With Warmer weather approaching and even just the heat we can all create here inside on our trainers, We can find ourselves burning through a lot of energy as well as fluids after a ride. It's good to know the fundamentals of Nutrition and Hydrations to best optimize your ride here on Zwift or outside. Zwift here has been incredible in allowing us to be able to ride inside at any time of year and have that connection with friends. You might also Use Zwift to train or even use all the incredible routes here to get a nice long endurance ride in to either help you stay fit, get fit, reach goals or even get better for outside. Now this can also create more energy use and need for energy so I thought this would be a great opportunity to chat about Concepts on Fueling the Engine. The engin meaning your amazing body
Our Human bodies are incredible at working to meet our exercise needs. THere are many factors that can contribute to your body needing a bit more to keep its optimal state to help you feel good and perform at your best. It can range from heat, sweat rate, the food you eat, sleep, mother nature, and even movement on the bike. I always like to think of the human body as an amazing piece of electrochemical machinery. Our bodies have many inputs and outputs that often operate via electrical signals running throughout the body, chemical messengers communicating between organs, and energy production pathways that power a host of functions. As active people here, one of those important key functions is movement. But you must fuel that movement so it can happen and you can move and create energy.
Let's go back to the basics and talk about food. Yes the food you eat is what your body uses for energy. Yes you all know that the meals and snacks you had yesterday helped contribute to you getting energy for today's ride as well as recovering from a hard workout or long ride you did. It goes beyond just the meals you eat. Our body uses macronutrients and micronutrients as well as crucial hydration to create energy.
I like to quote the law of thermodynamics which is the process where your body creates heat to burn and uses food as fuel to make energy…
“ Energy can be changed from one form to another, but it cannot be created or destroyed.”
Now what does this mean exactly… Well our human bodies can not create energy just sitting along like all mammals and even living species on this planet. We have to get our energy from outside sources to create energy to do some of the most incredible things to the most simplistic things that you don't even think about.
We need energy to digest food, breathe, cook your food, see, hear, ride your bike ere on Zwift, Think, and even read and process this current message. It's incredible how our bodies work to do all that but again we need to give it energy so it can be created. On the bright side, it cannot be destroyed, as long as you keep fueling your body with those important foods and hydration.
Now let's go back to the basics of the main sources of energy. Something you might have learned as a kid at school. What are the fuels that help drive that engine?
The macronutrients—carbohydrate, protein, and fat—are the three main fuel sources we’ll focus on. One additional nutrient—water—This is the medium within which everything occurs in the body. Now for macronutrients, I would love to touch on the importance of those three main Macronutrients and end today with hyrations and a lovely recipe with a balance of it all!
Let's Talk Carbs… Yes they are our friend and most definitely not our enemies, especially if you are an active individual. Through many years of school and research, I have discovered that how we use carbohydrates is crucial to optimal energy as well as mental clarity to keep you going strong on a hard ride. Now its timing that becomes important as n the bike whilst riding above endurance pace, is when your body really strives for the use of Carbs as the main fuel source.
Now what exactly are carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are made up of sugars, starches, and fibers from a variety of foods. Their chemical structure comprises carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, and therefore we will often see this abbreviated as CHO. there are four variations: monosaccharides, disaccharides and oligosaccharides, and polysaccharides
are the simplest forms of sugar and generally do not occur on their own in nature; rather, they are usually a component of disaccharides and polysaccharides. The three main monosaccharides are glucose, galactose, and fructose. Two of these—glucose and fructose—are the most well-known in the sports world, being the main ingredients in many sports drinks, gels, and other engineered performance fuels.
Disaccharides and oligosaccharides
Disaccharides and oligosaccharides are simply a combination of two or more monosaccharides. The most common ones include sucrose (e.g., table sugar, beet sugar, cane sugar), lactose (or milk sugar), and maltose. Oligosaccharides contain between 2-20 sugar molecules and are generally water soluble and sweet at lower linkages. However, they become less digestible as the molecules get larger. These larger molecules are classified as dietary fiber.
contain more than 10 monosaccharide units and are typically stored in plants as starch granules. There are two main structures that plants make with these, and their structure determines their solubility and digestibility.
There are two main locations where we store CHOs in the body: the liver and the muscles. These stores vary in the amount of glycogen they can hold, so these reservoirs are limited and can affect our performance and recovery if not maintained.
Yes there is a time and place to consume carbs to benefit us. This is why I emphasize that they are our friend and not Foe. it’s important to remember that CHOs are necessary for a few key functions around exercise sessions, Pre, During and post.
Pre-exercise Carbs help us to prepare for the work ahead. With a full glycogen fuel tank, we will perform at our best; thus, it is helpful to go into workouts with some readily available carbs for use as glycogen on board. Now you then might think… ‘Does that mean we should eat bowls of cereal before every ride, or indulge in a huge pasta party before our weekend group ride?’ I would say no. We need to understand that to a certain amount carbs remain important and its finding what work for your hight and weight that will be beneficial for you.
The general recommendations from the Academy, DC, and ACSM is to consume one to four grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight in the hours before any prolonged exercise ( >60 minutes in duration). Pre-workout carbohydrate range: (Bodyweight (kg) x 1 g) to (Bodyweight (kg) x 4 g)
So if you weigh around 70 kg, you should be consuming 70-280 grams of carbohydrates before your workout.
