Eat Right Around Chicago

Eat Right During a Workout

Madison ride.jpg

Dave from VQ tells us the plan

I spent my Wednesday bathed in sunblock, pockets full of fuel and with bottles of warm water riding 80 miles of the Ironman Wisconsin race course with a group from Vision Quest in Chicago.  It was a beautiful day, especially if you were having a picnic or taking a midday walk.  But if you were on a bicycle, it was gusty and relentless (for the 2nd 40 mile loop).  Like your annual pap (sorry, guys), it was humiliating and even a little small talk couldn't make it more pleasant. While I can't control the weather on a long ride, I can control my nutrition.  I'll stop griping about a day of biking and use this as a clumsy segue into eating during exercise - did I mention that my bike shorts ripped and I'm pretty sure that I have a diaper rash? 

During a long workout, you need to refuel and stay hydrated (read my previous post for more on hydration and sodium).  I like to keep it simple when creating my nutrition strategy, so I focus on the basics:  carbohydrates, sodium and fluid.  There is a growing body of research that shows that protein may help protect immune function, improve muscle repair and decrease protein degradation (protein breakdown) if consumed during exercise.  I can't be bothered with counting protein grams - I want to focus on the fuel that keeps me going - and I know I'll be eating some protein, just not sure how much. 

John F. Martin, Ironman

Research shows that carbohydrates should be consumed every hour at about 30-60 grams if you're workout is about 1-2 hours.  If you're pushing it to more than 2 hours, you'll benefit from 45-90 grams of mixed carb source of glucose and fructose - found in sports nutrition products like PowerBar.  I'm a sports nutrition adviser for PowerBar, but I swear that I'm not biased, they have done their scientific homework.  It was once generally accepted that the body could oxidize (burn) only 1 gram of glucose per hour.  Then Asker Jeukendrup and his peeps (charming sports nutrition researcher in Birmingham, England and Ironman) found that if you mixed glucose (or maltodextrin) and fructose, athletes could burn, and use, more than 1 gram of carb per hour.  This is great because it increases the amount of fuel you can absorb and use.  More energy = better endurance performance.  PowerBar calls it C2Max.


When I plan my nutrition strategy, I look for options that will help me achieve about 45 grams of carbs per hour and fits into my back pocket (go higher if you're bigger).  I'd love to eat a slice of pizza, but even if I roll it, it's a mess.  Because this ride was supported by Vision Quest Coaching, I had access to some food at 40 miles, so had a PB sandwich.  Here are the numbers:

  • 2 bags of PowerBar Gel Blasts:  80 grams of carbs
  • 1 Gel:  27 grams of carbs
  • Peanut butter sandwich:  35 grams of carbs
  • 1/2 ounce of Ruffles potato chips:  7 grams of carbs
Total: 149 grams of carbs

Eat Right During Your Workout

To figure out what you need to eat during a long workout, estimate the duration of the workout and forage for food that will help you reach 45-90 grams per hour of carbs, will fit in your pockets and not cause a belly ache.

I'll talk more about other sports nutrition stuff in the future, like recovery, but for this ride, I had a cheeseburger within 30 minutes and a big salad at John's. Damn good salads. 



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