Fueling for Success, five tips to keep in mind

Posted by Ella Hall on Jul 7th 2023

Fueling for Success, five tips to keep in mind

When you’re exercising it’s important that you are also fueling your body for the effort. The longer you go, the more important that fuel becomes. Regardless of whether you are a top-level World Cup racer, or someone who is just excited about moving outside, the principle of proper nutrition remains the same.

Recently I’ve been inspired to attempt some longer trail running races and through trial and error have learned just how much of a game-changer eating and drinking the right things at the right time can be. Last summer a friend convinced me to sign up for a 55k race with over 10,000ft of vertical gain, needless to say it ended up being a long day out and I had to keep reminding myself to re-fuel. Eating enough was the only thing that got me through the day.

Or perhaps you’ve been watching the Tour de France, which kicked off July 1, and noticed all the bottles and gels the riders consume. With the athletes racing between four to six hours nearly every day for three weeks, nutrition is critical for both performance and recovery. A nutritionist at PowerBar told Cycling Weekly that the riders need to eat an average of 5,000-plus calories per stage. That’s a lot of gels.

While for most of us our summer workouts won’t be quite as extreme, it’s still important to think about nutrition. In simplified terms, as you exercise your body is converting glucose (gained from carbohydrates) into cellular energy which allows your muscle cells to contract and power your effort. But the longer you go, the less stored muscle glycogen you have to call upon, and if it is not replenished this can lead to a “bonk.” Within the realm of exercise nutrition there is a lot of variability, some of it will be personal preference, some will depend on the type of activity and some will depend on the duration and/or intensity of the workout. With those caveats, here are five nutrition tips to keep in mind while exercising this summer.

Eat a snack or light meal beforehand, this will set you up for success from the outset of your workout. Experiment with what works best for you, eating too much might make you feel sluggish and eating too little won’t give you the energy you need. Focus on carbohydrates for the pre-workout snack and feel free to tweak it to your liking.

Remember to drink plenty of water both during and after your workout. Especially as temperatures or humidity increases, you may need more overall per hour. Post-workout you might also consider different ways to stay hydrated like eating high water content fruits and veggies such as watermelon or cucumbers.

For workouts longer than 90 minutes aim to consume 200-300 calories per hour, 16-20 oz of fluid and 250-500 mg sodium. What form that nutrition takes will depend on the individual, some people prefer gels, some prefer bars, there is no right or wrong! Foods like bananas, raisins or even potatoes can be a great option as well.

Replenish sodium and electrolytes, you will lose more sodium in the heat through sweat so make sure you’re replacing what is lost through drink mixes during and after exercise.

Hit the window of opportunity after your workout. The broad consensus within the field of exercise nutrition is that you should aim to eat within 30-60 minutes of finishing exercise. During this time, your body is more sensitive to insulin and therefore is able to replace diminished muscle glycogen stores.

There’s no need to get overly scientific about it. The goal is to feel good and enjoy exercise and nutrition can be an important part of that. Keep these tips in mind as you head out for a workout and see what works best for you!