Post Ride Nutrition
To keep it simple & easy to remember, she refers to the 3 R’:
- Rehydrate – with Fluids & Electrolytes
- Replenish – Replace glycogen lost with Carbohydrates
- Repair – with High Quality Protein (with considerations for vegans)
As she walks you through each of the R’s, she covers what and how much to eat based on your training volume, training schedule, body weight, and gender (lots of notes for females in the PDF below). Then, to help you apply the recommendations, she gives you specific snack and meal examples AND provides you with helpful charts, which you access download below!
What's the goal of the post workout meal?
The post workout meal should accomplish the 3 R’s:
Glycogen is the storage form of carbohydrates within the muscles.
- Glycogen is utilized during training of all intensities, but is a key source of energy for short, intense efforts (i.e. weight lifting, a sprint or intervals) and for long endurance events when athletes cannot consume enough carbs to match how much they are burning off. When glycogen stores are not replenished, performance in subsequent workouts will suffer.
- Your muscles are like a sponge in the 1-2 hours after training! By that I mean they are more sensitive to carbs & protein immediately after training than when you sitting at your desk working. Thus, if you want to optimize glycogen repletion it is important to eat ASAP after your ride!
- The amount of carbs needed will depend on the intensity/duration, as well as how well an athlete fueled before and during their training. Typically though, 30-60g of carbs within the first hour after training is adequate, followed by a full meal within 2-3 hours.
- When an athlete finishes a long, intense workout (i.e. a race or 3+ hour ride) and has to train again within 24 hours, they will need to follow the speedy refueling method (details below).
Repair & Rebuild: Protein
- Consuming protein is necessary for promoting muscle repair and build new muscle
- Athletes should aim for 15-30g of high quality protein within 30 min to 2 hours after training (the sooner the better).
- Protein needs can be met through a normal diet. Protein powders are not necessary, but can be used if time is limited to prepare a meal.
Rehydrate: Fluids & Electrolytes
- Fluid & electrolyte losses are common, but varies from one athlete to another.
- Athletes can estimate how much fluid they need to replace losses by weighing themselves before and after training. For every 1 lb (or ~0.5 kg) that is lost, 16-24 ounces of water should be consumed.
- Electrolyte replacement drinks/mixes are not typically necessary. Most athletes can replace losses by not restricting salt intake (salt is made of sodium & chloride, which are the primary electrolytes lost in sweat).
- Athletes who train for prolonged periods of time in environmental extremes (high heat, humidity or at altitude), an electrolyte replacement (like Gu Hydration tablets) may be necessary.
The post workout meal should also aid in meeting daily energy, macro and micronutrient needs which are crucial for proper immune function, hormonal balance, energy levels and overall good health. When I say micronutrient, I mean vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc. which are found in large quantities in nutrient dense foods (aka winning in the kitchen foods).Should I have a meal or a snack? How much food is appropriate?
What is high quality protein and what are some good sources?Speedy Refueling
When an athlete finishes a longer and more intense workouts (i.e. a race or 3+ hour ride) and has to train again within 24 hours, they will need to follow the speedy refueling method. This entails eating ~1 to 1.2g per kg of body weight per hour for the first 4 hours after they finish training.
Fitting your post ride fueling into the context of your entire day of eating:
Athletes should consider how their post ride fueling contributes to their total calorie, carbohydrate and protein needs. For example females often have lower energy requirements, store less glycogen and burn more fat during exercise than their male counterparts, which is why they should aim for the lower end of the carbohydrate recommendations. Moreover, athletes training less will need less carbs & protein over the course of the day. Below are guidelines for daily protein and carb needs, as well as an example day of eating for a male athlete following the speedy refueling method.
Proper hydration is important because when an athlete is dehydrated, digestion is impaired and blood flow will be reduced. Both of which delay the rate at which nutrients are delivered to your muscles and as a result, slows recovery. Post exercise, athletes should aim to consume 100-150% of the fluid lost. They can determine how much fluid they lost by weighing themselves before and after training.
What are the nutritional considerations for female athletes?
Female athletes nutrition needs vary based on which part of their cycle they are in. For example during the luteal phase, protein breakdown is increased, fluid needs are higher and carb utilization during training is lower. Because of this they need to eat protein sooner after exercise than males (30-60 min is ideal) and should bump up their fluid, sodium and carb consumption on the bike during this phase of their cycle.
Is something better than nothing?
Some of you may be surprised to hear this, but often times… yes. Supplying your body with some form of sustenance after a hard workout is better than eating nothing, however for a quick recovery ride or a short gym session you are better off waiting until you can eat a nutrient dense meal or snack. If you know you will be short on time or that you will not be home within a few hours after training, I encourage you to think ahead and pack some portable snacks like a PB &J, trail mix, banana or a packet of oatmeal to take with you to help you avoid reaching for a bag of chips or grabbing some fast food.
So there you have it! You are fully equipped with all the information you need to start nailing your post workout nutrition. If you have any other questions, feel free to drop them below or post them in the athlete forum.
Cheers to eating well and riding fast!
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Lacey provides education and guidance to athletes about how to make healthy food choices that supports their performance goals, aids in sustainable weight loss, and improves their recovery. We are currently in the process of developing custom nutrition plans and one-on-one counseling with her, so keep your eyes out for those to be released in the near future!