Sports Nutrition

Fuel Your Ride Right! Nutrition recommendations for Cheaha Challenge

The Cheaha Challehge is May 18-19, 2019! Register  HERE  and use code 19KAT at checkout to get $10 off your entry fee!

The Cheaha Challehge is May 18-19, 2019! Register HERE and use code 19KAT at checkout to get $10 off your entry fee!

Cheaha Challengers! Nutrition can make or break your day on the bike. Whatever distance you have chosen, you need to fuel properly. This article will help you dial in pre-, during-, and post-Cheaha Challenge nutrition so you have a successful ride, avoid bonking, upset stomach, or overloading on tasty snack at the rest stops.

More than a Ferrari

Maybe you’ve heard the analogy that your body is Ferrari and your Ferrari runs best on Premium fuel. While there is some truth to this, you are much more than a fancy, fast, expensive machine and food is much more than fuel for your body.

Food does provide energy or calories. More specifically, food contains chemical bonds that, when broken, are used to produce ATP (energy). Food also supplies your body with essential nutrients that are necessary for muscle contraction, grown and repair, regulating blood pressure, bone integrity, and other cellular processed necessary for health and sustaining life. Quality matters because, as an endurance athlete, you need food with nutrients for performance and recovery along with your other daily activities.

There are 2 sources of fuel in your body for exercise:

  1. Carbohydrates. We will refer to carbs as glycogen, the storage form of carbs in the body. There is approximately 500 grams (or 2000 Calories) of glycogen in the body located in located in blood, liver, and muscle.

  2. Fat Fat, located in muscle cells and fat tissue, is virtually an unlimited source of energy with even lean individuals having 9,000+ grams (or 80,000+ calories).


You have LIMITED energy from glycogen but UNLIMITED energy from fat.

Energy Systems

Now that you know you are more than a Ferrari and food is more than fuel, let’s talk about how your body uses food to make energy. This is crucial info for designing your Cheaha Nutrition Plan.

Your body runs on a molecule called Adenosine Triphosphate, or ATP for short. ATP is the currency of energy in the body is. Every movement, from the long stretch when you wake up to climbing Cheaha Mountain, requires ATP. There are 3 systems by which the body make ATP, or energy for movement listed in the table below. All 3 systems are in play at any given time, however the primary system used depends on the intensity and duration of movement.

The table below lists the energy systems. The immediate energy system provides a short burst of explosive energy. The Short-Term Energy System, also known as Glycolysis, is your 1-3 minutes all-out effort. Glycogen is the only fuel source for this system and ATP is produced in the absence of oxygen. Lastly, there is Long-Term Energy System, or aerobic oxidation, which supplies long-term energy using both glycogen and fat. ATP is made in the presence of oxygen.


The primary energy system at play during your Cheaha Challenge ride with be the Long-Term Energy System and you will use a mix of fat and glycogen. You will tap into Glycolysis at times (powering over Oh Shift! or the top of Cheaha Mountain) but your legs will start to burn, heart rate increase, and you might start really gasping for air and must slow down.


Tips for Creating Your Cheaha Challenge Nutrition Plan

Race-day nutrition is personal and something you must figure out based on your likes, digestion, and needs. Below are some recommendations. Most importantly, keep it simple and have a plan before May 19th so you can test and tweak if needed.

Here are the facts to consider: you will be on the bike for 2-8 or more hours and will burn a mix of fat and carbs. You have a limited amount of carbs in your body so you must eat carbs during your ride to prevent bonking. There will be plenty of rest stops along the way stocked with great snacks, but consider bringing a few things you know work for you. Here are a few tips to help you fuel for your Cheaha Challenge!

1. Nothing new on race day

No new foods or eating routines on the day of the event. You don’t want to risk indigestion or eating too much or too little. Dial it in before the big day. If you don’t have a plan yet, come up with a plan for your rides this weekend and try it out. Check out the recommendations below if you need help on where to start.

2. Crafty Carbo-Loading

Carbo-loading is a bit of a myth. There is no need to stuff down pasta, bread, and chocolate cake the night before. The truth is, your body can only store about 500 grams of glycogen (remember the estimated energy stores above).

