Get your winter training nutrition right

Effective refuelling techniques for cold-weather training from OTE Sports’ Performance Nutritionist Annie Simpson

by Annie Simpson   November 29, 2013  

Grant Cochrane FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Good nutritional practice is vital for effective winter training, so here’s how to get it right. Winter training is all about setting a solid foundation to build upon for the next year and that applies whether you're a competitive cyclist preparing for the next race season or someone looking to build on the fitness gains made through summer sportives and commuting. Winter training often makes the difference between winning and losing when race season comes around again and can be the stepping stone to taking your riding to the next level even if you don't race. With that in mind, your nutrition is important. The call of cake in the off-season is often a weakness of us all but remember optimal fuelling and recovery when training are going to help towards bigger training adaptations, so it’s worth sliding that cake to one side.


Pre-training meal

Make sure you set yourself up for long training miles with a good carbohydrate-based meal. Consume this meal 2-3 hours before training where possible to allow it to settle. If you have to eat closer to training then eat a lighter meal and make sure you're on-the-bike fuelling is right. A simple meal prior to your weekend club ride is good old porridge made with milk. Training on an empty stomach is not wise for long or intense winter training. You will not get the desired training effect, and you may even start to break down muscle as an energy source.

 

Training outdoors

A planned training ride should always have planned nutrition. Make sure you are taking adequate food and drink with you to fuel the whole ride, the last thing you want in the midst of winter is to run out of energy miles from home. Be sensible, eat, drink and fuel. Cold weather should not necessarily mean increasing your energy intake. It’s only when you start shivering that you burn more energy. Keep moving and dress appropriately.

Aim to consume 1g of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight per hour (1g/kg/h) to sustain your energy levels at a brisk riding pace. Consuming carbohydrates during training has also been found to aid immune function, which is particularly important in the winter months as the dreaded colds do the rounds.

Example fuelling strategy:

A 70kg athlete would need to consume 70g of carbohydrates per hour. This equates to one of these options:

·      500ml of energy drink + a medium banana
·      Medium slice of flapjack + an energy gel
·      2 small cereal bars + medium banana
·      Small jam sandwich + small slice of flapjack
·      500ml of energy drink + half an energy bar

 

Turbo sessions

Sessions on the turbo trainer tend to be a lot shorter and more intense than riding outdoors, unless you are one of those people who can sit on the turbo for hours at a time, in which case we salute you. For sessions that are 90 minutes or shorter it isn’t necessary to consume carbohydrates as you ride as long as you have fuelled well beforehand and consume a recovery snack/meal straight after. For sessions over 90 minutes it would be advisable to take fuel on board at 1g/kg/h as stated above.

What is most notable when doing turbo training sessions is that we all sweat, often profusely. The lack of airflow means your sweat doesn’t evaporate as readily as when riding outdoors, and the warmer environment of training inside the house or garage will also promote sweating. Therefore, maintaining hydration levels when turbo training is very important. You should aim to drink a minimum of 500ml of fluid – many water bottles are 500ml – during a 1 hour session. A lot of people struggle to get their fluid balance right not only during training but also when racing.

A simple method which will give a good indication of your sweat rate is to weigh yourself before and after training to monitor hydration levels. You will often see significant weight losses, sometimes a kg or more post training. Sadly this is not miraculous fat loss, but in fact fluid loss. For every kilogram loss in body mass we would suggest drinking 1.5L of water to ensure optimal rehydration. It’s worth conducting this simple exercise even if you already drink during your session, the difference in weight will enable you to work out how much more you need to drink during and after your session.


Recovery is key

Whether you train outdoors or indoors it makes no difference, getting your post-training nutrition right is going to make a huge difference towards helping your body adapt and improve from the training you have undertaken. So what do you eat? It needs to be a combination of carbohydrates and protein – carbohydrates to replenish the stores in your muscles and protein to aid the recovery of muscle damage.

You also need to opt for something that’s quick to make and ideally something that is rapidly absorbed as our bodies have a 30-minute ‘window of opportunity’ post training. Eating within this time frame has been shown to be the best way to optimise recovery, especially if you have multiple training sessions within a 24 hour period. Basically, the sooner you eat and hydrate the better your recovery and adaptation will be.

Here are some quick and easy ideas for post-training recovery snacks:

·   Recovery shake
·   Chicken or tuna sandwich
·   2 eggs on toast
·   500ml low-fat chocolate milk
·   Bagel with low-fat cream cheese

You only need a small portion of protein with each snack because your body can only process around 25g of protein at one time. Eating more protein than this isn’t beneficial and is more expensive.


Commuting

If you are riding (or running) to work, using your commute as part of your fitness or training regime, then you should still adopt good nutritional and hydration practices. If your commute takes 45 minutes or more make sure you have a small portion of protein and carbohydrate either before you leave or once you arrive at work. A bowl of porridge once you arrive at work would be ideal. However, if you don’t have the facilities or it’s not an option then a recovery shake will do the job.

