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Calorie Count: Fueling Your Body On Ride Weekend

debbie petitpain stands in a garden

Dietitian Debbie Petitpain says that food is fuel for your body.

Wondering how to consumer calories come ride weekend? Here’s some advice from MUSC Sodexo Wellness Dietitian and LOWVELO columnist, Debbie Petitpain.

Just like a car needs gas to go, the body needs energy, or calories, to fuel a good ride. But the source and timing of the calories are important. Afterall, you are what you eat. And if you eat junk, you will feel “junky.”

Carbohydrates — found in grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables and dairy — are the body’s preferred source of fuel, and 40 to 65% of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates. These foods also provide fiber, vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, phytochemicals and natural water content. During your training, your daily goal should be to consume:

  • 5 to 6 ounces of grains (at least 3 ounces of whole grains)
  • 2 cups of vegetables
  • 1 ½ – 2 cups fruits
  • 2 to 3 servings of dairy

Balance your meals with a palm-sized serving of protein (fish, egg, beans, poultry) and small amounts of plant-based fats such as canola oil, olive oil, nuts, seeds or avocado.

In addition to regular, balanced meals, you may benefit from a snack before your training ride. Pre-exercise snacks should be consumed about one hour before. To avoid GI distress, your snack should be carbohydrate-rich but also low in fiber so it digests easily (i.e., bread, bagels or pasta). Don’t forget to hydrate in advance as well. Two cups of water before you even start to pedal is ideal.

Snacks aren’t necessary during exercise unless you are going for more than an hour to hour and a half. In this instance, after the first hour, have a snack of about 30 to 60 grams of carbs or 100 to 250 calories. Examples include:

  • Two 8-ounce glasses of sports drink
  • 1 cup sport drink and a medium banana
  • 1 cup apple juice and 8 vanilla wafers

Sports bars, gels and gummies and candies are also specially formulated to deliver easy-to-digest carbohydrates in a convenient form. And keep drinking – aim for ½ cup to 1 cup of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes.

After exercise, be sure to re-hydrate first with water, 100% juice, watery fruits or high-CHO sport drinks. Replenish your body’s energy stores by eating grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables or dairy foods, and include some protein, even just 6 grams, within 30 minutes after the workout. Examples:

  • ½ Turkey sandwich
  • ¾ cup cereal with milk
  • 12 ounces chocolate milk
  • 6 ounces Greek-style yogurt

As you finish training for this event, remember that “energy” comes from good food choices, proper hydration and adequate rest. No energy pill, potion or bar will fuel your body as efficiently or effectively as these healthy lifestyle choices.

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