A quick strategy for topping off your glycogen stores is to do a short “openers” workout on Saturday May 18 then eat a serving of carbs after. This is a 1-1.5 hour workout on the bike where you do a few hard 2-5 minute efforts. This primes the muscle to replenish what you have just depleted. Within an hour of completing the ride, consume a recovery drink or meal with a serving of carbs. This tops off your muscle glycogen as well as opens the legs so you can crush the Cheaha Challenge on Sunday.

Openers might look something like this: 1-1 ½ hour ride (threshold is the maximum intensity you can hold for about 20 minutes)

  • 20 minute easy riding warm up

  • 5 minute tempo – 70-80% threshold

  • 5 minutes easy riding

  • 5 minutes sub threshold – 80-90% threshold

  • 5 minutes easy

  • 2 minutes threshold - 100% threshold

  • 2 minutes easy

  • 2 minutes threshold – 100% threshold

  • 20-30 minutes easy. Do a few all out 20-30 second sprints or spin ups.

3. Pre-Cheaha Dinner

Nothing special or out of ordinary the night before the big day. Have a balanced, healthy meal with high quality protein, fat, vegetables, and starch. For example, 6-8oz salmon, steak, or chicken, 1-2 cups of roasted vegetables, and a side of rice or sweet potato. Women have portions on the lower end and men, have portions on the higher end.

  • Pay particular attention to hydration, especially on hot and humid days.

  • Avoid eating too late. Eating late might reduce sleep quality.

  • No need to “carb load.” Have one serving of carbohydrates, such as pasta, rice, fruit, or potatoes.

  • Avoid heavy and hard to digest red meat. Choose lighter proteins such as chicken or fish. A quality steak even.

  • Avoid highly spiced food.

  • A glass of wine or a pint of beer won’t be detrimental to your performance and, if you are nervous, it can help you to relax, but just stick to the one.

4. Breakfast

Breakfast option: 2 boiled eggs, 1/2 an avocado, 1 tomato, with a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper.

Breakfast option: 2 boiled eggs, 1/2 an avocado, 1 tomato, with a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper.

Breakfast comes down to personal preference. A meal 2-3 hours before the start of the ride might be ideal for you. If you are planning on a slow pace from the start, you might try eating 1 hour before start. Limit fiber and fat intake for breakfast. Oats, eggs, fruit, and/or rice are great, all-natural options that most people find to be easy on the stomach. Here are a few suggestions:

  • 2 eggs with a slice of avocado and 1 cup fruit

  • 2 eggs with 1 cup of oatmeal and fruit

  • Avocado toast with a cup of fruit or an egg

  • Small turkey patty with rice

5. During-Ride Nutrition

For rides longer than 2 hours, you need to eat and drink. Researchers recommend 30-60 grams of carbs each hour. Your body will struggle to process more than 60g per hour because the average person can process only about one gram of carbohydrate per minute, no matter how much is consumed. The limiting factor isn’t your muscles, though, it’s your intestines. Carbs from food can only be transported into your bloodstream from your intestines so fast. Dumping more carbohydrate into your gut will increase the absorption rate, but it can increase your chances of an upset stomach.

Eat real food earlier on in a ride and then switch to gels the last 1-2 hours, when you might not be able to stomach real food and need quick energy (Cheaha 100 and Ultra riders!). Drink water along with any foods you consume which will help with digestion and absorption while preventing bloating or indigestion.

Below are options to consume each hour.

First 1-5+ hours:

FastKat Bars are real food to fuel your ride! Just 5 ingredients, tasty, and easy to eat on the bike. Get you some  HERE!

FastKat Bars are real food to fuel your ride! Just 5 ingredients, tasty, and easy to eat on the bike. Get you some HERE!

  • 1 FastKat Bar = 25g of carbs

  • 2-5 fig bars (12 g of carbs each) = 24-60 g

  • ½ -1 Cliff Bar (40g of carbs) = 20-40g

  • Nut butter packet

  • Banana = 25g carbs

  • Waffle or rice cake = 20g carbs

Last 1-2 hours:

  • 1-2 gels (22 g of carbohydrates each) = 22-44 g – Last 1-2 hours

  • Maple syrup

  • Blocks (or other gummies)

  • Dried fruit

6. Navigating Rest Stops

There is a rest stop about every 10 miles during the Cheaha Challenge. Though tempting, you don’t need to stop and eat at every one. The volunteer won’t be upset, I promise! Too many cookies or other yummy snacks will overload your system causing stomach issues, fatigue, and an overall bad experience. Be smart, keep it simple, and don’t try anything new.

