Hydration and nutrition for workouts - and some food ideas


Hydration and nutrition for workouts

When I first started training I did not think too much about what to eat and drink before, during, and after workouts. As it turns out, how you fuel can make a big difference on how well you perform and recover. Below is a simple, straight-forward summary of what you need to know about fueling for your workouts.


Proper hydration is extremely important, and it becomes even more crucial when training in high temperatures and indoors.


Therefore, if you are not well hydrated, your blood volume drops, your heart rate increases, and you have less oxygen delivered to your working muscles. Even a 10% hydration deficit can compromise performance.

Hydrate all day

As an athlete, make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day so that you start your workout well hydrated and replenish fluid loss after your session. In addition, focus on additional water intake in the hours leading up to your workout.

During workouts

Pure water is fine for workouts lasting no longer than 90 minutes under normal temperatures. For workouts lasting longer than 90 minutes, or if you lose a lot of sodium during workouts (i.e., you are a “salty sweater”), I recommend that you add electrolytes to your water.

Electrolytes help your body replace fluids faster, deliver oxygen to your working muscles and keep your engine running smoothly. Water alone won’t have the same effect when the sweat rate is high, the workout is long, or the temperature is high.


As a general rule, you will need to eat carbohydrates before high intensity workouts. Aim for about 60 grams of slow-release carbs and eat them with 10-15 grams of protein 60-120 minutes before such workouts.

Examples of low-release carbs are oats, whole wheat bread, sweet potatoes, and quinoa. My favorite snack for hard workouts lasting 90-120 min is a combination of banana, oats, whey protein and almond butter, as shown below:

If you workout early in the morning, make sure to eat carbs the night before. You could then eat something small before the workout such as bananas with almond or peanut butter.

Food during workouts and rides

You won’t need to eat anything during workouts lasting up to 60 minutes. You might consider eating 30 grams of fast-release carbs during very intense workouts lasting 90 minutes.

For workouts and rides longer than 90 minutes, plan to eat about 40-60 grams of carbs every hour. I like to eat smaller amounts more often, usually every 40 minutes. See what works best for you. These are just general guidelines, so feel free to adjust as needed. Everyone is a little different.

Good examples of what to eat during workouts and rides are bananas, energy bars, baby potatoes, and home-made rice cakes. If I have a very intense workout with some serious efforts at or above VO2 Max, I consume shots of maple syrup or a more natural version of Swedish Fish for fast glucose delivery!

What are some of your favorite pre and during workout foods and drinks?


I struggle with pre-ride nutrition, especially if riding first thing in the morning. I know that my body really has enough glycogen stored for me to do at 60 min or so ride but i struggle with having the energy. I ‘m finding if i have a little caffeine (for me coffee) i can get through about 30 min depending how intense it is before I feel like I need a boost. I haven’t fully bought into the whole working out hard in a fasting state thing.
I’ve been using SiS energy gels and i don’t have any issues with stomach upset, etc. I always put hydration tabs in one water bottle, regardless of time i think I’m going to ride. I think it helps me to use it regularly instead of just on longer rides. I find it bothers me less. I’m still going through a bunch of Nuun, which I bought a giant box of last year. I’m going to give SiS a try next so we’’ll see how that goes. It’s all about figuring out what product works for our own bodies.

I did a 55 miler last summer on a 95 degree day with 95% humidity and I had hydration tab water in my water bottles all day except for one refill - and there were like at least 8-10 it was that hot and brutal. I made it through the whole ride, walked a bit (the huge mountain) , took rests but didn’t need to be pulled off the course. I know if I hadn’t been hydrating and having the electrolytes it would’ve been different and ever since I just make it a habit.


I am with you on the hydration. I use electrolytes with a little bit of carbs (Skratch) even for my 90 min workouts, as I find that it makes me perform and feel better.

I know a few people who have a hard time eating anything first thing in the AM before a workout. Here are a few example of things that are easier to digest/consume, in case they look palatable to you:

  • Maple syrup (it’s a complex carb and it has minerals, so a good option)
  • Banana by itself, banana with maple syrup, or banana with peanut or nut butter
  • Toast with nut butter
  • Smoothie


I eat like a horse and I can’t start any ride longer than maybe 30 minutes on an empty stomach or I totally crash and burn. Some common pre-ride breakfasts for me are homemade granola, yogurt and peanut butter, triscuits and peanut butter, or leftover pasta. I actually ride like I’ve swallowed jet fuel if I eat pasta beforehand.
My husband likes SiS tablets. I drink Vitalyte for any ride over 45 minutes or so or GU tabs for shorter rides.