Loving the BITE: How Cyclists can Fight the Fatigue

25
Feb
2016

Most adults feel fatigued at least some of the time.

The schedules, the work, the commute, the commitments, and the everything in between can drag us down a bit. But, should our workouts and rides be a major cause of fatigue?

I say no.

Sure, if you plan and ride a big ride or race, you may see some fatigue in the days afterwards from the sheer effort or even sleepless nights in preparation.  But, the day in day out of exercise should certainly be fun, uplifting, and energizing. Not fatigue-causing.

One of the biggest reasons for workout-fatigue is not fueling properly. Many cyclists are guilty of blowing-off fueling for any training >2 hours. Sure, you can finish these workouts, and you may even be happy with your ride.

But for anything >90 minutes, it’s your energy levels, recovery, ability to sustain good efforts throughout an entire season that will suffer.

This is factor #1 in fight the fatigue. Today, we’ll briefly talk again about the nutrients your body needs during a ride, and how to avoid the low-end of blood sugars by getting enough. Then, we’ll dive into other factors that may be causing your fatigue.

Recipe of the Week: Easy All-Natural Homebrew Sports Drink

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz. all-natural or organic lemonade or 100% juice
  • 10 oz. water
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp fine-grain salt (can be sea salt)

Instructions:

Mix all ingredients and drink ~20 oz. per hour on rides >90 minutes. To achieve full carb needs, add 1 “carb option” of about 30 grams carbs per hour.

Rides <=90 minutes: Either use water, an electrolyte drink such as Nuun, or try 5 oz. lemonade, 15 oz. water, and 1/8-1/4 tsp salt.

Rides >3 hours: Consider increasing the carbs in your drink by adding ~15 grams maltodextrin per 20 oz. Use a brand such as DuraCarb.

More options and a full discussion of my homebrew Sports Drinks, click here.

Favorite Commercial drinks: Skratchlabs, Carborocket (including Half-Evil 333), Tailwind.

Comments:

Why do I start with during-ride fueling recommendations when discussing workout-induced fatigue? Simply because many athletes dip toward the lower end of blood sugars during and immediately after a workout without realizing it. If you are someone who does not have diabetes or hypoglycemia, these levels likely don’t become dangerous; however, the can cause the body to want to slow down and recoup. If you can’t stop yawning or your 2-hour ride makes you want to take a 2 hour nap, you’re likely low in the  blood sugar department. To start, aim for, PER HOUR:

  • 90-180 minutes: 18-24 oz. fluid, 60 grams carbs, 400+ mg sodium.
  • 180+ minutes: 18-24 oz. fluid, 75-90 grams carbs, 400+ mg sodium.

Amino acids on long rides: Amino acids can certainly help with muscle fatigue & mental fatigue during 3+ hour rides. Along with the ingredients listed above, try 3 grams of each l-glutamine and BCAA’s in your drink. Or, use a commercial one that include them (like CarboRocket 333).

For a complete during-ride nutrition recap and my thoughts on in-ride fuel options a couple weeks ago in this post.

And don’t forget recovery: within 30 minutes of a 90+ minutes ride, make sure to eat/drink a recovery with at least 40+ grams carbs and 15-20 gm protein (for shorter workouts you can simply use your next snack/meal).  I also recommend adding 5 grams l-glutamine to all recoveries.

But, what if you’re doing all the training-nutrition stuff right & you’re still tired?

Here are some other factors to consider if you’re suffering from fatigue as an athlete:

Sleep:

Do you get at least 6 hours, and preferably 8+ hours, of good sleep per night, most every night?

  • No: This is likely the primary reason for your fatigue. Most adults need at least 6 good hours of sleep to recover well, maintain low levels of anxiety, train well, and feel energized. If you cannot get to, or stay asleep, consider investigating the amount of blue light/screen time, stressful, and other activities you engage in before bed. I’ve had success with clients using Melatonin and Valerian, as well with some aromatherapy and essential oils. Do you think there may be other reasons for your fatigue as well?
  • Yes: Even so, do you feel tired as soon as you wake up? Perhaps the sleep you are getting is not “deep sleep,” or you individually need more than 7 hours per night. Is this possibly one issue?
    • Yes: This is likely the primary reason for your fatigue. Most adults need at least 6 good hours of sleep to recover well, maintain low levels of anxiety, train well, and feel energized. If you cannot get to, or stay asleep, consider investigating the amount of blue light/screen time, stressful, and other activities you engage in before bed. I’ve had success with clients using Melatonin and Valerian, as well with some aromatherapy and essential oils. Do you think there may be other reasons for your fatigue as well?
    • No: There could be a host of reasons for your fatigue. It may be one reason, or more likely, several in combination. Work through these common possibilities from left to

Non-Sleep Related Fatigue Factors:

  • In Daily Nutrition, are you restricting calories or carbs too much? Are you proactively eating good sources of carbs at all daytime meals and snacks? Are you restricting calories beyond my recommendations for weight loss? If so, you likely need to increase whole-food carbohydrate sources during daytime meals and snacks. While I recommend “light at night “eating, I certainly do not recommend that athletes go too low in daily carbs or training nutrition.
  • Are you skimping on Training Nutrition? If you are not meeting the goals for in-ride carbs above, as well as including a good recovery afterwards, you are likely suffering from fatigue simply because you are not giving your body the nutrients it needs to do the work of training. Here’s a short video on “Skimping on training nutrition for Fat Loss.”

