Meals size and timing

I’ve started tracking calories this week and I have a question about meal size/timing.
For example, In a short session training day (burning around 1000-1200kcal, session shorter than 2 hours) my meals are:
1000kcal for breakfast
800kcal for lunch
300kcal snack
700kcal for dinner

Macros around 60/20/20 for each meal.
I usually do my session before dinner during the week, should I structure my nutrition in a different way to eat more before/after my workout and go for a lighter breakfast? Any other insights on meal and macronutrients timing?

Are you having trouble completing the workouts?

Sounds great to me. I’d see that the snack is providing some calories for the ride and not too heavy but you probably do that. Timing depends on what you eat, the more processed/sugary, the closer to your workout.

Also have some food after the workout (post-workout fueling) if you don’t have dinner directly.

A general great resource is Matt Fitzgerald’s Endurance Diet, you may want to check that book out

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How long before the session is your snack?

And are you getting any calories during your session?

If I was doing a 1000+ calorie workout I’d almost certainly be getting some gels, energy drink, bars, cake, banana or whatever in during the session. And then maybe look at taking those calories away from breakfast. I think a 1000 calorie breakfast is a bit much if you’re not working out until the evening.

As @schmidt says, timing is really important. You might be interested in James Morton’s work (he was/is nutritionist for Sky). He calls it “Fuel for the work required”, and talks about it on a Sigma Sports podcast - worth checking out.

He gives this graphic as an example - green is high carb, orange medium, and red low. It seems to be done on the basis of training done between breakfast and lunch. You can see how the macro proportions change depending on the day’s workout intensity (or the next day’s workout intensity).

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I usually don’t fuel for anything shorter than 2 hours, but I’m starting to think this is a mistake.
I have always completed the workouts scheduled by my coach but I think I’ll start adding a couple of scoops of carbs + electrolytes to my bottles.
My snack is about 30 minutes before training. Usually a banana with wholewheat bread.
I’ll try to shift the calories towards a bigger pre-workout and post-workout meal.

I was also wondering if the lighter dinner could disrupt sleep, sometimes I wake up a little bit hungry a couple of hours after going to sleep. I usually have dinner right after shower anyway.

P.S: I’m loading up the podcast right now!

So my first change would be to make this snack a bit bigger, and more like 2 hours before the workout so it’s cleared your stomach. It sounds like a good snack, but wholewheat bread is not the easiest to absorb carbs from when you’re going all out on the trainer.

I suspect it isn’t the light dinner that’s the problem per se, but more that you’re playing catch-up after taking on too little around your workout.

The method I use I learned off Amber on the podcast. The rule is that the calories consumed before, during, and maybe straight after the workout should equal the calories expended during the work out. So that means that your afternoon snack, your food on the bike, and your recovery shake should be 1000 calories or whatever. Then the rest of your meals - breakfast lunch and dinner - just add up to whatever calories you’d need if you weren’t doing any exercise.

I don’t count calories for my general meals, but I do for my workout fuelling. So when I have a high-intensity 1000 calorie workout before dinner, I do something like this:

  • A normal sized balanced breakfast
  • A normal sized healthy lunch
  • A high-carb snack 2-2.5 hours before workout, maybe soaked oats, raisins, honey, and peanut butter, and/or a banana: 500 calories
  • Bottle of energy drink and 2 gels during workout - 350 calories
  • Recovery drink straight after - 150 calories
  • A normal sized healthy dinner

As per “fuel for the work required”, what the breakfast lunch and dinner consist of depends on the kind of workout I’m doing that day, or did the day before. But concentrating my high-sugar carb intake around my workout generally means that those meals can have plenty of fruit and veg.

I try to have big meals and light snacking, lunch is about 4 hours before training and dinner is right after. Should I break down lunch so that I have that snack 2 hours before workout? If so, why?

I will definetely start fueling on the bike anyway, except for targeted low carb sessions.
I feel like I really need carbs only when I do sessions above FTP, probably because of my training oriented towards long hilly races, sweetspot feels “easy” and not worthy of fueling, but I am probably wrong.

I think that unless you’re REALLY fat-adapted, sweetspot is a massive carb-burner! Gets through huge amounts of calories and at that close to threshold, a big big chunk of that will be carbs. I would definitely fuel it and see how it affects the RPE.

