Daily Nutrition vs Training Nutrition

Next, you need specific fuel immediately before, during, and after training/competing.  This is a great time to determine your goals as an athlete, as your goals should set the course for your training and training nutrition.

If you are training in order to lose weight or just improve cardiovascular fitness, you don’t necessarily need extra calories and carbs during your workout and may do fine just using water.  If, however, you are training to improve as an athlete, with the goal of pushing yourself to new levels during training in order to get better and better, you should pay close attention to “Training Nutrition.”  For you, this is where it can get confusing because the fuel you need for training requires fast digestion and is on the opposite end of the nutrition spectrum from the recommended daily nutrition food choices.

For training, you need:

1)     Pre-training fuel (time a meal 1-3 hours out or a snack 30-90 minutes out to accomplish the following) – Before any training session, it is a good idea to make sure you are hydrated so that you’re not starting in a deficit.  I recommend drinking to fullness 1-2 hours out, and then sipping fluids the last hour before training.  Also, aim to eat/drink 1-4 grams of carbs per kilogram body weight before training.  Your carb choices should be low in fiber (<4 gm fiber total) and high glycemic index .  You can include protein before training, but don’t overdo it and stick with lean sources.  Lastly avoid fatty or fried food and anything you know causes stomach upset.

2)    During-training fuel – During any session lasting more than 60 minutes, you will benefit from replenishing fluid, carbohydrates and electrolytes during the session.  You should aim for 20-32 oz. fluid per hour, 40-60 gm carbohydrates per hour and electrolytes in a balanced solution.  If you want to get more precise with your personal rehydrating plan, weigh yourself before and after a training session, any weight lost is water loss and should be replenished.  If you want to include protein in your during-training eating plan (for example, you may include solids during long training sessions – 3+ hours), keep it to a 4:1 carbohydrate:protein ratio so that the protein does not impede the emptying of your stomach too much.

3)    After-training recovery – After all training sessions, I recommend eating/drinking a recovery snack or meal within 30 minutes of finishing the session.  Include fluid, carbohydrates and protein.  Aim to replenish the fluid lost, 1+ gm of carbs per kg weight, and 10-20 gm protein.

Each day, work to keep your body healthy with consistent meals and snacks made up of healthy food choices.  Then, when training or competing, give your body the fuel it needs to run its best!


Kelli Jennings, RD, runs a company called Apex Nutrition, LLC (www.apexnutritionllc.com/sportsnutrition.html).  Kelli is a Registered Dietitian with a passion for healthy eating, wellness, & sports nutrition. She is a graduate of the University of Northern Colorado and did her residency at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, DC.

You can contact Kelli at kelli@apexnutritionllc.com for more information or to have her work with your nutrition needs.

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  • DB

    Beautiful. Any specific tips for doubles tennis players?

    • http://twitter.com/fuelright Kelli Jennings

      Hi DB, thanks for the question. It’s pretty much the same for tennis – if playing >60 minutes, you’ll benefit from carbs, fluids, and lytes. I recommend aiming for 40+ gm carbs, 20 oz. fluid, and 400 mg sodium (especially in hot/humid weather) throughout each hour. This often means 20 oz. sports drink and 1 carb food such as 1/2-1 energy bar (clif, lara, or a homemade one on this site, etc), or gel (clif, powerbar, etc). The logistics are a bit different than cycling, but the needs are similar. I hope this helps!

  • http://www.blurty.com/users/willis35marsh IKKS DEGRIFFE

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  • VitaminLee

    Sometimes I feel like a fish out of water, so much I still don’t know. This is just the kind of Info that keeps me going.

  • http://bikingtolive.com Bryan

    Wow, great article, great questions. Awesome. I’m an early morning rider and don’t usually eat anything even though my rides are 45 minutes to an hour. I’m going to give your suggestion of juice/water/banana a try to see how it goes.

    I’m a big smoothie fan. Do you have a favorite post-workout smoothie recipe?

    • http://www.apexnutritionllc.com/sportsnutrition.html Kelli, RD

      Hello! I like a smoothie with 4 oz. fat-free plain yogurt, 1 cup frozen berries, 1/2 small banana, 1/2 Tbsp honey, ½ cup fat-free cottage cheese, water/ice as needed (approx. 240 kcals, 42 gms CHO, 18 gms protein). You can make a big batch and keep 2-3 extra servings in the fridge or freezer for a quick recovery snack after a hard workout. If you make a lot for the freezer, just stick a frozen smoothie in the fridge the day before you need it. Take care! Kelli

  • Summer

    Kelli, is there a type of protein that you recommend for athletes to take? I would like to know what I should be eating following my bike ride.

    • http://apexnutritionllc.com/sportsnutrition.html Kelli, RD

      Thanks for the great question! Immediately after the ride, the more bioavailable the protein the better. Whey is very bioavailable, as are the protein in eggs. Whey has been shown to be especially muscle-sparing in research. A whey protein smoothie (with whey powder and/or milk or yogurt) works well, especially if you’ve made it ahead of time (it’s easy to miss the optimal recovery window if you’re unprepared). Also, keep in mind, carbs and fluids are the most important recovery factors, then protein (many times, athletes just go for the protein). For subsequent meals and snacks, your body is very capable of using many types of protein, including vegetarian sources, to help you repair stress or injured cells.

  • Mike

    It is nice of you to bring Kelli over today for the post. Lot’s of good information.

  • Francois

    Great info, reminded me to go get another drink as I sit behind a desk most of the day.

    I’ve found that if I ate before my early morning swim I had heartburn and my meal just didn’t sit well. My question/comment is that if your working out 30min after you role out of bed, is it detrimental to ‘not’ eat anything? These work outs are only 20-30min, as opposed to a typical 1hr ride on the bike.

    • http://apexnutritionllc.com/sportsnutrition.html Kelli, RD

      For early morning workouts of 20-30 minutes, you won’t likely need pretraining fuel. However, if the workout or competition is longer and/or intense, you’ll be able to push yourself better with fuel (rather than after fasting for 8+ hours). I recommend very easy-on-the-stomach fuel like 4 oz. juice mixed with 4 oz. water + 1/2 banana. Just ~30 grams of carbs, some hydration, low to no protein, and very little fiber or fat. Personally, I’ve always done well with this or smoothies as liquids leave your stomach more quickly than solids. This means less stomach issues and fuel in my bloodstream rather than setting in my belly, which is useless!

      • Francois

        Thanks for the feedback Kelli!

  • http://djones.myncblogs.com Donald

    Really good reminder for everyone. Thanks for getting the insight from Apex Nutrition. There were a couple of things that helped me and since my wife is new to cycling thus will be a great reference for her nutrition plans!
    I’d like to hear feedback from other cyclists as far as example of foods they eat that fit into the categories or descriptions shared by the expert. Like what whole grain foods you choose… what proteins, etc. Just an idea where we can all share ideas to mix it up or build on our menu choices. Thanks again Darryl!!

    • http://www.lovingthebike.com Darryl

      Great idea, Donald. One of my goals when starting this blog was to include as much valuable nutrition information for cyclists that I can. I’ve been sharing weekly nutrition tips which you can find by clicking the green slider tab on the top left side of this site. It has a lot of personal nutrition information that I follow…..but I would love to hear other people’s advice as well.