Your nutrition habits are going to be a big part of your success and enjoyment while participating in the Friends For Life Bike Rally. Now is the time to start thinking about the changes you can make to your eating habits in advance of the big week.

The food you eat helps promote health, provides vital nutrients, gives you energy, and assists with injury and illness prevention as well as recovery. As you train for this endurance event your body will incur greater stress, and a poor diet will mean decreased performance, decreased muscle mass, and an increased risk of injury and illness.

It’s important to realize that food is more than just fuel. Perhaps the biggest tendency with healthy eating is to think about it as “all or nothing”. In no other area of our lives is this so true. If you miss a workout, do you quit being active altogether? If you miss a day of work, do you quit your job? Well, why is it that when we have a cookie or a glass of wine, we give up on healthy, balanced eating and continue into over indulging?

Some common nutritional pitfalls are:

  • Too much focus on calories vs quality
  • Too much focus on what not to eat
  • Avoiding smart carbs and healthy fats
  • Not eating enough vegetables
  • Not drinking enough water
  • Jumping on the latest fad-diet bandwagon
  • Not cooking in enough
  • Consuming too much sugar and alcohol

Tip #1: Choose minimally processed foods more often

Make a point to choose the least processed forms of foods when planning your meals.

Minimally processed and whole foods won’t contain artificial or natural sweeteners, flavours, colours, additives, preservatives, chemicals, hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides, etc.

Tip #2: Eat your veggies and maintain a variety to the food you eat 

Vegetables are your main source of vitamins, minerals and fiber as well as bioflavonoids and other phytochemicals that will help keep your body strong, healthy, and reduce your risk of infection. It’s often easy to focus on the calories and the macronutrients (carbs, proteins and fats) but forget about all the micronutrients that our body needs. As athletes, we often place large amounts of stress (physical and mental) on our bodies and this increases our need for micronutrients. Aim for 8-10 cups of vegetables per day with a variety of them being dark green and brightly coloured. Vegetables can be enjoyed raw, grilled, steamed, or baked.

Many of us crave structure and organization, almost to a fault. Even if you’re eating a healthy meal, if you’re eating the same foods day in and day out you’re likely missing out on some key micronutrients by avoiding certain foods. Increasing the variety of the foods you’re eating will improve your health and decrease your boredom that comes with eating the same food. Rotate your diet to include different types of whole grains, lean meats, vegetables and fruits. Swap quinoa for brown rice; fish for chicken breast; kale for spinach; and follow what’s in season with fruits.

Tip #3: Hydrate

Make water your primary fluid throughout the day. Water is needed for joint lubrication, shock absorption, maintaining core body temperature, and maintaining a stable heart rate. Signs of dehydration include headache, muscle cramps/stitches, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, flushing of the cheeks, increased heart rate, harder to run around, weakness, and dry mouth. Dehydration results in decreased performance and additional strain on the body. Consume some water with all workouts.

Tip #4: Log your food

If we don’t see it written down, we don’t know what we’re eating, and if we don’t know what we’re eating, it’s hard to make educated changes. I get all my clients to log their diets for 1 week before meeting them. Most find this an eye-opening experience. There is often a difference between what we think we are eating vs what we actually are eating. You don’t have to be a nutritionist to sit down at the end of the week, look at your log, and find some room for improvement.  How many days did you consume treats or sweets post meal? How many vegetables did you eat each day?  How many glasses of water did you consume? After reviewing your log, pick one goal to work on for the next couple of weeks, and then check in again to see how you are doing with that goal.

Tip #5: Separate your meals by at least 4-5 hours (especially if you are trying to lean out).

If you are not paying attention to when you are eating, now is the time. Even if your snacks are healthy, this could result in overconsumption of calories and the addition of a couple unwanted pounds. Digestion is a metabolically costly process, and eating too frequently doesn’t give your body the break it needs from digestion. An exception to this rule are for those training 17-20 hours per week who might be finding it hard to meet their caloric intake and may need to eat every 3-4 hours.

Here are some tips and nutritional strategies for the periods before, during, and after training.

