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?

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Are you having trouble completing the workouts?

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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).


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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