Mar 18, 2014 8:00 AM

Author: Emily Riddle

Nutrition plays a key role in attaining peak performance when training for, or competing in, an endurance event. Consuming adequate calories and choosing the proper fuel source before, during, and after your activity can help you perform your best and reduce your recovery time.

Before You Ride

A pre-exercise meal should be consumed 2-4 hours prior to the start of training or competition. Because carbohydrates are the main energy source for the working muscle and the brain, this meal should focus on carbohydrates and contain 2-4 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of bodyweight depending on individual tolerance. It is best to choose familiar foods that are high in carbohydrate, low to moderate in protein, and low in fat.

A pre-exercise lunch example includes a turkey sandwich, a piece of fruit, one serving of pretzels, and one cup of skim milk. A proper pre-exercise meal can help top off the body’s carbohydrate stores, maintain normal blood glucose during exercise, and delay fatigue.

During the Ride

During exercise, adequate carbohydrate consumption helps maintain blood glucose levels and allows the body to continue to use carbohydrate, the preferred fuel, as its fuel source. During events that last between 1 and 2 ½ hours, 30-60 grams of carbohydrate should be consumed every hour. For events lasting longer than 2 ½ hours, up to 90 grams of carbohydrate can be consumed every hour. These carbohydrates may come in the form of solid foods, sports drinks, or sports gels.

Post Ride

After exercise, adequate carbohydrate consumption replenishes carbohydrate stores and prepares athletes for the next exercise session. If the next training event or competition is less than 8 hours away, 1 gram of carbohydrate per kilogram of bodyweight is recommended every hour for the first 4 hours after exercise. However, if the next training event or competition is more than 8 hours away, simply follow daily carbohydrate recommendations.

For athletes participating in high-intensity endurance events, 6-12 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of bodyweight per day are recommended depending the length and intensity of that day’s exercise. Protein is also important after exercise, and 20-30 grams should be consumed within 1 hour post-exercise to aid in muscle recovery. Endurance athletes should aim to consume between 1.2 and 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day.

Emily Riddle

Emily Riddle is a second-year student in the Coordinated Master’s Program in Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Utah. She earned her B.S. in Nutritional Sciences from Penn State University in 2008. While at Penn State, she worked for several years in the Women’s Health and Exercise Lab investigating the role of chronic energy deficiency on bone and reproductive health in active women. Her current research interests include metabolic regulation, adipose biology, and lipid metabolism. Outside of academic work, Emily loves many outdoor pursuits including downhill skiing, canyoneering, expedition caving, backpacking, mountain biking, and climbing.

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