Pre-Workout Nutrition:

  • Goals of pre-workout nutrition
    • Begin hydrating;
    • Provide energy;
    • Provide psychological reassurance;
    • Boost performance;
    • Delay fatigue;
    • Preserve muscle; and
    • Improve recovery.
  • Hydrate with 2-4 cups of water, 2-4 hours before your workout
  • Consume easy to digest low-moderate GI carbs, approx. 1-1.5g/kg, 1-4 hours before your workout
  • Consume 25g carbs, 15 minutes before riding
  • Low fat, lower fibre options: oatmeal, potato, yam, toast, bagel, fruit, fruit smoothie, juice

During Workout Nutrition:

  • Goals of nutrition during exercise:
    • Stay hydrated;
    • Provide immediate fuel;
    • Boost performance;
    • Delay fatigue;
    • Preserve muscle; and
    • Improve recovery.
Why : Dehydration decreases performance, increases risk of injury, impairs training adaptation, decreases recoveryWhy: Provides an immediate energy source, improves recovery, keeps stress hormone cortisol lower
How Much: 500-750ml per hourHow Much: 30-75g per hour
Who: Everyone!Who: endurance athletes training for 2+ hours at a time, or highly active people looking to maintain mass, strength or performance
Sodium: For 2+ hours, a baseline of 500mg/L/hour

Post Workout Nutrition:

  • Benefits of good post-workout nutrition include:
    • Improved recovery;
    • Less muscle soreness;
    • Increased ability to build muscle;
    • Improved immune function;
    • Improved bone mass; and
    • Improved ability to utilize body fat as fuel.
  • Within 90-120 minutes, a complete meal of 2:1 or 4:1 carbs to protein.
  • Focus on quality food choices for optimal recovery.
    • Try liquids if you have a sensitive tummy
    • Too high a spike in insulin may not help glycogen recovery, unless training 2x per day.
  • 2 cups of water for every pound lost and possibly sodium (especially for long efforts).
  • High quality foods are those high in nutrients, such as spinach, kale, broccoli, and beets.
  • Generally, post-workout nutrition has three specific purposes:
    • Refuel: Replenish glycogen
    • Repair: Increase protein synthesis (repair tissues) and decrease protein breakdown (increase muscle size and/or quality)
    • Re-Hydrate: Replace lost nutrients (sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, etc.)

Pre Training/Event Summary

 Pre Training/Bike RallyDuringPost Race
Hydrate500mL 1-2 hours before500-750mL per hour500mL within 30 mins after
FuelCarbs: 1-1.5g/kg 1-3 hours beforeCarbs: 30-75g/hr (for exercise lasting longer than 90 mins)Carbs: 1-1.5g/kg
Protein: 10-15gProtein: 10-15g within 90 minutes
SodiumOnly necessary for 2-3+ hour events250-750mg/L /hrConsume 250mg/L within first hour

Week before the rally:

  • Emphasize hydration, sleep and recovery 
  • Emphasize complex carbs 2-3 days before the event
  • Consume moderate fiber, moderate protein and moderate fat
  • Decrease sugar and alcohol consumption
  • Avoid spicy foods and new foods

Final thoughts:

  • Not all workouts need a pre, during or post workout meal, snack, fuel or other. If they are long in duration (more than 90 minutes) or high intensity then you should fuel them.
  • Consider your goals for the workout then plan the meal accordingly.
  • In training, practice your nutrition (fuel & hydration) that you plan to use during the Bike Rally.
  • All workouts require fluid!
  • All bodies require a solid nutrition plan day in and day out. You’ll maximize health and performance by prioritizing daily nutrition before the Bike Rally.

As the owner and founder of HEAL™ (HEALTHY EATING ACTIVE LIVING™), Tara Postnikoff has been coaching people through healthy eating and active living since 2006. Tara bases her approach to fitness and nutrition on current science and professional experience and, importantly, she practices what she preaches! Tara will guide you through nutrition, coaching and training, and will motivate you to succeed! Tara is an athlete herself, having completed 35 half marathons, over 55 triathlons including 9 half Ironman and 1 full Ironman. For more information her the nutritional services she offers, visit her website at