7. Hydration

When thinking nutrition on the bike, separate solid food and fluids. This keeps it simple.

Hydration is another individual aspect of performance to dial in. A sweat test may be helpful in determining how much water and sport drink to have each hour. In general, start with water the first hour then add in sport drink as the ride progresses to replenish electrolytes and add simple sugar. Drinking 500 ml of typical sport drink will give you around 36 g of carbohydrate, as well as essential electrolytes.


A general guideline is to consume 500ml of fluid per hour. Some find it helpful to set a timer as a reminder to drink every 15 minutes or so. On hot and humid days, this might be a great plan. If you are running low, no worries. There are plenty of rest stations with water and sport drink along the way.

Another thing to consider is terrain. Sipping on your water bottle while climbing or descending Cheaha Mountain is tough. Breathing rate is high and you need your hands on the handle bars. Remember to take a few sips before you start ascending or descending.

8. Post-Cheaha Nutrition

After completing your 40, 60, 80, 100, or 124 mi ride, make sure to eat! A recovery shake, for example, is specifically designed to replenish glycogen and provide protein to start the recovery and rebuilding process. A much cheaper and arguably equally effective option is chocolate milk. These options are great for enhancing recovery if you plan to ride Monday or Tuesday after the Cheaha Challenge.

Otherwise, forget about nutrition and CELEBRATE! Have a beer, hang out, and enjoy the food! Your body will absorb what it needs and replenish what you have depleted over the next 24-48 hours.

5 Training Tips to Riding Your Best Gran Fondo Yet  

Cheah Challenge 2019 is May 19th! Register  HERE  and use cade 19Kat for $10 off your entry free.

Cheah Challenge 2019 is May 19th! Register HERE and use cade 19Kat for $10 off your entry free.

Gran fondo is an Italian term loosely translating to “big ride.” That is exactly what a Gran Fondo is, a group ride on steroids with hundreds or thousands of riders of all abilities. The ride usually features a scenic, sometimes mountainous course with various distances to choose, aid stations with cheering volunteers stocked with snacks to fuel your ride (bacon tomato sandwiches down south in Alabama), SAG support in case you have a flat tire or mechanical issue, and most importantly an exciting atmosphere and post ride beer and live music.

Gran Fondos have taken the cycling scene by storm. Complete your longest or fastest ride, PR a timed segment, win the race, or just enjoy a ride with friends for fun or for a cause. The Gran Fondo is for anyone and everyone. This article covers training secrets you need to know to ride your best Fondo yet.

1.    Create a training schedule that works for you

Let’s face it, most of us are not getting paid to ride our bike. You don’t have 5-6 hours every day to train, so you must make the most out of the time you do have in the saddle.

First, sit down and consider a training schedule that works for you. For example, maybe you have 1.5 hours Tuesdays and Thursdays after work to ride, 3 hours Saturday morning, and 2 hours Sunday afternoon. This gives you 8 hours devoted to riding your best Gran Fondo. Let’s maximize this time.

  • Tuesday you might participate in the hard group ride, push yourself on the timed segments, really make yourself work. Feel the burn in your legs!

  • Thursdays you might do some hill repeats or 3-12 minute intervals at threshold power or heart rate. In the 1.5 hours of riding you do, make 20-50 minutes of it hard. Again, dig deep when doing these intervals. Make it hurt!

  • On the weekends, get in your long, steady riding. These are your 3+ hour fun rides with friends.

If you have the occasional Friday off, take advantage and get in an extra day of riding so you end up with a nice 4-day block of training. If you can fit this in every 5-6 weeks, go for it! This will give you a nice boost in fitness leading up to your event.  

Simple structure to your week provides a balance of hard training during the week and easy, long rides targeting the aerobic system on the weekends. If you are just starting out, progressive increase training intensity and duration over time.

