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Simple Summer Nutrition & Hydration Strategies
By Staff
Date: 9/13/2006
Simple Summer Nutrition & Hydration Strategies

Simple Summer Nutrition & Hydration Strategies
In an area that can be as confusing as nutrition, the key to success is keeping it simple. By employing a common-sense, scientifically sound approach to nutrition and hydration, you can ensure effective training and perform at your best all year long...

By Jeb Stewart MS, CSCS, PES

One of the most perplexing and misunderstood aspects of sports training is that of nutrition. This should not come as a surprise as it is a subject that encompasses so many areas and plays such a critical part of the performance paradigm. Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all approach (at least not one that works) and no magic bullet. Too many people are constantly looking for the one nugget of information or approach to nutrition to solve all of the problems and answer all of their questions. It can be difficult to find what you are looking for out there without getting confused and the best way to improve your nutritional practices is to work with a licensed and certified nutritionist and read the current research and the many books offered by nutritional experts.  

I realize that I only know a little, but I have been fortunate to have been exposed to some good information and some really smart people along the way who have guided me in the right direction. The purpose of this article is to begin to share some of the simple nuggets I have found to work extremely well over the years, ones that are supported by applied experience and the current research. Hopefully what you find will help you keep it simple en route to better health and performance.  

The name of the game this time of the year, not unlike the rest of the season is to eat for the task at hand. If you short change your calories when you are training and racing you will pay the price in less than stellar performance. Eat too much in between and you gain excess weight. The solution is simple, eat smaller, balanced meals 3 x per day and a low-glycemic snack between each meal to keep your energy stores topped off and your metabolism fired. Simply put, keep your portions reasonable, your carbohydrates complex, proteins lean, fats healthy and lots of fruits and veggies on the plan and you’ll be good to go. I know you have heard this a thousand times but it bears repeating. 

For those of you who are tired of apples, un-ripe bananas and nuts as snacks, give pears & peaches a try as they are low-glycemic as well and fit the bill between meals. There are a number of healthy, low-glycemic, raw-food based nutritional bars out there today that make healthy, easy solutions for those who have a propensity to miss snacks. They are made of all organic ingredients and are chock full of anti-oxidants. If you have a habit of eating the wrong things or not eating snacks at all, just bring a bag of fruit or place a bunch of these bars in your desk at work and you won’t have any excuses. These can also be an occasional solution for those who tend to skip breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and also the most frequently skipped meal. I am not advocating skipping breakfast, but a healthy bar beats nothing any day. If you can’t make the time for a complete breakfast, then grab a complete bar and go. 

Before and during training
Now, what to eat before training always seems to baffle everyone as well. If you’ve got 3-4 hours until you ride then just have a complete meal and keep it balanced and lower on the glycemic index (complex carbohydrates, some protein and fat). If you are riding in 1-2 hours, then keep it lower in fat and protein and higher in moderate to higher-glycemic carbohydrates to avoid problems in digestion and facilitate easier utilization. It’s as simple as that. 

If you have eaten properly going into a training ride or race of less than 2 hours, then water and a sports drink should suffice. If the session goes from 2-4 hours then it is wise to take in 200+/- kcal per hour depending on intensity ideally in the form of liquid or gel to aid in digestion and rapid utilization, not to mention ease of use. Don’t get behind as you cannot catch up once you’ve done so. Eat before you get hungry to avoid bonking and set yourself up for performance. 

Post-training nutrition
It is imperative to make sure we are taking in enough calories post-exercise to adequately recover from racing and hard workouts. These should be roughly 60-70g of high-glycemic carbohydrates and 15-20g of protein taken in within 30 min to 1 hour post-exercise and should be followed by a complete meal 1-3 hours afterwards. Of course, replenishing fluids is key as well and you should drink until your urine is clear or at least normally colored and your body weight is within ½ a lb of your original weight when you started that morning.

For those of us in hot climates, staying hydrated and avoiding cramping can be a tricky endeavor. By now we all know that it’s going to take more than water alone to accomplish this. However, there are a number of things we can do as preventative maintenance in our diet to help.

In order to help stock up on the minerals necessary to avoid cramping prior to supplementation, we would do best to include a lot of fruits and vegetables in our diet. Fruits such as blueberries, strawberries, kiwi, & bananas have a lot of the minerals that prevent cramping and the anti-oxidants we need to prevent free-radical damage. Fruits and veggies are also chock full of cell hydrating water and are a good way to increase fluid content in your diet. 

