For endurance athletes, proper fueling is vital for peak performance. It’s difficult to overstate the importance of carbohydrates for fueling the muscles for the work you are doing. Even during short workouts, optimizing what you eat can have profound effects on the quality of your training. Fueling your short workouts can help your consistency, increase effectiveness, and set you up for long-term success.

For more information on nutrition check out Ask A Cycling Coach Ep 292.


Do I Need to Fuel Short Workouts?

For workouts lasting sixty minutes or less, you can likely get away with no extra fuel and still train well. That’s assuming that you’ve fueled adequately beforehand and that you are going to get enough nutrition afterward. But just because you can, doesn’t always mean you should. Proper fueling, even for short workouts, can set you up for future success.

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Taking in nutrition helps preserve workout quality, especially when it’s an intense one. Fueling also significantly reduces the margin for error with future workouts. Growing your fitness requires consistency, and fueling properly can go a long way to help you nail your training plan. So when you think about fueling those hour-long workouts, don’t just consider that one workout. Try to see the larger picture. That seemingly small, yet important, extra quality in every workout over the length of a training plan, adds up to significant fitness gains.

Additionally, eating and drinking during any workout will help build strong habits that you’ll use for your events. Additionally, when fueling becomes second nature during training, you’ll reduce cognitive load during the most crucial parts of the race. 

Do I need to Fuel If I’m Trying to Lose Weight?

Yes, properly fueling on the bike won’t make you gain weight. In fact, fueling your shorter workouts can help you manage post-ride hunger, which can aid in selecting healthier foods after training. We recommend that you chase performance on the bike, and cut the calories in other meals during the day. But even when fueling a workout, you’re still likely to end the ride in a calorie deficit. 

For example, let’s take a look at Pettit. This is an hour-long, endurance ride spent between 60-70% of FTP. With an FTP of 200w, Pettit burns 446kJs. Since a kJ is roughly equivalent to a calorie, we can safely say you’ll burn about 446 calories. Let’s assume you fuel your ride with a high-carb drink mix like Science in Sport’s Beta Fuel. You’re consuming 80g of carbs and 321 total calories and still ending the ride with a 125 calorie deficit. 

How To Fuel Short Workouts

Fueling workouts can seem overly complicated at times. How many carbs and calories should I consume? Honestly, it depends on several factors, but a good starting point is to look at the amount of kJs for the workout. This is easy to find in the workout description. Then, figure out your nutrition needs. Let’s take a look at a few examples of a rider with a 250w FTP.

Gendarme -1 is a good example for how to fuel a short workout.

This is the VO2 max workout Gendarme -1. It’s forty-five minutes long and going to burn 495 kJs. So for this ride, an average banana (105 calories) and a bottle of high-carb sports drink (321 calories) will get you pretty close to an energy balance at the end of the ride. 

You don’t necessarily always need to use highly processed sport nutrition products. Those come in handy when the workout is intense or purely for the sake of convenience. Feel free to experiment with more natural sources like rice bars or fruit during those hour-long endurance rides.

Early Morning Workouts

Early morning workouts, especially the intense ones, can make it difficult to stay on top of fueling. Some athletes eat a small breakfast beforehand, but others hop out of bed and onto the bike. In either case, consuming a drink mix or another fast-acting carb will ensure you’ve got enough energy onboard to complete a high-quality workout. 

Properly fueling your short workouts will not only increase the quality of your workouts but will set you up for long-term success. Training is hard on your body and providing it what it needs will only lead to greater physiological adaptations, reduced cognitive load, and ultimately help you get faster. 

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Jesse Fortson

Jesse Fortson lost over 145 pounds with TrainerRoad's help. He uses his experience as a teacher and race mechanic to get faster for crits, gravel, and marathon XCO races.