds what you can drink, use a more sodium rich sports drink to help retain some extra fluids in the blood. - The best time to drink or fuel is when the course flattens out, the ride slows, is less technical, etc. Mainly when perceived exertion is low. - Some athletes set a timer as a reminder to eat/drink. Most bike computers have this function.
REMEMBER: Sweat rate is dependent on external factors: Heat, humidity, clothing, etc. As heat index increases, so too will your sweat rate. Test this often and under different conditions!
- American College of Sports Medicine recommends replenishing electrolytes during exercise for activity lasting longer than 1 hour. In hotter temps, activity of less than 60 minutes should involve some sort of electrolyte replacement. - Sodium is the most important electrolyte to replace, potassium in smaller amounts, calcium, and magnesium in trace amounts. - Research has shown sodium loss is highly individual: 400-2000 mg/L of sweat (32 oz). This number can be tested via a Precision Hydration Sweat Sodium Concentration Test. If you would like to get tested, just give us a shout.
Sodium: Shoot for 300-500mg per hour to start (consult a doctor first if you have been told to ease off the sodium). If you end up having cramps or signs of dehydration, increase your hourly intake by 50-100mg at a time. Cramping is NOT always from dehydration. It can be from fatigue, as well as super hydration, so make sure you are taking in the right amount of fluid, as well as sodium. Many endurance formula drinks can provide upwards of 300-500mg of sodium in one 16oz bottle. Most store bought brands (Powerade, Gatorade) provide about 190mg in one 16 oz bottle. Based on the average athlete losing 700-800mg/L (based on our own testing), the average drink on the market is fairly poor at keeping you hydrated.
Potassium: 100-200mg per hour is good for most people. Store bought sports drinks usually provide about 40-50mg per 16 oz bottle. Potassium is found in a lot of solid foods like bananas as well.
Calcium and Magnesium: While needed in trace amounts, there are no specific guidelines for these electrolytes. Just make sure you are getting some in your fuel and/or hydration sources. And be sure you are getting these electrolytes in your daily nutrition.
There are a million options out there. What really counts is what your stomach can handle, and what delivers the amount of electrolyte YOU need. You can also consider ease of carrying more in there when you are making your decisions.
The CA Coaches choose Precision Hydration brand products. Why? Because they use all natural ingredients, no extra colors, and other junk. They also offer multiple strengths, with the top 2 strengths being 2 and 3 times stronger than the average drink on the market. Coach D and B-Fun both tested over 1000mg/L of sodium loss so they need something much stronger than the average drink out there. And because we have a great partnership with the guys at PH. They are at the forefront of hydration science so why wouldn't we listen? It's kept Coach D out of an another ER.
The majority of the off-the-shelf options are filled with sugar and actually pretty low in sodium for the average athlete. Below are some good options we have used in the past.
Other Good Options:
Sodium and Electrolyte Tabs
These are used by a lot of riders to get the extra sodium and potassium they can't get from the combined food and sports drink they take in.
Most of your fuel sources will also contain electrolytes such as:
Click to enlarge the slide
Duration: 30 - 90 minutes Intensity: 0-3 out of 10 RPE, Z1/2 efforts General Fueling Plan: - Nutrition: None needed IF you have eaten regular meals and snacks throughout the day. Let's say in the last 3-4 hours. - Fluids: None necessary, but base this off of sweat rate. Doesn't mean don't take any!
Enjoy the cruise!
Duration: 90 min to 3+ hours Intensity: 3-6 out of 10 RPE, Z2/3 efforts General Fueling Plan: - Eat a balanced meal around 1-2 hours before (digestion rate will determine this) - Consume around 100 calories every 30 minutes of different sources of carbohydrates Fluids: - Low or no calorie sports drink, unless you prefer to get your carbs from sports drinks - Total fluid ounces based off sweat rate Electrolytes: If using a sport drink, you should be good. If it’s really hot, increase electrolytes consumption (tablets or with your food you’re eating)
Duration: 45 -120 minutes Intensity: 8-10 out of 10 RPE General Fueling Plan: - This will vary among individuals, many require no fuel since enough may be stored in the body. Experiment consuming 200-250 cal’s per hour (food+drink cal’s) of quick burning fuel. (Gels, Energy bars, Lara Bars, Bananas, Boiled Potatoes with salt, etc.) - Note: Higher fiber food and/or too much sugar concentration may lead to stomach issues. Experiment with what works for you. Test different foods during high intensity training to see what works and then use that during races and other hard events. Fluids: - Sports drink (for fuel and electrolytes) or water - Amount based off sweat rate Electrolytes: Range varies based on external factors and individual needs/sweat rates. Likely need 400+ mg sodium per hour, 100-200mg per hour of potassium, and calcium/magnesium in trace amounts.
What you put into your body plays a HUGE ROLE in your performance. Garbage in, garbage out. On the same wavelength, if you don't eat enough to fuel the work you are doing, you will constantly under perform. Check our basic tips on the next section.
If you want more info on day to day nutrition, fueling your rides, fueling for recovery, or any other aspect of fueling your body, let us know on the Members Only Facebook Group!