Some thoughts on sports drinks..

Managing Nutrition on Long Rides.

A lot of you are now entering the big volume part of your training plans, working on speed and endurance, and preparing yourselves for the challenges that your events will present. It has been said that over 30% of success in endurance events can be down to a successful feeding and fuelling strategy. I share a few of the things that I have learned with you now. Starting with drinks…

Sports Drinks- Specifically Carb drinks.

In training avoid their use. Why? If you have an easy supply of carbohydrate trickling into the blood stream, your body will take delight in using it, it is there and takes minimal effort, with an easy direct conversion into energy. If it is not there and the intensity is low, (ie on endurance training -Z 2 rides) then the body will energise itself on the burning of fat. Even the skinniest person has adequate fat stores for several hours in the saddle. However, every time you go into Z4 (or thereabouts) you will be converting to use carb as an energy source. You have about an hour of stored carbohydrate in your liver and muscles, so will need to top it up on longer challenging rides. And it rots your teeth…

How does this work in practice?
In day to day training- I suggest using water, heavily diluted fruit juice or weak squash or Nuun/ high 5 zero, which is more important as a flavour to encourage you to drink more than for its’ electrolyte content, as its rarely hot enough here to make a difference, on training rides up to 2.5 hours. Especially initially, I suggest carrying an emergency gel, but you will soon get used to it. Use normal food snacks to give you energy boosts and fuel, but don’t do the continuous drip feed of carbs, to encourage your body to use fat as an energy source.

For events and longer training rides- use carb drinks to boost performance. Your body will be so efficient that the extra carbs will make you rocket fuelled!

After training- you have a 20-40 minute window, where your body is very receptive to glycogen replenishment, this is the time to get some fluid, protein and fast acting carbs into your system. Milk has been shown to be an ideal recovery drink in several studies, including the one shown in this programme.
That post ride latte may not be a bad thing after all.

If you are trying to reduce carbohydrate in your daily diet, I believe that to be a good thing, but you do need to fuel before during and after your endurance rides. A carb free life does not work for endurance athletes.

I hope you find this useful.