Using your commute to work as part of a fasted training regime (not eating before you ride) once or twice a week during the winter months is a great way of turning it into a training session with a specific aim. Instead of riding as fast as you can and racing every other commuting cyclist you come across, be smart and use your commute to a greater effect towards next season’s goals. We’ll run a feature on the different methods and benefits of fasted training in the future.

For even more tips and a more in-depth discussion of winter training nutrition you can read a longer version of this article at www.otesports.co.uk.

Don’t compromise your winter training with poor nutrition, be sensible and organised. For further information don’t hesitate to contact the OTE team:

20 user comments

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Quote:
Instead of riding as fast as you can and racing every other commuting cyclist you come across, be smart and use your commute to a greater effect towards next season’s goals.

Oh man, that's like my entire training regime at the moment

Asolare

posted by Goldfever4 [165 posts]
28th November 2013 - 17:57

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Just discovered Erdinger Blue. Its a beer but its Alcohol free and apparently isotonic and tastes great. Fantastic with the dinner after the commute home from work!

posted by SimonT1971 [35 posts]
28th November 2013 - 18:54

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A sandwich and a banana every hour?!? I couldn't hack that...

posted by nug8321 [28 posts]
28th November 2013 - 19:48

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If I'm riding for less than two hours, and am leaving home well primed, perhaps I don't need anything more than an energy drink? I'll eat after the ride. Eggs. Or maybe a recovery shake.

I think the danger for a lot of cyclists is that they overeat, and then wonder why they don't lose weight.

That used to be me. Still is sometimes actually.

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posted by Low Speed Wobble [137 posts]
28th November 2013 - 20:15

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So basically the same as the rest of the year then......

@rich22222

posted by rich22222 [105 posts]
28th November 2013 - 20:54

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Putting cake to one side l's proving very difficult at the moment . Shear bordum at work Sad leads to a total collapse of dicipline Several times a Week as the office birthday cakes get handed round or peoples leaving cakes are put out !

l start a new job in Jan when I hope my focus will return,. good article just not able to execute at the moment.

Endorphines going up and adrenaline going down, who needs drugs?

posted by banzicyclist2 [181 posts]
28th November 2013 - 23:26

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Some good general advice here but not much of it is winter-specific.

Also, I thought the whole 1g carbs per 1kg body weight thing had been discredited now? Elsewhere I've read multiple articles saying that most people can only digest 40-60g carbs per hour without inducing nausea?

posted by Yennings [202 posts]
29th November 2013 - 1:14

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Training during winter is base training which should be at a low enough intensity to use the body's fat as the main fuel source and ultimately train it become more metabolically efficient.

posted by Alan hall [14 posts]
29th November 2013 - 11:54

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Funnily enough, developing your bodies ability to use fat as a fuel at higher intensities (which is really the objective when people talk about burning fat well) is best done at intensities towards the upper end of where fat can be utilised and not the bottom.

Chugging along at the bottom of 'zone 2' is not going to turn you into a tour de france winner.

That said there are a number of other benefit that come from long, steady miles.

posted by Jimmy Ray Will [182 posts]
29th November 2013 - 12:23

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Yennings wrote:
Some good general advice here but not much of it is winter-specific.

Also, I thought the whole 1g carbs per 1kg body weight thing had been discredited now? Elsewhere I've read multiple articles saying that most people can only digest 40-60g carbs per hour without inducing nausea?

For more winter specific top tips I would head to www.otesports.co.uk

The problem with giving generic guidelines is that we all are very different in what we can tolerate. For example I train regularly and find 40-60g is not enough for me especially on those long winter rides. But that is not to say it isn't right for you. It really is a case of trial and error in training and finding what is best for you personally and using advice as guidelines. Hope this helps, thanks for bringing up a great point

posted by Annie Simpson [16 posts]
29th November 2013 - 12:38

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Low Speed Wobble wrote:
If I'm riding for less than two hours, and am leaving home well primed, perhaps I don't need anything more than an energy drink? I'll eat after the ride. Eggs. Or maybe a recovery shake.

I think the danger for a lot of cyclists is that they overeat, and then wonder why they don't lose weight.

That used to be me. Still is sometimes actually.

That sounds perfectly fine. If you are riding for around 90 minutes your body is fine as long as you are well fuelled before and after. With the added energy drink you should be fuelling enough to take that ride up to nearer 2 hours.
Definitely have some eggs on toast or a recovery drink as soon as you get in.

Over-eating is definitely a challenge you are right, but I suppose it is a case of people deciding whether they are riding for optimum performance on a ride or riding to lose weight, as fuelling for these two would be different. Another blog for the future there! Thanks for your comments

posted by Annie Simpson [16 posts]
29th November 2013 - 12:40

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Those suggestions for fuelling during a ride are considerably more than I'd normally have.