2.    Train to go the distance

You must be able to go the distance, and you totally can! Don’t rely on event-day-motivation to carry you to the finish line. Training to go the distance, or aerobic endurance training, is simply time on the bike.  Do the distance in training, so you are confident on the big day.

cheaha mountain.jpg

The goal of endurance training is to improve your aerobic capacity, or VO2max. VO2max is defined as the volume of oxygen used to produce energy at maximal aerobic effort. Aerobic capacity is your ticket to the show. It is the heart of cycling success. Endurance training conditions your cardiovascular and respiratory systems to improve the ability of your body to transport oxygen to working muscles and your working muscles to improve their ability to use that oxygen to make energy. In other words, with endurance training, you will be able to produce more energy and have greater potential to go fast for a long time.

Do 1-2 long rides a week (3+ hours). For example, join the long group ride on the weekend. Make sure the pace is mostly moderate. Another options, ride to a group ride, do the group ride, and ride home.  

Occasional moderate-hard efforts are great to incorporate. Say, take some long pulls on the front then recover at tempo (conversational) pace in the pack. If riding solo, ratchet up your effort a little for 10-20 minutes each hour, then reduce to a steady, enjoyable pace.

If you’re a number’s person and use a power, determine your FTP (Functional Threshold Power), then  go out on your long endurance rides at 55-75% of FTP. If you use heart rate, ride at 65-75% of your threshold heart rate if you use a heart rate monitor. Increase your effort to 90% of FTP or heart rate threshold for 10-20 minutes each hour to get that added boost.

3.    High intensity training


Intervals! But why though?

These short, misery-inducing efforts offer a HUGE fitness return for comparatively little time investment. Seriously, get fast in just 75-minute interval workouts!

Intervals are simply going hard for a period of time followed by going easy and repeating as the workout designates. Research has shown that just 2 weeks of interval training increases VO2max, enhances fat burn, and improve performance. Make sure to get in a good warm up, then fully commit to each interval. Stay focused on the goal and make it hurt! Be careful not to over-do it. You only need 2-3 interval workouts a week.

One way to incorporate intervals is to join and hard group ride during the week. Try to ride with the fast group, dig deep during the attack zones, and crush it up the hills. Then recover in the pack. Or, mix it up and do one of the following workouts:

  • Threshold intervals – threshold is the intensity you can sustain for 1 hour. These are hard and take focus, but are not all-out efforts. Start with 4X6 minute intervals, adding 2 minutes each week until 12 minutes.

  • Tabata intervals – for 8 minutes ride as hard as you can for 20 seconds, recover for 10 seconds, then repeat until 8 minutes is over. Rest 6-10 minutes, then repeat.

  • Hill repeats – find a 2-3 minutes hill and ride as hard as you can to the top. Coast down and repeat 5-8 times.

  • 1 x 1 intervals – 1 minute hard, 1 minute easy. Do this 3 times then recover for 5 minutes. Do this 3-5 times.

4.    Master group riding


 A gran fondo is basically a large group ride. It is much more fun and energy saving to ride a gran fondo with a group than solo. Riding in a group give you an opportunity to draft off the rider in front of you. In the draft, the rider in the front is taking the brunt of the wind, so you are not having to exert as much effort to move at the same pace. You get to recover, save energy, and complete the ride faster than if you were riding in the wind by yourself. When it is your turn to take a pull on the front of the group, keep the pace steady. Ride on front for a few minutes or rotate through without staying on the front if you are struggling.

Get comfortable riding in a group. Learn how to draft, learn the lingo, hand signals, the paceline, and etiquette. Join 1-2 groups rides a week. Ask others at the group rides for tips on group riding. You will not only gain fitness and group ride skills but also meet great people.

5.    Nutrition

SNACKS! How much and what to eat during your Gran Fondo? Nutrition is a whole topic in itself, however, you want to train with the nutrition you will use on event day. Never try something new the day of an event.

There are 3 types of event-day nutrition to dial in for your big day: pre-, during-, and post-ride nutrition. Most Gran Fondos are 3+ hours, they are on the weekend, and start in the morning. Plan your dinner the night before, breakfast day of, during-event fueling, and post-event refueling. Use your long weekend rides to train nutrition for your event. As always, natural and non-processed foods are best.

Pre-ride: The night before your event, have a nice meal of protein, fat, and carbs. For example, salmon with roasted vegetables and a cup of rice. Avoid highly processed foods and foods that cause indigestion, eat at a reasonable time not too late, drink plenty of water, and limit yourself to 1 alcoholic beverage.

On the morning of your event, have a meal with carbs, protein, and minimal fat and fiber. Oatmeal and fruit with 2 eggs or a banana with nut butter and cup of rice. Find what works for you and eat that before your long ride on Saturday. Get used to it.

