Not getting the nutrition your body needs will hamper your ability to perform. Whatever you want to achieve, the food you eat has a significant role. Getting it right can supercharge you towards where you want to be, make training more enjoyable and lead to a healthier you.
Food matters, we are literally made of what we eat and so each of us should pay attention to what we put in our bodies before, during and after exercise. You might be looking to gain weight, lose weight, build muscle, improve your FTP, s and what constitutes good nutrition will differ from person to person. While we can’t cover all the options here, in this article we will look at how to fuel three Wattbike Hub training sessions and how each needs a different nutritional strategy*, in association with Clif Bar.
This session is one for the time-crunched cyclist. At 28mins and 38TSS the volume and load aren’t too high, but with 30sec efforts at 135% of your FTP and a 1:1 work/rest ratio, your legs will quickly feel the burn, so what should you eat around this session? While hard, this session doesn’t require a lot of energy so there is no need for a big pre-ride meal, in most cases if you have eaten in the 4hr window before this session, you will be fine. That said, higher blood sugar levels can have a positive impact on performance even in sessions as short as this, so for those looking for an edge, or of those who train early and haven’t been able to eat beforehand a small snack of sugary or refined carbs containing around 15-20g of carbohydrate 15 minutes before you start might help.
Your body doesn’t want to be working to digest/break down anything, so choices such as Clif Bloks, fruit juice, raisins or a mashed ripe banana are all good options. If you are tight for time, any of these options could also be consumed during the session. It’s an oddity of sport nutrition that many of the ‘right’ choices are classically thought of as the ‘unhealthy’ ones. Fuelling before this session is also a bigger priority for women than men and there might also be a greater emphasis on protein. Therefore, eating a Clif Bar and a handful of nuts (20g protein) 2hrs before could yield better training & adaption and boost metabolism. Test and see what works for you and obviously, look after the condition of your teeth if eating sugar around training regularly.
This session is a high load session that aims to increase your aerobic capacity by forcing you to work over a sustainable pace (FTP) for moderate length reps - it’s a good way to dig deeper foundations on which to build a higher FTP. The duration is quite long, and load (at 78TSS) is pretty high so while you could get away with poorer fuelling for the 30/30 session, here a rider must pay closer attention to what he or she eats.
No rider should aim to do this session starved and a wholesome carb-based meal 3-4hrs before is a good idea. If time is tight then a Clif Bar two hours before would make sure there is some energy available and support your performance.
Fuelling with a small amount of carbs before the session in the manner described for the 30/30 session could work too and because of the length of the warm-up this could even happen as soon as you jump on the bike.
At the midpoint, a Clif Blok, or gel with 10-20g of carb might also help performance in the second half of the session. For women, days 15-28 of your cycle are characterised by a reduced ability to store carbs so if undertaking this ride in that phase, fuelling during this session rather than relying on energy stores might be even more helpful. However, be sure to take this energy on at the start of the recovery sections so that you aren’t working maximally and trying to eat. Hydration is a factor here, so sip throughout the session and hydrate well afterwards.
44km of 4-11% climbing – a long, tough ride! This type of session drains the energy we store as carbohydrate and for some of us will burn through more than we can store - even if we nail the pre-ride nutrition. Therefore, it is important to fuel during this session, but what you eat depends on the intensity and duration you are riding. If this session is a longer, slower effort, you won’t be burning as much carbohydrate, you’ll rely more on stored fat as an energy source and your body will have the capacity to digest more whole food while you ride. If you are in this group, then nibbling away on a Clif Barover the course of the ride is a viable fuelling option. However, as intensity goes up, your need for carbs goes up while your capacity to digest them goes down. This means that refined or ‘simple’ carbohydrate sources are the way forward. Clif Bloks, gels, sports drinks and ‘real’ food like those mentioned for the 30/30 session may all be helpful as well as savoury options such as pretzels, crackers, or pureed sweet potato.
You should aim for 40-60g of carbohydrate per hour of the ride and make sure to hydrate well as the rate of fluid lost through sweat might be high too. It is thought that 50% of women under-fuel training (20% in men) and this is a great example of a session that would be significantly impacted with higher feeling of exertion and possibly elevated cortisol levels which in turn drive fat storage. Fuelling with healthy wholefoods is a good idea especially around a high load session such as this.
*‘Nutritional strategy’ might sound over complicated and the take home for you should simply be to pay attention to what you eat around training. By just taking a few moments at the start of your day or the night before to think about what you might need will get you most of the way there. On top of this, an understanding of your aims will be helpful in informing your choice too. Fuel well. Ride well.
This blog is written by Clif Bar nutritional ambassador Joel Enoch, an award winning triathlon coach to multiple age-group (AG) World/European Champions & medalists, 9x GB AG triathlete, Scottish Triathlon & Aquathlon AG Champion 2021, 2 x Great Swim/Run winner. @ClifBar #feedyouradventure @joel_enoch (twitter) @tricoachjoel (Instagram)
Please note this article is provided for general educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice or care. The contents of this article are not intended to make health or nutrition claims about Clif Bar & Company products. Always seek the advice of a Doctor or other qualified health provider before beginning any physical fitness or health and nutrition related activity.