8 x 8oz glasses of water daily are recommended for the general population and they aren’t even exercising like we are. Step this up significantly the day before and the days of races and hard training days in the heat. Drinking more water also helps to stave off hunger pains, clean out the urinary tract, improve the metabolism, digestive and skin health. Make sure it is either filtered or distilled. The old idea that you get vitamins and minerals from water and should drink it from the tap for these purposes has long been dis-proven. The amount of minerals you get from water are negligible and you should be getting these from your food and supplements anyhow. The risk of drinking polluted water far outweighs that of not getting enough minerals in it. Trust me on this one. Go filtered! To quote Hunter Allen, “You wouldn’t put 87 octane in a Ferrari would you?” 

What you are drinking is equally as important. As previously stated, water is fine for short, easy workouts, but if you are going to be out for longer periods of time (i.e. 2+ hours) or be doing any kind of intensity, you are going to need some kind of a sports drink. Ideally, what this should consist of is a low & high-glycemic mixture of carbohydrates in a solution that is not too strong so that it absorbs more rapidly. This is referred to low-osmolality which allows the solution to enter the cell membrane quicker, resulting in increased hydration, performance and a reduction in dehydration induced side-effects. You want to test out your choices in training and figure out what is going to sit well in your stomach before race day. Stay away from high-fructose corn syrup to avoid gastric distress, looking instead for glucose, sucrose and maltodextrin combinations.  

The sports drink you choose should also have a nice spectrum of electrolytes. Many of the mainstream sports drinks profess to have what it takes to prevent cramps but upon inspection really provide very little to nothing at all. Most of the better drink mixes cover this but check to be sure before buying.  

I supplement because I believe in it due to the amount of stress we put on our bodies in training and in our daily lives as well as the reduced quality of our air, water and food supply. However, I only recommend that inclusion of a 2-3/day, high-quality multi-vitamin and EFA’s (essential fatty acids).

There is so much research coming out on the benefits of these, namely their natural anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce or eliminate the need for NSAID’s (anti-inflammatory medications), the ability to improve Vo2 max, improve respiratory function and our lipid profiles. Make sure to get hem from a reputable source and ideally one that uses smaller fish from less contaminated areas to avoid the mercury contamination found in larger fish in other areas of the world. (I know…nothing is safe any more!). Flax, borage and other seed oils are another good alternative. 

Lastly, for those of you who have issues with cramping and have tried all of the strategies mentioned above, who stretch often and for whom endurance is not an issue, there are several good sources out there for electrolyte supplementation. Avoid salt tablets only because they only provide one nutrient when mineral induced cramping is usually the result of a synergistic loss of minerals. Many of the various products on the market take this into consideration when formulating their products which provide a wider array of minerals to help prevent cramps. 

In an area that can be as confusing as nutrition, the key to success is keeping it simple. By employing a common-sense, scientifically sound approach to nutrition and hydration, you can ensure effective training and perform at your best all year long, no matter what the Mother Nature throws at you. 

The following are some great articles and authors for more information on the subjects contained in this e-mail. Check them out to learn more and enjoy the rest of the season. 

24"Helpful Hints" increase lean mass & lose body fat - Bill Misener
Fish Oil Supplementation Reduces Severity of Exercise-induced Bronchoconstriction in Elite Athletes
Mickleborough, et. al.

Bernardot, Dan. Nutrition for Serious Athletes, Human Kinetics, 2000.
Born, Steve. The Endurance Athletes Guide to Success, Endurance Marketing Group, 2001.
Colgan, Michael. Optimum Nutrition, Advanced Research Press, 1993.
Gatorade Sports Sciences Institute.
Glycemic Research Institute.
Ryan, Monique. Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athlete, VeloPress, 2002.

Jeb Stewart  has a Master's degree in Exercise Science and Health Promotion and is certified by the ACSM, NSCA, NASM and USA Cycling as an Elite Level Coach. He is a performance consultant to the AEG/Toshiba Professional and Travel Girl Elite cycling teams and a Category 2 cyclist. He is the co-creator of The Next Level, Strength Training for Endurance Athletes DVD and contributes to Bicycling magazine, Runner's World,, Ironman Live and the Daily Peloton. He owns and operates Endurofit, LLC, a coaching and consulting company dedicated to performance enhancement for athletes, coaches and organizations. For more information, visit or contact Jeb at

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