During-event nutrition You will need fats and sugar during your event. Eat every hour, starting with substantial fuel such as a FastKat Bar, nut butter packet, or rice cake (Skratch Labs has great recipes). As the ride progresses, you will need more simple sugars as the body will not be able to digest, absorb, and use fats and complex carbs as well. Dried fruit is a great source of natural sugar or Blocks, GU, and gels will do the job. Keep in mind, though, that your gut is not keen on gels. One or 2 gels as last resort fuel in the last hour or 2 is all you really should use. Prevent race gut!

Post-event Eat carbs and protein within the first 2 hours after your event, such as a recovery drink or chocolate milk, or grab a plate and have a post-event meal. If a beer or 2 appears in your hand, by all means CELEBRATE!

Want more? Contact us about cycling coaching. Dr. Kat Sweatt is a certified cycling coach and uses the latest science and technology to make your best even better. Coaching is for anyone and everyone. It is personalized training plans and a partnership so you achieve your goals and have fun!

Recipe of the Week: Sweet Potato Banana Waffles

This week’s recipe of the week is Sweet Potato Banana Waffles. Just 6 ingredients. No grains. No gluten. No processed foods or preservatives. Great for breakfast, snack, or fuel for your endurance adventure.


I used to really struggle with what to eat on a long bike ride. Foods high in sugar, preservatives, and/or highly processed ingredients kill my stomach. So, I began experimenting with real-food snacks I could carry with me. The waffles are a tasty snack and excellent fuel! If you are looking for an all-natural, whole-foods snack or endurance sport fuel, this recipe is for you.

Waffles are easy to carry with you and easy to eat on a bike ride. They will not melt or get mushy. They go down easy and without needing to drink a bottle of water. They are tasty but do not leave a bad taste in your mouth.

When fueling for an endurance event lasting more than 1.5 hours, have 1-2 waffles per hour. Before incorporating waffles, or any new foods into race day, try during training. Note how you feel, digestive issues, energy or lack there of. The more information you have, the better you can design fueling for your main event!

Sweet Potato Banana Waffles


Makes 3 large waffles


  • 1 cup sweet potato, cut into large pieces (27g carb)

  • 1 medium ripe banana (27g carb)

  • 2 eggs

  • 1 tbsp butter (coconut oil or

  • 1 tsp cinnamon

  • Dash of salt


  1. Cook the sweet potato until soft (boil or microwave)

  2. Place all ingredients in a boil and blend.

  3. Pour ½ cup on waffle maker and cook to your liking.

  4. Enjoy!

Nutrition Facts:

Serving size 1 waffle

140 kcals / 4.7g protein / 17g carbs / 6g fat


Fall Endurance Training: Improve Your Anaerobic Threshold

Fall is one of the best times of year. Cooler temps, leaves changing colors, holidays and events, good food, and football. However, the days get shorter, weather can be great, but also unpredictable, maybe kids and sports take over your weekends, and if you had a training plan, raced, or just rode your bike a lot over the summer, maybe you are experiencing a little burnout or lack of motivation. If this is you, no worries. You can still make gains, maintain (even improve) fitness, and, most importantly, still enjoy riding your bike this Fall without those 2-3+ hour rides.

How? One way is to focus on increasing your anaerobic threshold (AT).

What is AT?

AT is one of the most important benchmarks in endurance sports. It is king when it comes to endurance performance.

AT refers to the intensity (speed or power) at which the production rate of lactate in the muscle equals the clearance rate of lactate. The by-product of burning glycogen is lactate. As you increase intensity, you rely more on glycogen to produce ATP, therefore you are producing more lactate. Lactate is cleared from the bloodstream but as intensity (power/speed) increases, lactate production exceeds clearance and begins to accumulate in the blood stream. The power/speed at which lactate begins to accumulate is your AT.

AT figure.jpg

AT marks the highest possible intensity, which can be sustained without accumulating lactate. In the graph to the right, you can see the lactate production (red line) and lactate concentration (yellow line) increases gradually as intensity increases, then a sudden spike at 278 watts (red arrow and circle). At intensities above 278 watts, this athlete will produce more lactate than can be cleared. This is the athlete’s AT (maximum intensity at which lactate production equals lactate clearance). Once crossing the AT, you rely more heavily on your glycolytic system for energy, and you are exercising on borrowed time. The accumulation of blood lactate will hinder your muscles’ ability to contract, and you will be forced to slow down or stop.  

