Principles of Athlete's Fueling: What to eat before and after a workout?
Fueling your body right is key to sustaining your performance and facilitating recovery. Fueling means how you fuel your body around workouts. Basically anything you eat 1 hour prior, during, and 1-2 hours after your workouts is considered a fuel. What to eat when?
1. What to eat BEFORE a workout
Unless you are aiming for a fasted workout (benefits of which we will discuss in future articles), you always want to add some calories about an hour or two in advance. Depending on the intensity of such workout, this could be more balanced between carbs and protein, or be carb heavy when you aim to break those local KOMs that day. Nevertheless, the one main rule applies - focus on quality and try to avoid snacking on a Snickers bar. :)
Carb heavy or with protein? Depends on intensity
With a lower intensity workout, aim for:
- Clif Bars, Clif Builders or Clif Nut Butter Bars (most convenient)
- Skratch Bars
- or blend a super pure Puori Protein PW1 with a banana (our ideal choice)
- and sip on one bottle of NUUN or SOS low carb hydration
With a higher intensity workout or a race, aim for:
- Clif BLOKS
- Skratch Energy Chews
- Maurten Gels or other gels
- and add a bottle of Skratch Hydration Mix or low carb hydration, depending on how hard are you planning to go
- Oh, and do not forget about coffee
Fuel DURING wourkouts (for training longer than 60-90 mins)
The goal here is to maintain glycogen stores in your body to support your exercise. Go ahead and skip fueling if your workout is shorter than 60 minutes. You can add a bottle of Skratch Hydration Mix or Maurten 160 to get some carbohydrates if you feel you need those extra calories.
Should you eat during a workout? If so, what?
In higher intensity workouts and workouts longer than 60-90 minutes, you will most likely need to add carbs. You can mix things up and go for Clif Bars, Skratch Bars or Rice cakes, Clif BLOKS, Skratch Energy Chews, Gels, and carbohydrate drinks such as Skratch Hydration Mix and Superfuel Drink or Maurten. Either way, always have some low-carb hydration at hand, whether it is Nuun, SOS or similar high quality hydration. Especially in hot weather and during indoor workouts, your electrolyte needs are much higher than normal. Replace those electrolytes whenever you can, it will carry over to your recovery and sleep.
The longer / harder the workout the more carbs needed
Aim to get about 40-80g of carbs per hour, depending on the intensity and length of your workouts. The rule of thumb is: the longer and harder the workout, the more carbs per hour you need. If it is a 4hour easy spin on the bike, 40-50g should be fine, but if it is 4 hours with some intervals thrown in, then 70-80g are more appropriate. For example, Clif Bloks have about 45g of carbs per packet.
3. What to eat AFTER a workout as an endurance athlete
Throwing in some protein and carbs immediately after a workout (before you are able to get home and have real food) is an imperative if you're serious about succeeding as an athlete!
Shake it up right after a training
Protein is especially important to aid muscle recovery and lower your cortisol levels. We will pay more attention to protein in a separate post. For now, your key information is to have a high protein shake right after your workout (I personally love a scoop and a half of Puori PW1 Vanilla, blended with organic almond butter and some frozen banana and blueberries).
If you cannot have a shake because you are on the go, grab at least a Clif Builders Bar or a normal Clif Bar. They both have a good protein ratio. Also try to rehydrate slowly with water or low carb electrolyte mix. Aim for at least 250-400 kcal right after workout. Then follow up with a real meal in an hour or so after.
If you had an extremely hard workout (in length or intensity or both), then you have a perfect companion in the Skratch Recovery Drink which gives you a load of high quality carbohydrate and protein.
“Never ever skip fuel. Your body will thank you and your performance will improve. And the older you are, unfortunately, the more important this gets.”
Nutrition and fueling is a science in its own right. We have not even touched the importance of supplements, nuances of recovery and sleep, and many other key areas. We will explore all its corners in our blogs and newsletters, so make sure you subscribe here.
Until then, try to incorporate these basics in your daily routine, and make sure you have enough calories, electrolytes and high quality foods in your system as you go for big things.