Nutrition: Fuelling For Post-Work Riding

For many of us, mid-week training is a chance to unwind, get in a few quick hours on the bike, and hopefully make a few fitness gains at the same time. Everyday life means that we're often restricted to short sharp sessions after work, and have to rely on the weekend for longer endurance miles. Short sessions can be very productive though, and training is as much about quality as it is quantity.

A fundamental key to getting that quality though, is nutrition. You need to make sure you are properly fuelled to perform at your best; making the most of those brief hours that you can squeeze into a busy mid-week schedule.

I've got this kind of nutrition wrong on many an occasion. Much like the feeling of 'bonking', if you haven't fuelled correctly, you are left lifeless and unproductive on the bike. With that in mind, I've now got a clear idea of how to effectively fuel for an after-work training set...

Caffeine and Carbohydrates

By its nature, evening is a time when our energy levels can be left flagging. Having had lunch at mid-day, you can find that by 6pm, your blood sugar levels will have dropped and your senses dulled. The solution is effective pre-loading, and for that, I use a mixture of caffeine and carbohydrates.

In particular, I've taken to using MaxiNutrition's new FuelMax Plus bar. As far as I know, this is the only energy bar on the market to contain a significant amount of caffeine, as well as a good carbohydrate boost. You could get both of those components from a coffee and a cereal bar, but this provides a neat and easy snack, which is great for chewing down half an hour before the end of the working day.

The FuelMax Plus bar is effectively an apricot cereal bar, coated in dark chocolate. It contains added Vitamin C, to help support your immune system, as well as 141mg of caffeine. To get an idea, 141mg is about the equivalent to a large coffee, or 2-3 shots of espresso; it's certainly enough that you'll notice it, and it should give you a serious "kick up the backside" to get going.

Taking a FuelMax bar 30 minutes to an hour before you start exercising, means that your blood sugar levels and alertness will be boosted for the start of your session. A vital carb and caffeine kick, which will set you up for some productive training.

Energy Drink

Depending on the duration of your after-work session, it can also be helpful to use an energy drink supplement, to keep your blood sugar levels elevated throughout. Having taken on caffeine before the session, and considering it is probably getting later in the evening now, I opt for a non-caffeinated energy drink - at the moment, I'm using MaxiNutrition FuelMax.

One 35 gram scoop, in 500ml of water, will pack a 27 gram carbohydrate boost. That's about the equivalent of one energy gel, so it's enough to give a significant fuelling effect. The FuelMax also contains six essential electrolytes, so that you remain properly hydrated throughout your session (of course, you need to go into the session well hydrated, having drunk plenty of water throughout the day).

An energy drink will keep you pepped up, and I find it also encourages me to drink more often than if I just took water (probably because I don't want to waste it!). Staying well fuelled will mean you can do that last interval set with the same energy as the first.

In summary, nutrition for training after work is a mixture of pre-ride preparatory fuelling, and during-ride active fuelling. Of course, you need to ensure that you're eating and drinking well throughout the day; there's no substitute for a good diet (see my Ideas For A Cyclist Shopping List post for some ideas). But, a quick snack before you ride and effective fuelling during your ride, will boost the energy you have for your sessions, without a doubt.


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