In other words, when you raise the intensity of an exercise and all a sudden your legs start burning, breathing becomes labored so you can’t say more than a word or 2 between breaths, heart rate ratchets up 5-10 bpm, and everything in you is saying slow down, you have just crossed your AT.


AT and your functional threshold power (FTP), which is commonly defined as the highest sustainable intensity (power or heart rate) you can do for 40-60 minutes. This is a metric you can use if you do not have access to a lab for AT testing, or see below to estimate your AT with power or heart rate.

Why Increase Your AT

Increasing your AT means you will be able to ride with greater power output or speed without accumulating lactate. The more work you can do before reaching lactate threshold, the better. If the pace you can hold at your lactate threshold is higher than the pace your competitor can hold at his or her lactate threshold, you go faster, reach the finish first, and win. If racing isn’t your thing and you simply want to hang with your friends without getting dropped, whether it be the beginner ride or weekly throw down, increasing your AT get you there.

Many athletes avoid training to increase AT. It requires a focus, attention to intensity, and a little suffering. The great thing is that you can do a threshold workout fairly quick, where you get the suffering done in short intervals, adequate rest in between, and before you know it, the session is over. You can even incorporate AT work into a group ride by pushing the pace at the front or charging up a long climb. The key is steady-pacing keeping the intensity just below your AT (or right at your FTP).

Workouts geared at increasing your AT are great for Fall when time for cycling might be less and motivation wanes. Workouts can be done in just 75 minutes on a trainer, spin bike, or outdoors. Importantly, the “life balance” that cycling frequently threatens remains stable (increase cycling, gain fitness but maybe other parts of life suffer - upset significant other, less time with friends, productivity wanes, etc.).

Estimating Your AT

Don’t know your AT? No problem. Remember AT is the maximum intensity at which lactate production equals lactate clearance. It is a measurable physiological number, however it requires a testing lab, lactate reader, test protocol, and someone to administer the test.

You can estimate your AT by the following steps:

  1. Find a mostly flat stretch of road 1.5-3 miles long (5-10k) and perform 2 maximal efforts.

  2. Record your average power and/or heart rate.

  3. Take your average power and/or heart rate and multiply by 0.9. Most of us average about 10% above threshold for 1.5-3mi efforts. This is your estimated AT power or heart rate.

How to Increase Your AT

For 10 weeks, incorporate a few of the following workouts to get in at least 60-100 minutes of AT work per week.

Here are some workouts that target your AT:

AT workout.jpg

1. AT Intervals Just below AT, 5-20 minute intervals. The workout is less than 2 hours and would look something like the figure to the right: 20 minute warm up followed by 5X8 minute threshold intervals (for the athlete above, 8 minutes @270-290 watts) with 4 minutes rest between intervals and a 10-20 minute cool down. This is a total of 40 minutes of AT work.

If your estimated AT heart rate is 182bpm, then your target interval heart rate is 170-180 bpm, just under your estimated AT heart rate.


  • If you are new to this training, start with 5x5 minute intervals then increase time each week. Increase interval time and reduce interval number over the 10 week block (for example, 5x5min, 5x8min, 4x10min, 4x12min, 3x15min, 2x20min, 3x20min).

  • Incorporate a 20 second spike every 2-3 minutes during intervals. Vary the cadence of the spike, in the saddle and out of the saddle to help you create range at your AT.

2. Hard group rides: Attend a weekly group ride? Take part in the efforts at the front of the rotation. Instead of sitting in and drafting, push yourself, get in the rotation for as long as you can then go back and rest in the pack until you are ready to go again.

You can also train AT in a group by steady pacing up the climbs right below AT. This is great if there are a three to five 5-20 minute climbs.

3. Cyclocross race: Possibly the most entertaining way to increase your AT. Cyclocross is performed full gas at an intensity you can hold for 30 minutes to 1 hour with spikes of power to get over obstacles, slight rest periods (if you corner well), then more full gas. You train multiple energy systems during a cyclocross race and spend a good deal of time pushing your limits at AT. Plus you get the opportunity to support local racing and heckle your friends!

