Daily Nutrition vs Training Nutrition


We are very honored to have Kelli Jennings, registered dietitian (RD) guest posting today.  I wish I had even half the nutrition knowledge she has.  Kelli’s post contains valuable information that all cyclists and athletes should be aware of.

Like many athletes, you may have found yourself reading the ingredients of your favorite sports drink and wondering exactly how “healthy” this stuff is for you.  “Aren’t dextrose, sucrose, and fructose just sugar?  Shouldn’t I avoid sugar?  And, what the heck is theobromine?

When making food and drink choices, it is very important for the athlete to distinguish training nutrition from daily nutrition.  In fact, these 2 aspects of nutrition require opposite strategies.  Many times, athletes get caught up in healthy eating practices (which are great for daily eating!) and snub their bodies’ demands for refined, quick fuel immediately before, during, and after training or competing.  While eating healthy foods throughout the day is imperative for a healthy body, you will do yourself a disservice by not consuming quick-acting fuel when you require it.  So, what do you need when?


First, let’s start with daily nutrition. We’ll keep it simple.…you need:

1)     A healthy pattern of consistent meals and snacks – ie. breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-afternoon snack, and dinner as opposed to eating nothing until 2pm, then overeating all afternoon and evening (believe it or not, I see this all the time!)

2)    Adequate daily fluid.  64 oz. per day fluid is a great starting point for the metabolism of a 2000-calorie per day diet.  However, many athletes need upwards of 3000-4000 calories per day, which requires more fluid.  Remember, dehydration is cumulative and get worse day after day if it is not remedied.  And, it has a DIRECT detrimental effect on performance.

3)    Appropriate and adequate daily calories based on your weight goals (maintenance, loss, etc).  This is best calculated by a professional and should take into account your weight, age, sex, height, body fat percentage, daily activities, weight history, dieting history, training schedule, and clinical judgment.

4)    Whole food and whole grain carbohydrates at every meal and snack.  Carbohydrates should be the foundation of the athlete’s diet, and, fiber is the foundation of preventative nutrition.  Truly, it is one key to wellness and healthy weight maintenance at any calorie level.  Of course, you do not want a belly full of fiber while you’re training, so keep reading…

5)    Protein at every meal.  You have higher protein needs than a sedentary person as you are constantly building and rebuilding cells.

6)    Essential fats, especially omega-3 and monounsaturated fats with minimal saturated and trans-fats. From an athletic and overall healthy standpoint, omega-3s help reduce the inflammatory response in our bodies which may help your body react with less inflammation anytime cells need to heal and recover.

7)    Adequate vitamins and minerals – again, you have higher needs than a sedentary person (which is who the RDAs are based upon).  Without individual blood testing, it suffices to say that you should include all the food groups (grains/starchy vegetables, fruits, vegetables, milk/yogurt, protein, and healthy fats) in your daily diet.  If you exclude a group as a non-meat eating vegetarian, for example, make sure you are getting adequate protein, calcium, iron, zinc, etc from other sources as opposed to just avoiding meat.  Then, for all athletes, I believe it is prudent to take a high-quality multivitamin that includes iron, an adequate B-complex, and extra anti-oxidants on a daily basis.

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 [email protected] for more information or to have her work with your nutrition needs.

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16 Responses to “ Daily Nutrition vs Training Nutrition ”

  1. Sandra wells-Cruiser on October 23, 2015 at 2:55 am

    I usually value my rest and drink lots of clean refreshing water when I do any type of physical exercise. Well presented points I must admit!

  2. Thomaz on May 6, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    Great article! Is it beneficial to ingest free form amino acids during long duration training? These might have the advantage to rapidly be carried into the bloodstream in comparison with protein, right? Thank you

  3. DB on March 16, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    Beautiful. Any specific tips for doubles tennis players?

    • Kelli Jennings on March 21, 2013 at 6:09 pm

      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!

  4. IKKS DEGRIFFE on November 21, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    Hi I love this discussion board I’m also passionated in extreme sport and techniques to be far more successful…I discovered a piece technology that make me a lot effective I also like mode and fashion. Thanks again for your forum Bye IKKS DEGRIFFE

  5. VitaminLee on August 18, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    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.

  6. Bryan on July 23, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    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?

    • Kelli, RD on July 26, 2010 at 9:59 am

      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

  7. Summer on July 23, 2010 at 11:11 am

    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.

    • Kelli, RD on July 23, 2010 at 11:54 am

      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.

  8. Mike on July 23, 2010 at 11:09 am

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

  9. Francois on July 23, 2010 at 10:55 am

    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.

    • Kelli, RD on July 23, 2010 at 12:00 pm

      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 on July 23, 2010 at 3:09 pm

        Thanks for the feedback Kelli!

  10. Donald on July 23, 2010 at 8:21 am

    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!!

    • Darryl on July 23, 2010 at 8:36 am

      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.


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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.


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.

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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.

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