Dialing In Your Own Nutrition Plan
This training module will take you through a detailed look at fueling for performance.
The Completion Level of Your Training.
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!
Cold Hard Facts
Where Energy Comes From
- The body is always pulling from 3 sources for fuel:
• Stored Fat (~60,000 cal)
• Stored Muscle Glycogen (1200-2400 cal)
• Blood Glucose (Sugar) – Varies
- At lower intensities, the body is better able to convert fat stores to fuel
- At higher intensities, the body prefers the more readily available nutrient, carbohydrate, from glycogen or blood glucose
- If the blood stream is saturated with glucose, the body will naturally rely more on this before attempting to pull from stored fat or muscle glycogen
- If you aren’t fed appropriately, the body can pull from your muscles for energy as well (not good!)
The Average Joe and Jane
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”
The Bonk – A Hypothetical Scenario
– 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!
How Should I Fuel My Rides/Events?
Step 1: Determine Training Intensity
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.
Step 2: Determine Duration and Calculate Calories Needed
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
Step 3: Adjust for External Conditions
All of the following things can increase the overall intensity of a ride:
– 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.)
Tips For Avoiding The BONK
- Become more efficient at utilizing fat as fuel
• Minimize carb consumption on lower intensity rides
• Gradually push out volume and then intensity
• Best done during the “off-season”
- Begin eating/drinking early and on a set schedule (i.e. food every 30-45 minutes) depending on your hourly needs
• Helps maintain normal glucose levels
- Efforts under 60 to 90 minutes may not require any calorie intake
• Hydration, meaning fluid and electrolyte replacement, is likely still necessary, depending on effort and external conditions.
Fuel Types and Examples
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:
- Fruit – Bananas are the most popular
- Bars – The most common solid food among cyclists
- Pickles – Will get you out of a cramping scenario quick!
- Lots of other options
Coach Dale’s Solid Foods of Choice
- Fig Bars
Coach Bryant’s Solid Foods of Choice
- Kale (kidding….sort of)
- Sticky Rice Bars (from The Feed Zone Portables Book)
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:
- Gu™ Gels (Coach Dale’s pick)
- Hammer Nutrition™ Gels
- Boom Nutrition™ Gels
- Clif™ Shot Blocks
- Gu™ Chomps
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.
Hydration – We are talking H2O
Calculate Sweat Rate
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.
Put Your Sweat Rate to Use
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!
Electrolyte Replacement – What Is In those fluids?
– 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.
A Starting Point
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.
Replacement Options and Examples
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:
- Gu™ Brew (Zero Calorie Tablets or Powder)
- Tailwind Powder
- Nuun Tablets – No Calories
- Infinit™ Nutrition Custom Blends
- Scratch Labs™ Hydration Mix
- Hammer™ Heed
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.
- Precision Hydration SweatSalts (most concentrated on the market)
- Succeed™ S-Caps
- SaltStick™ Fast Chews
Most of your fuel sources will also contain electrolytes such as:
- Peanut Butter Twix – Anyone!?
Pre-Event Timing Suggestions
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Pre-Event Fueling Suggestions
- Final pre-event meal should be 2.5-4 hours before the start of the ride. This meal should be anywhere between 400-800 calories, depending on the size of the rider.
- Focus on multiple sources of complex and fast burning carbs, starches, and a little protein for your pre-race meal.
- Avoid simple sugars, and high fat in your pre-race meal.
- Continue to hydrate leading up to event start time, especially if conditions are warm.
- If it’s a longer event, eat something your body processes quickly and contains limited fiber. Bananas are a good place to start. Or snacking on a healthy bar.Examples of pre-race meals:
- Oatmeal with fruit (bananas, berries, etc). Some like a little bit of peanut butter, but this does not work for everyone.
- Bagels with bananas.
- White rice and eggs with fruit on side.
- Pasta with a light sauce.
- Skinless baked potatoes with salt. Avoid mass amounts of dairy.
- Sub sandwich on wheat bread.
- Taco Bell Fresco Menu – Not super ideal for high performance but the point is they have “healthier” options.You may like a combination of all of these, or none may work. The major rule of thumb here is eat foods that are normal to you and avoid the greasy, high fat, high simple sugar options.
Scenario 1 – Easy Skills or Technique Ride
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!
Scenario 2 – Endurance Ride
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
– 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)
Scenario 3 – Hard Rides up to 2 Hours
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.
– 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.
Basics Tips on Fueling Between Rides
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.
- Avoid the junk food and soft drinks.
- Avoid the greasy and fried food – I know, it tastes so good.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables…as in every meal should have fruits and vegetables.
- Make sure you are rehydrating with enough fluid and sodium post ride. Especially if you are going to ride again within the next 12-24 hours.
- Stick with complex carbohydrates over simple carbohydrates whenever possible (potatoes, sweet potatoes, whole grains, etc. Do a google search and you’ll find a thousand lists to pull from.)
- Do your best to minimize highly processed foods.
- Read the ingredient labels – if it sounds like a chemistry experiment and you cannot pronounce the majority of the ingredients, you should probably stay away from it.
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!