Want to achieve more on the bike? Find out about cycling coaching? Interested in testing your AT in a lab? Need nutrition help? Click the button below to contact us and learn more about how we can help you.

It's HOT! Tricks to staying hydrated for optimal performance and recovery

Feeling the heat this summer?! It’s hot AND humid in the South. If you are out in the heat, whether it’s 1-3+ hour bike rides or runs, walking the dog, or gardening, it is important to stay hydrated to make sure you are equipped to deal with the heat and humidity.

Your everyday beverage consumption sets the tone.

First, drink water. There are several guidelines and opinions about how much water you should drink per day. When in doubt, drink when thirsty. Thirst is the body’s way of letting you know it needs water (duh).

Second, also, drink water. Water is the best form of hydration throughout the day. If you have coffee, soda, and energy drink or other caffeinated beverage, be aware that caffeine is a diuretic and might contribute to dehydration. Alcohol is also a diuretic, so be aware if you have a few drinks at night or after a run or bike ride, remember to also drink water. A friend once told me a trick, if you are going out with friends and will indulge in a couple adult beverages, have 1 glass of water between alcoholic beverages. This will help with hydration and slow down your alcohol consumption (they are just empty calories anyways!). As far as beverage consumption throughout the day, water is best. If that is a challenge for you, try naturally flavored or sparkling water.

Staying hydrated before, during, and after exercise

Hydration is a key factor in performance and recovery. Improper hydration can lead to cramping during a workout, fluid imbalances, and have lasting effects after a workout. Intensity, duration, and location can help you determine what to drink during and after a workout for optimal performance and recovery.

Water consumption may suffice short workouts lasting less than an hour. If the workout is outdoors and you are a heavy sweater, consider a sports drink during and/or after to replenish electrolyte (sodium and potassium) loss. During prolonged, intense exercise, it becomes more important to replace the fluid and minerals lost in sweat. The appropriate amount for rehydration will depend on factors such as the level and duration of exertion.

Before Exercise:


Here are the guidelines: In the 2-3 hours before your workout or event, drink 16 oz of water, that is just 2 cups. 1 hour prior to exercise, drink 8 oz, or 1 cup of water. Consider these guidelines a starting point for your pre-workout hydration. There are several opinions about sports nutrition, but you have to find what works best for you. Keep that in mind as you continue reading.

During exercise:

Why does hydration matter? Water and fluid plays a role in plasma volume. Plasma is a component of blood and actually makes up about 55% of our blood volume. When water is lost during exercise (sweating), plasma volume is also reduced. A reduction in plasma volume is related to decreased performance. For instance, reduced plasma volume compromises the body’s maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max), or the ability of oxygen to be taken from lungs and transported to muscles to produce energy. Reduced plasma volume also contributes to body temperature as well as cardiac drift, or the increase in HR during prolonged exercise without an increase in intensity. Just a liter of water loss contributes to decreases in performance. Therefore, hydration can make or break a workout or event, particularly in high heat and humidity.

The following are guidelines to experiment with. Let these serve as a starting point as everyone is different. Your habitual diet, hydration status, fitness level, previous week of workouts, sweat rate, water and sport nutrition likes/dislikes, and digestion, among others are factors that contribute to nutrition intake during a workout.

  • Drink a few big gulps (or approx. 200ml) every 10-15 min which is about 1-16 oz bottle, or 1/2 L/hr

  • Start drinking early in the activity

  • Avoid drinking large doses of caffeine

  • Practice drinking during training

  • Spread fluid and carbohydrate intake during ride

Post exercise fluid intake:

Dehydration is much more than being thirsty or needing water. It happens at the cellular level. In fact, a dehydrated cell is catabolic – favors breakdown of glycogen and protein. A hydrated cell is anabolic and well suited for glycogen restoration and protein synthesis and repair. (Glycogen is the storage form of energy. It is important to replenish after a tough and/or long workout). Therefore, a hydrated cell promotes recovery while a dehydrated cell will prolong recovery and may hinder your next workout.  Begin rehydrating immediately and spread fluid intake over time. Add sodium to increase fluid retention by kidneys. For example, consume electrolyte drink. If you don’t want the added sugar after a workout, try Power Aid Zero or a low sugar drink.

