The days get shorter and the mercury goes down. Winter is here. It can be difficult to maintain a steady training load during the British winter. Cold, dark days enveloped us in a battle with both the elements and the motives.
As the weather worsens (yes, sorry, it will) and your training load changes as you adopt a winter routine, there’s something else to consider other than staying warm and dry: Should your fueling habits change, too?
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With fewer races and events on the calendar until spring—unless you’re a fan of cycling—most cyclists tend to lower the intensity and focus on building their base. With the switch to endurance training, nutrition also changes. There is a tendency among cyclists to lack fuel on the bike, all year round.
For endurance riding, the recommended minimum is 40 grams of carbs per hour. So unless you’re intentionally reducing your carbs (or calories), then aim to eat the equivalent of two bananas an hour on the bike — it’s a helpful rule of thumb.
It’s not just about carbs per hour. There are more considerations to take into account when it comes to energy expenditure during the winter months. Many of us reduce our training volume, discouraged by extreme conditions. On the other hand, training can become more energy intensive due to the nature of winter riding.
Sports nutrition expert David Starr (eatdrinkwin.com) explains: “Excess clothing, strong wind, and high rolling resistance all make winter training a little more difficult than you might expect. Extremely cold weather can increase your need for carbs, just because shivering is primarily caused by carbs!” “
To calculate your power requirements, most modern head units provide a good estimate of the power you used while riding. It is important to match your energy consumption with your spending.
“If your intensity decreases, you will need less carbohydrates in your diet,” Starr notes, “but for many athletes, training volume may increase so the overall amount of energy required remains the same.”
There is no one size fits all when it comes to feeding planning; It does involve a little planning. My personal approach is to estimate the duration and intensity of the ride. If it was going to take three hours in zone 2, I would eat 150 grams of carbs – 50 grams per hour.
I check the carb level for every product I eat, put them back in my pocket, and then always have an extra one or two. You never know if you’ll drop a bar or end up marking an extra loop at the end.
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