I ride the 30-40 mins to work fasted (empty) most days, it feels normal now. But a recovery shake for breakfast is a poor choice IMHO. Real, unprocessed food is best most of the time, a recovery shake is only of benefit when racing or doing hard sessions on consecutive days.

Alan hall wrote:
Training during winter is base training which should be at a low enough intensity to use the body's fat as the main fuel source and ultimately train it become more metabolically efficient.

Fuelling with fat is good but are you suggesting you ride at that level the whole time? Sounds like a recipe for a slow season.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [1889 posts]
29th November 2013 - 12:43

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The guy that owns and writes the http://optimumnutrition4sport.co.uk site is the nutritionist for BMC. Those guys don't have slow seasons.

At a seminar I attended recently, Barry said it is possible to go for an early morning endurance ride lasting 3-4 hours without breakfast.

Endurance rides are just one aspect of bike training.

http://roadcyclinguk.com/how-to/fitness-from-bronze-to-gold-in-2013-part...

posted by Alan hall [14 posts]
29th November 2013 - 13:49

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A "recovery shake" after a commute? That'd cost a bloody fortune! And wreak havoc on yer' guts in the long term, surely?

posted by El_Jimbo_Grande [11 posts]
29th November 2013 - 14:30

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Almost none of us really need to fuel that regularly during the weekend run or morning commute (obviously excl bidon) the one stop coffee shot is enough as unless you have top notch discipline the amount of food we eat ordinarily during the day is enough calorie wise (not even considering alcohol!) and pro teams often do 2-3 hr training runs in the morning before breakfast (watch almost any pro-team coach/nutritionist vid) & lets face it they probably expend more energy than most of us in this - and your food post ride should be a much higher protein than carb level, the list above is a very good combo but u could even take the bread outta the sandwich / bagel insure the recovery drink is a high % whey or isolate protein powder - avoid pretty much all energy drinks they are really really BAD for u latest research published this week alone makes concerning reading - and you'll be good.
This is of course my own opinion aimed at the normal average cyclist not a regular racer & is based on my own pattern which is protein drink then cycle to work 3 eggs when i arrive then soup & tuna salad for lunch - my week consists of 160/180 miles during winter weeks - 250/300 summer. I commute to work three days a week, day 1&2 23 mls 1165ft climb, day 3 21 mls 1288ft climb, 6 ml cycle home each time - day 1 & 2 i also have a 40 min crossfit lunchtime session & then the standard 60/70 ml club weekend runs both days with the A group, I'm 47yrs old & despite all this, being a light drinker (wine only, no beer) i'm probably still 3/4 to a stone overweight & I have never had a waist bigger than 32" -
so all this is to say if your the average cyclist just stick to common sense we really all know what we should & shouldn't be eating especially when your doing your turn at the front of the group Crying and watch out the christmas pudding will soon be about Surprise

posted by bfslxo [118 posts]
29th November 2013 - 15:40

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SimonT1971 wrote:
Just discovered Erdinger Blue. Its a beer but its Alcohol free and apparently isotonic and tastes great. Fantastic with the dinner after the commute home from work!

Been drinking Erdinger 0% for a while now...trying to cut down on the "regular" beers... as simon says, a very tasty satisfying brew without the alcohol..with the added bonus that it tastes very good compared to other "non" alcohol beers, becks , etc.
after some of the training sessions I do, I will indulge in an Erdinger and have to say , I think there may be something in their claim that its an isotonic drink..but that may be just ME! I do feel better after training, but that may just be my mind saying "you've had a beer ,you're ok"
its a wheat based white beer, and I did struggle with a little stomach discomfort the first few times I drank it, but that has passed , and overall I have to say , its an enjoyable brew...it's one of those personal things...you'll enjoy it or you wont.
bonus is..it tastes great and has very very little alcohol content...good idea..you guys decide... Thinking

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posted by keith roberts [178 posts]
29th November 2013 - 23:22

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Afraid my switch from summer to winter diet is from a lighter to a heavier red.

posted by peakingintwomonths [13 posts]
30th November 2013 - 10:56

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Alan hall wrote:
The guy that owns and writes the http://optimumnutrition4sport.co.uk site is the nutritionist for BMC. Those guys don't have slow seasons.

now we know why Evans and Gilbert are below par most of the time Wink

posted by Metjas [268 posts]
1st December 2013 - 21:57

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Could use a glass of milk instead of recovery shake

posted by lazyusername [140 posts]
3rd December 2013 - 6:26

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Metjas wrote:
Alan hall wrote:
The guy that owns and writes the http://optimumnutrition4sport.co.uk site is the nutritionist for BMC. Those guys don't have slow seasons.

now we know why Evans and Gilbert are below par most of the time Wink

Ha ha, very good!

He works primarily with the U23 development team, and is on an advisory panel for the WorldTour outfit.

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posted by Simon E [1889 posts]
7th December 2013 - 22:54

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