I think the most important thing is the the snack is at least 2 hours before the workout, so there’s time for it to be digested.

Personally, I like to eat a normal lunch and then basically eat a second, high-carb meal in the afternoon that makes me feel like I’m really gearing up for the workout later. However that is just my preference and it might be just as effective to have your pre-workout calories in a bigger lunch 4 hours before. Would be interested in others’ takes on this!

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I am 25 years old 177cm / 58.5kg currently (very low fat percentage in the long term). Training about 10-12 hours a week / 6-7 times bike. Rides duration ussually betwen 1.5h to 2h. Job in the office (6:30 am - 2:30pm / 8hrs). My Rides starts after job so about 3:30pm

I have problems with digestion (I feel full, flatulence, constantly urinating - this is my biggest problem and fee little bit weak in training sessions). KCALs consumed around 2700-2900, macros P 130-150 / C 375-450 / F 60-65. Fiber is about 30-40g per day. Water about 2,5-3l per day. I am eating 90% clean. Complex carbohydrates such as yam, potatotoes, pasta, rice, fruits, vegetables, chicken, turkey, fish, salmon, eggs, olive oil, coconut, hemp oil and some nuts - no junk food (just sometimes toast, ham, low fat cheese, jam, honey after sessions).

My typical day looks like:
7:00 am
Oats 90g, blueberries or raspberries 60g, walnuts or cashews or almonds or brazils nuts 20g, cottage cheese or greek yog 125-140g (Macros: P 31 / C 70 / F 20 / fiber 12-14g - 590 KCALS)

11:20 am
Jasmine Rice or Pasta (dry) 100g, Chicken (dry) 120g, Olive or Coconout oil 10g, Beetroot 100-130g, Lettuce 50g
(Macros: P 35-40 / C 85-90 / F 10-15 / fiber 3-4g - 605 KCALS)

3:30 pm
Ride (1.5h to 2h) - when I have hard session using 30g of maltodextrin in 600ml with electrolytes, sometimes sultanas or dates 30g for 20g carbs (TOTAL ON BIKE 80-120 KCALS)

Immediately after having fruit (apple or banana 20-30g carbs) or smoothie with strawberries or blueberies, banana, coconout water (30-40g carbs)

Jasmine Rice (dry) 120g, Fish or tuna or salmon (dry) 130g or 110g, Olive or Coconout or hemp or flax oil 10-15g, Broccoli or green beans or carrot 100-150g, baby spinach 60-100g (Macros: P 35-40 / C 90-105 / F 10-17 / fiber 8-10g - 705 KCALS)

Potatoes or Yam (dry) 500g, Again fish or tuna or salmon or ham with cheese or greek youg, Peanut butter or olive or coconout oil, Mixed salad for e.g. tomatoes, cucumbers, paprika, rucola (Macros: P 30-40 / C 100-120 / F 10-17 / fiber 10-18g - 700 KCALS)

My question is to advise in meals for better digestion, not feel full and stop urinating all the time (13-14 times per day). Also have more energy for training because I don´t feel very good.

What do you think please?

First thing to say is that I am not even close to being a professional nutritionist! Just someone who tried their best to eat healthily and fuel their rides.

On the question of excessive urination, I really don’t want to speculate as I’m not an expert. But the obvious question it raises is - are you drinking too much water?

The same goes with flatulence. Maybe this is something someone with more expertise could answer.

I think your diet looks really good and healthy, and I wouldn’t change the composition of most of your meals. But the main problem is, I don’t think you’re sufficiently fuelling or recovering from your afternoon ride. And the reason I think that is because you’re having to eat two 700-calorie meals in the evening. So I’d make the following changes…

I’d try to eat this meal maybe a bit later if you can, so it’s more like 3 hours before your ride. And maybe increase the amount of low-GI carbs if your ride is going to be high intensity.

Then have a small but carb-heavy snack at about 2:30. Maybe a banana (or maybe even the banana smoothie you currently have after the ride!).

If your ride is high intensity, go for more like 60g carbs per hour, and from high-GI sources - i.e. gels, more maltodextrin - rather than the sultanas or dates.

