Posted Mar 18, 2011

A lot of endurance athletes are simultaneously trying to gain fitness and lose a bit of weight during their early-season training. This is a good time to gradually get down to race weight; just remember to provide your body with the nutrients and energy it needs to make the most of your training efforts.

– Pre-ride nutrition: The pre ride/event food should consist primarily of carbohydrates, with a little bit of protein. Carbohydrate is the body’s preferred source of fuel during exercise – especially productive, fitness-building exercise – and adding a little protein will help with feeling full.

– Nutrition during the ride: If your ride or race is going to last longer than an hour, you should consume some carbohydrates, whether it come in the form of sports drinks, bars or gels. The rule of thumb is 30-60 grams per hour (1-2 GU gels); stick to the low end on shorter and easier rides and go toward the upper end during long and very hard workouts.

– Post-ride nutrition: It’s important to replenish that which your body has used during the ride as soon as possible. The best time to consume foods that are high in carbohydrates is within 30-60 minutes after exercise. Some prefer to use a post-ride recovery drink, but either way you should sit down for a meal within about 60 minutes of your ride.

Some cyclists overcompensate for the number of calories they burn on the bike by eating way too much before, during, and after their rides – and throughout the day. If you’re struggling to lose weight, try cutting back on your portions, even the calories you consume on the bike (but not the fluids). Many athletes find they can train just as effectively on fewer calories than they’ve been consuming.

There’s more to having a great start to a new year than nutrition, and I’ll cover some other key topics – mental toughness, prioritization, and your bike itself – in future columns.

Dave McIntosh is a senior coach for Carmichael Training Systems and has been racing road and track bikes in Colorado and around the country for more than 20 years.

For information about CTS coaching, camps, and performance testing, visit the Colorado Springs training facility, , or call 866-355-0645. Dave can be reached at You can read more of Dave’s columns at

© 2011, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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