Now if you use lbs…get from pounds to kilograms just divide by 2.2
During long or intensive exercise, CHOs provide the fuel necessary for performance. For short sessions (e.g., less than 90 minutes), CHOs are not critical, but as duration and intensity increase, CHOs become more important.
Ryan Kohler from Fast Talk labs had a really awesome quote.
“Carbs get you to the finish line.”
But some ask...Can we function without carbs? Sure, but if we are searching for peak performance or working at a higher intensity, CHOs consistently show performance improvement. There is a sweet spot where CHO ingestion acts in such a way to balance our glycogen losses without tapping too heavily into muscle and liver stores.
During exercise athletes should consume 30–60 g carbohydrates per hour (or 0.7 g/kg of body weight) in order to maintain blood glucose levels.
Depending on how long or hard our session was, we may have tapped into a lot of our stored muscle glycogen. With intensive sessions, we need to tune up the amount of Carbs coming in. With recovery or light sessions, we don’t have to over-indulge.
I would recommend a nice snack or even going right to a meal. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Ultimately, think about your post-exercise meal or snack as your first step not only in recovering from the previous session, but also preparing for the next session.
Now lets move to protein:
The importance of protein
Proteins differ from Carbs in their chemical structure. While they contain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, they also contain an important additional element: nitrogen. The nitrogen-containing group (called the amino group) and the acid group help clue us into the name of the building blocks of proteins: amino acids. proteins participate in structural, transport, and immune functions, and they’re also involved in transportation, fluid balance, and hormone and enzyme function. There are both non-essential and essential amino acids—those that cannot be synthesized at a rate commensurate with its demand, and thus must be supplied by our diet. Thus, the quality of our diet is critical to ensure we get the essential amino acids our bodies need.
Despite the fact that proteins are not utilized as a critical fuel source during exercise (e.g., less than about 5 percent), athletes should maintain a focus on protein intake due to their functions outside of the demands of exercise.
Anywhere from 10 to 35 percent of your calories should come from protein. So, if your needs are 2,000 calories, that’s 200-700 calories from protein (50-175 grams). The recommended dietary allowance to prevent deficiency for an average sedentary adult is 0.8 g per kg of body weight. For example, if you weigh 75 kg (165 pounds) you should consume 60 g of protein a day.
Now onto the last MACROnutrient that we will focus on today… Fat. and no, Fat will not make you fat. It is essential for all our bodies' intricate functions. Luckily, we have a nearly unlimited reservoir of fat to rely on. Even some of the most elite athletes with very low body fat percentage still have a massive supply of fat to power exercise. fat contributes significantly to exercise at low to moderate intensities, and this is highly trainable. Improving fat oxidation has benefits for endurance athletes as it allows sparing of muscle glycogen and highlights one of the key adaptations for endurance, which is improved mitochondrial density. The mitochondria are commonly known as the “powerhouses of the cell” where all sorts of reactions take place to generate ATP.
ATP—adenosine triphosphate—is the energy currency in the body. We can all be strategic on how you teach your body to utilize fat as fuel, but it's good to remember that anything above endurance requires some source of carbs to create and recreate energy. Now recommendations for daily fat are usually the ones that will remain the same across the board. The dietary reference intake (DRI) for fat in adults is 20% to 35% of total calories from fat. That is about 44 grams to 77 grams of fat per day if you eat 2,000 calories a day. Now It's best to work in the so called ‘healthy’ fats into these percentages like monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated along with omega 6 and 3. This can be foods like avocados, seeds, and nuts.
Now last but not least, I want to cover up on Hydration. Especially if you are like me, a hard core Zwifter,or Velocity rider.. or heck any ride indoors! it's important to be hydrated both on and off the bike as yes riding the indoor world indoor can still make you sweat and might keep you needing more hydration.
Why water is essential
While water does not provide any energy, it is a critical piece of the puzzle. That’s because water is the primary component of blood—and blood transports nutrients, hormones, and other substances throughout the body and removes waste products.
Achieving fluid balance for athletes is a key factor that can leave us feeling prepared for our session or event—or experiencing a potentially large decline in performance.
When we exercise, we generate heat, and this heat has to leave the body somehow. The blood plays a primary role in this process, so maintaining fluid balance can drastically improve or affect our performance. Some of the key areas where fluid balance can impact us as athletes include:
Maintaining an appropriate core temperature
Managing heart rate
Balancing levels of sodium
Improving digestibility of fuel
fluid balance and fluid intake can assist with digestion during exercise. Osmolality describes the amount of solutes dissolved in a solution. When it comes to body hydration, we’re concerned with substances such as sodium and glucose dissolved per liter of fluid.
Daily fluid intake can support exercise hydration. There are many recommendations on how much fluid to drink. Remember the old standby of 8 cups of water per day? It doesn't necessarily apply to everyone, especially people who are physically active. One of the cheapest and easiest methods to assess our balance throughout the day is to look at our urine color. Pale yellow to clear urine is normal and indicates that you’re well-hydrated. Light yellow and transparent is also normal and indicates an ideal hydration status. The darker the color, the more dehydrated it is.
Now we will touch more on hydration as we hope to bring on the amazing Allen Lim of Skratch Labs here to Zwift to talk about all things hydration as electrolytes play a specific role in muscle contractions and fluidity. So stay tuned. But I just wanted to say that Water is crucial along with the macronutrients that I touched on today. Yes, You might already know some of this, but it's always great to keep diving and learning on what helps your body thrive and work.