As above, think about having the fruit an hour BEFORE your ride as a little top-up. Straight after your ride (and I mean the minute you get off the bike, before you shower) you need to top up glycogen stores, so that means high GI carbs. Another 30-50g energy drink for example. Don’t worry about “clean” here, just get the sugar in you!

Hopefully the extra carb at lunch, the snack at 2:30, the extra carbs on your ride, and your recovery drink should mean you don’t need 1400 calories to get you through the rest of the day. So you can make these 2 meals into 1 bigger meal and maybe a snack before bed if you feel you need it.

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Thank you for your advice guys! I really appreciate it.

For me, I’ve found 3 hours to be really good, with the caveat that I’ve also eaten quite a lot before that as well. I’ll go into my workouts feeling not full, but not at all weak.

Take a look at this deep dive from Hammer Nutrition: They seem pretty big on not going under 3 hours. This is from the perspective of pre-race, but I can’t imagine why it doesn’t matter biologically day to day:

I posted a link in this thread to a pretty extensive guide on this from our Navy Seal friends. I’ve used it with great success. Informative and practical at the same time.

Ingest a meal providing 1.5 gram of CHO per pound of body weight approximately 4 hours prior to exercise.

This may well be ideal, but creates an issue if you’re meeting at the cafe at 8am.

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Curious Q: what does James Morton class as Low and High Carb? Example dishes? going for fat/protein? At the end of the day calorie totals matter over macros I would have assumed.

Yep - this is where pre-bed oats comes into play.

Interesting question. Below is the link for the scientific paper, but as you’d expect it’s quite, well, scientific. Recipe ideas thin on the ground.

Below is a PDF that describes “Medium” and “High” carb intake - but in the context of a top World Tour rider in the middle of a Grand Tour. So even a “medium” carb day involves 78g carbs for breakfast, plus 5 gels and 5 rice cakes on the bike. And the “high” carb day is off the charts - 430g of carbs just in the post-ride recovery meal.

But then Chris Froome will be putting out 300+ watts for several hours and burning 3000-6000 Kj per day. So context is important - it’s fuel for the work required, and none of us can claim to require as much as Froomey.

You might find some nuggets of info here in the transcript of the podcast James did with Sigma Nutrition - although again a quick search suggests there isn’t a lot of specific suggestions.

I think possibly there might be clues in promo videos Team Sky have put out over the years, Instagram posts of their dinners, etc. I remember one of Chris Froome having boiled egg and avocado on what must have been a low day, suggesting that healthy fats and protein are certainly an important part of the equation. A few recipes here.

But I think mostly we just have to take James Morton’s approach as a scientific guide to carb timing, and then apply other considerations (whole grains, whole foods, fresh fruit and veg, protein requirements, nutritional density, antioxidants, omega oils, whatever else makes a healthy diet) around that central principle.

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I’m curious about this. If you had, say 500 calories of oats before bed, then did an early morning workout burning 700 calories. Would you be able to manage just with 200 calories during / after that workout? Or are you going to end up ingesting more than you put out?

Typically, I have around 400 cal (oats + skimmed milk) just before bed, with a banana (+ double espresso) around 30 min before starting the session (intensity sessions only - endurance are always fasted). So 500 cal in total pre-session.

Unless a fasted endurance ride, I usually aim to take in 50% of kJs expended on the bike during the interval section through drink mix + banana or two.

Recent 30/15 session (below) was 2 hours in duration, with 3 x 13 min of 30/15s at 140% FTP, followed by ~50 min of endurance @65% FTP.

Total energy expenditure was 1500 kJ/cal, of which 400 cal were consumed the night before, with 100 cal 30 min before. Drink mix and 2 bananas would roughly be 400 cal (consumed within first hour of the session), so total would be around 900 cal.

I know lab tests that my efficiency is very high (27-28%) so the conversion from kJ to cal is going to be a little high. The intense portion of the ride was approx 900 kJ, so I fueled the intense portion of the ride (hitting the 50% target mentioned above).

I’m aware that calorie consumption (esp. previous night’s oats will not all go towards either liver/muscle glycogen stores), but these calculations are in the right ballpark for me (i.e., maintaining a small calorie deficit to reduce BF%, whilst maintaining the quality of the sessions).


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Then did you make up the remaining 600 calories after the session? And if so, was 600 calories enough or did you feel hungry before lunch?