 

  • Do you have any reason to believe you are low in iron? Are you a runner? A female? A vegetarian or someone who doesn’t eat red meat weekly? All of these factors put you are increased risk of low serum ferritin as an athlete. If you are concerned, I recommend a serum ferritin lab test and a result >30 ng/dL, optimal around 50 ng/dL.
  • Are you supplementing magnesium? Most adults, and specifically athletes are low in magnesium. While it may not cause obvious problems for sedentary folks, athletes will generally notices frank symptoms such as difficulty sleeping, fatigue, changes in heart rate while training, and more. Many believe they have hit “over-training” because of a sense of constant fatigue and decline in performance on the bike. I recommend supplementing with 200 mg year round, and up to 400 mg during heavy training seasons.
  • Could you be low in vitamin D? Are you more fatigued in the winter? Do you live at a latitude north of Atlanta Georgia? Any seasonal “low mood” issues? Have you had a total vitamin D level <50 ng/dL? If so, consider supplementing vitamin D, at least through the Fall & Winter. Most athletes can effectively raise vitamin D with 1000 IU per 25 pounds body weight, and most can maintain good values with 1000-2000 IU supplemented through these months.
  • Are you beginning to sense any over-training or adrenal fatigue? Do you take rest days as instructed? Is it the end of the season? Does it feel like you have chronic injuries, sickness, or poor performance days? Again, start with magnesium. Follow with some rest and speaking to coaches to discuss training schedule.
  • Could you be getting sick? Do you suffer from seasonal allergies or food allergies? Respiratory infections and allergies can certainly zap your energy, and sometimes athletes feel the fatigue for weeks after being sick. I recommend year-round supplements (apple cider vinegar (diluted) for sinus issues, and vitamin D and probiotics specifically for immune function).
  • Are you under a lot of stress? Mental stress can definitely manifest into physical issues and fatigue. If so, it is likely also affecting your sleep, thereby affecting your daily energy. Take time to work through this one and give yourself a break if needed. Your workouts should be stress-relieving, not stress-inducing.
  • Any reason to think your hormones are “off” or low? Steroidal.com states low natural hormones like testosterone or progesterone can be common issues for endurance athletes; it may be worth at least speaking to your MD about and looking into natural ways to increase it. Other adrenal hormones and certainly thyroid function can also cause fatigue and energy issues…so, if you’ve worked through the other factors, speak with your doctor to explore hormone levels.

The tough thing about fatigue is it can be the result of many different things, some obvious and others not obvious, and it can be a combination of things all at once. It can certainly be challenging to find answers. However, I have found that working through these factors, one by one, can really help. Start with the obvious – not enough training nutrition, daily carbs, or sleep. If there’s no fix there, move on. I’ve worked with countless athletes to fix fatigue while improving performance on the bike and overall wellbeing. If you need my help, I just one email or click away. Keep on pedaling this week.

Fuel Your Ride.  Nourish Your Body.

If you’d like to work with Kelli one-on-one with a Custom Nutrition Plan & Coaching, or download one of her acclaimed Instant Download Plans like Fuel Right Race Light, click here: Apex Nutrition Plans for Endurance Athletes. Be sure to use coupon code lovingthebike for a 15% discount.

 

 

Enjoy Your Ride
Pin It

2 Responses to “ Loving the BITE: How Cyclists can Fight the Fatigue ”

  1. Eric Hutchins on February 29, 2016 at 10:37 am

    Really outstanding Blog Post. Full of really useful stuff. I have printed it and put it on my board.
    Well done!

    • Kelli on March 1, 2016 at 12:41 pm

      Thanks so much for the comment, Eric! I’m glad the post helped. Have a wonderful day! Kelli, RD

Leave a Reply

Featured on these top sites

Check Out These Sites

Cycling 360 Podcast

Causes

Sugar Alternatives for Energy and Hydration

Question: I am using the homebrew sugar formulations (sometimes added to green tea).  I am also trying to wean myself off 1/2 dose adrenalean “lip tonic delivery system” (biorhythm brand- caffeine, hoodia g, synephrine, yohimbe) capsule for energy.

My question is other than juice, can you suggest modifications in lieu of table sugar for energy and hydration.

Answer:

Both raw/organic honey or agave can work great in the homebrew (substitute in the same quantities for the sugar, or to taste), but you do have to shake well in order to make sure they don’t settle out.  Have you tried either of these?  Also, make sure to use at least the minimum amount of salt recommended in the homebrew as the temps rise, you need the sodium replacement if you’re sweating.

Sports Drink Homebrew

Please send us your questions for our Expert Sports Nutritionist, Kelli Jennings to “Ask the Sports Nutritionist“. Kelli Jennings is a Registered Dietitian with a passion for healthy eating, wellness, & sports nutrition. For more information go to www.apexnutritionllc.com.

Nutrition Tips