To avoid lasting dehydration, here are guidelines to experiment with. Tweak to see what works for you:

  • Consume 1.5L for every kg body weight lost

  • Fluid should contain 400-1000 mg sodium and 120-225 mg potassium per Liter lost

  • Drinking water with a meal will replenish lost fluid and electrolytes

  • Replace carbohydrate 1g/kg body weight – a recovery drink or bar with 6-7% (14-15g CHO/8oz) is ideal for replacing carbohydrate during exercise. Higher carbohydrate concentration can be used after.

  • Electrolytes: sodium and potassium are the main 2

What about sports drinks?

Sports drinks such as Gatorade, Powerade, Heed, and Skratch to name a few are specifically engineered for pre-, during-, and post-exercise consumption. They are designed to rehydrate, provide energy and replenish the body’s electrolytes, especially sodium, which is lost through sweating. Sports drinks will reduce the risk of fluid-electrolyte imbalances that can occur after a long workout or race with a high level of sweating. If you are exercising for 1 hour or longer, particularly at moderate- to high intensities, you will benefit from a sports drink. Many sports drinks also contain carbohydrates – the body’s main source of energy for higher-intensity activities.

If exercising less than 1 hour, especially indoors with air conditioning, water will likely suffice. If your workout is longer than 1 hour, consuming a few gulps of a sports drink every 15-20 minutes can help maintain energy and electrolyte levels, and sustain performance. This translates to approximately 1 bottle per hour. Again, think of this information as a starting point or guide. If that does not work for you (for example, the sugar content causes GI distress), try diluting or dialing up the concentration of your drink.

I don't sweat, I glisten. Like a pig!

Are you a heavy or salty sweater? If you struggle with cramping during exercise, consider determining your water loss during exercise. Simply weigh yourself before and after your workout (in the nude if possible) and subtract your post-ride weight from your pre-ride weight. If you lose more than 2 pounds, try a post-ride recovery drink with electrolytes along with water every hour to replenish what you have lost. Get in the habit of “weighing in” and “weighing out” before and after a workout to keep an eye on your fluid loss.

You can take it a step further and calculate your sweat rate. To do this, weight before and after your workout and keep track of how many bottles you drink during your workout. Then follow these simple steps. You might need a calculator.

  1. Convert your pre- and post-workout weight to kilograms: ___ lbs X 0.454 = ____ kg

    • For example: Pre-ride weight = 120lbs X 0.454=­54.48kg Post ride weight= 117lbs X 0.454= 53.12kg

  2. Subtract the post-ride weight (in kg) from the pre-ride weight in (kg)

    • Pre-ride weight (kg) – post-rid weight (kg) = weight lost during ride

    • For example: 54.48-53.12 = 1.36kg

  3. Add the amount of water (in liters).

    • Weight lost during ride + fluid intake (L) = gross water loss

    • For example: 2 Liters of water were consumed. 1.36kg+2L = 3.26L

  4. Determine your Sweat Rate: Divide the gross water loss by time.

    • For example: duration of activity was 3 hours. 3.26L/3 hours = 1.12L/hour

In Short:

        Pre-race weight (kg) = 54.48

        Post-race weight (kg) = 53.12

        Fluid intake (L) = 2

        Time (hours) = 3

        Sweat rate (L/hr) = [(54.48-53.12)+2]/3=~1.12 L/hr

If you track sweat rate with the weather conditions, you can estimate how much fluid you need to consume based on conditions such as temperature, duration, and intensity.

Another method (albeit not as scientific) to assess if you are consuming enough fluid is the color and frequency of urination.  If your urine is clear and you are urinating frequently, you should be close to maintaining adequate hydration levels.  However, be aware that although you are drinking a lot of water and your urine is clear or light in color, water retention may not be adequate. 

Need more help with hydration or nutrition?

If you struggle with cramping or just want to really dial in your pre-, during-, and post-workout hydration, I suggest you try a sweat test (Fagan Sports Medicine is great if you are in the Birmingham, AL area). A sweat test will inform you of electrolyte and water loss in units per hour to know what and how much to take in per hour.

If you have a performance or weight loss goal, want to really dial in your pre-, during-, and post-workout nutrition, or become more healthy and consistent with your eating habits, schedule a consult! With a nutrition consult, we will break down your day-to-day diet, your pre-, during-, and post-workout nutrition, set goals, and make a plan to meet your goals.