As a general rule, you are likely under-fueling your training if …
• You feel that you are working hard, but not making the gains in performance you would expect.
• The quality of your workouts decreases during the course of a training week.
• You feel sluggish and are easily frustrated during training sessions.
• You frequently pick up colds and other illnesses.
Although there 'may' be appropriate times close to races, for 'some' experienced athletes, to perform 'some' low intensity sessions with lower than normal carbohydrate availability - for the majority of athletes, in almost every training situation, overall endurance performance will benefit from sufficiently fueling workouts before, during and after they have taken place.
Below, you will find the THP recommendations on how to appropriately fuel your training.
MODERATE & HIGH INTENSITY WORKOUTS
Pre-Workout (of any duration): 30-60g carbs, 15-25g protein
What and when you eat before exercise can make a big difference to your performance and recovery.
In the three hours before your workout, you’ll want to eat something that helps you:
preserve muscle mass
This can come in the form of a complete, well balanced meal and healthy beverage around 2-3 hours before training. Or, if you need to consume your nutrition closer to training, a shake may be more appropriate.
0-30 min Workout: None Required
There is no absolute need to take in any carbohydrate during the session. There is little or no evidence that carbohydrate intake or a mouth rinse does anything. It may not harm, but there does not seem to be any need. What is important for these short sessions, is that you enter the workout well fueled, having consumed 30-60g of carbohydrates in the hour before it started.
30-60 min Workout: 20-30g of carbs per hour
Performance will benefit from carbohydrate intake. The types of carbohydrate does not seem to matter much here, so a single source such as fructose, glucose or maltodextrin should be sufficient.
1-2 hr Workout: 30-60g of carbs per hour
Carbohydrate intake has been shown to improve performance over this duration and 30 grams per hour is probably sufficient. However, 60 grams per hour could be better for you in terms of both performance and post-workout recovery. Whilst a single source of carbohydrate may be adequate, it could be more beneficial to use a combination of fructose and glucose, or glucose and maltodextrin for example.
2-3 hr Workout: 60-90g of carbs per hour
As the exercise duration goes beyond 2 hours, there appears to be a dose response relationship and higher intakes are recommended as long as this does not cause stomach problems (or other gastro-intestinal distress). 60-90 grams of carbohydrate should be consumed through a combination of sources (starch, fructose, glucose, maltodextrin etc).
3+ hr Workout: 90-120g of carbs per hour
Research into mountain runners, and anecdotal evidence from Ironman athletes and pro cyclists, suggests that intakes as high as 120 grams per hour, could be more beneficial than the previous recommended maximum of 90. Having a mixture of carbohydrate sources (starch, fructose, glucose, maltodextrin etc) is likely very important here, in order to oxidise as much of the carbohydrate as possible, leaving as little as possible in the gut to cause distress.
Finally, it is important to know that you can mix and match your carbohydrate sources and use drinks, gels, chews and bars depending on you personal preferences. For any solid foods, make sure fat, fibre and protein intake are low, so these ingredients don’t slow down the delivery of carbohydrate and fluids.
FUELING 'EASY' SESSIONS
Your fueling strategy for 'Easy' sessions, need not be as aggressive as it is for workouts, but it must be sufficient to fuel the work you are required to perform. Executing some of your easy sessions in a fasted state close to races, may indeed provide you with some marginal, short-lived gains in terms of fat metabolism. However, we would urge all athletes to focus on the major gains that can be made by adequately fueling easy sessions, in order to increase the rate of recovery from them. Our recommendations are as follows:
0-60 min Easy Session: None Required
1-3 hr Easy Session: None required in the first hour, 20-30g of carbs per hour thereafter
3+ hr Easy Session: 30-60g of carbs per hour
FUELING 'RACE SPECIFIC' SESSIONS
Your must prepare your gut for the demands it will face on race day. This not only means training to tolerate the specific quantity, specific form (solid, gel, chew, drink etc), and specific brand of carbohydrates you will intake on race day - but also training to tolerate them in race conditions at race intensity.