I am a regular participant at Method Indoor Cycling and this month they are running a challenge to see how many spin classes people can get in the month. Some are adding a class or two a week but others are taking the challenge very seriously and are adding a class or two a day! With that kind of increase in activity there are increased requirements when it comes to fuel and hydration. For athletes who exercise more than 1 hour per day there are a few things to consider:
- Fueling before the workout. If you plan to do a 2-hour workout (or 2 spin classes back to back) it is important to start out well fueled. Aim to eat at least 1 hour before to ensure you have time to digest. Be sure to include mostly carbohydrate foods such as whole grain toast, oatmeal or fruit as well as a source of protein such as peanut butter, almonds, Greek yogurt or an egg.
- Aim for 2 cups of water 2 hours before you start, 1 cup one hour before, (go pee) and then stay hydrated throughout. ¼ cup-1/2 cup every 10-15 minutes. Depending on your body size, sweat rate and the ambient temperature of the room you may need more or less.
- Fueling during the workout. This is where I see huge potential for people to improve performance and endurance. For those who come well fueled for the first hour there is no need to fuel during that hour. The opportunity lies in the break between classes and during the second class or second hour of activity. After an hour of intense activity, you have used up all your glycogen stores and to be able to work anaerobically during the second hour and do some higher intensity intervals your body needs an additional source of carbohydrates. You will also want to replace electrolytes either on the break or during the second hour.
For Fuel, think fast carbohydrate, AKA a high Glycemic Index food or sugar. Skip the protein and fat as they just slow down absorption of the carbs. Examples include sports gels like Vega, Guu or Cliff Shots. These contain close to 27-30 grams of carbs and for most people should last the duration of the next hour. Aim for 30-60grams of carbs per hour after the first hour. If you are in training it’s best to calculate your needs: 0.7g carbs /kg body weight/hr. So for a 200 lb man (91kg) this would be 63grams of carbs = 2 gels. If you prefer food rather than sports supplements you can try 1/4cup of raisins (30g), 1 cup grapes (30g), 2 cups Gatorade (30g), 1 medium banana (27g), 1 granola bar (22-35g).
To replace electrolytes, the easiest thing to do is add a package of Vega Hydrator or Nuun to your water bottle after the first hour. This should help stave off cramping plus it forces you to drink even more fluid.
- Recovery after 2 hours of activity. There is a window of about 60 minutes that you should take advantage of immediately after exercise. This is when glycogen synthase (the enzyme that helps you store carbs as glycogen) is at its peak. Aim to consume a mixed carbohydrate and protein snack or meal. This can be a fruit and Greek yogurt smoothie. My favorite combination is Greek vanilla yogurt, frozen banana, frozen mango and a splash of OJ. That combo offers both protein and carbohydrates as well as calcium and potassium. If you really sweat add a pinch of salt too. If you prefer you can have a protein shake such as Vega Sports Performance or another protein shake blended with banana for carbohydrates. Other options include a latte and a banana or ½ turkey sandwich and an apple or yogurt topped with berries and a sprinkle of granola or a peanut butter and banana sandwich. How much you eat really depends on if this is a recovery snack or your next meal.
If you are challenging yourself to do several consecutive workouts in your week that last longer than 2 hours hopefully some of these tips will help you stay energized, push to improve performance and not burn out before Christmas. Let the challenge continue!