Basic instructions for refueling in winter

The days are getting shorter and the mercury is dropping. The winter is here. It can be difficult to maintain a constant training load during the UK winter. The cold, dark days wrap us in a battle with the elements and motivation.

If the weather worsens (yes, I’m sorry, it will) and your exercise load changes as you adopt the winter routines, there is one more thing to consider other than keeping yourself warm and dry: should your refueling habits change too?

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With fewer races and events on the calendar until spring – unless you’re a cyclocross fan – most cyclists tend to reduce the intensity and focus on building their base. When you switch to endurance training, your diet also changes. Cyclists tend to run out of fuel on their bikes all year round.

The recommended minimum intake for endurance rides is 40 g of carbohydrates per hour. So unless you are consciously limiting carbohydrates (or calories), eat the equivalent of two bananas an hour on a bike – a useful rule of thumb.


(Photo credit: future)

It’s not just about carbs per hour. There are other considerations to consider when it comes to energy consumption in the winter months. Many of us are reducing our training volume, discouraged by the adverse conditions. On the other hand, due to the nature of winter riding, training can become more energy intensive.

Sports nutritionist David Starr ( explains: “Extra clothing, stronger wind and higher rolling resistance can make winter training a little more difficult than expected. Very cold weather can increase your need for carbohydrates, if only because the tremors are mainly caused by carbohydrates! “

To calculate your energy requirements, most modern head units provide a good estimate of the energy consumption during a journey. It is important to balance your energy intake with your expenses.

“As your intensity drops, you will need fewer carbohydrates in your diet,” notes Starr, “but for many athletes the volume of exercise can increase so the total amount of energy required remains the same.”

When it comes to nutritional planning, there is no one size fits all; it takes a little planning. My personal technique is to estimate the duration and intensity of the ride. If it’s supposed to take three hours in Zone 2, I’ll take 150g of carbohydrates – 50g per hour.

I check the carbohydrate levels of every product I take, count them in my pocket, then always take an extra bar or two. You never know if you’re going to drop a bar or mark an extra loop at the end.

Read the full article in this week’s Cycling Weekly magazine, available on Thursday December 2nd. You can buy CW in store and online, or take a subscribe and benefit from our Christmas offer.

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