How to Fuel Your Indoor Trainer Ride
Riding indoors is so much easier in so many ways—less mess, less prep, and an easier exit strategy when you want to cut your ride short. But how do you match your fueling needs with your ride when you’re inside?
Riding indoors is so much easier in so many ways—less mess, less prep, and an easier exit strategy when you want to cut your ride short. But how do you match your fueling needs with your ride when you’re inside? – By Molly Hurford
Namrita Kumar, PhD—a sports physiology and nutrition professional based in Atlanta, Georgia, where she currently coaches and directs a collegiate cycling team—has some tips for making the most of indoor training. After a collarbone break a few years ago, she’s no stranger to riding the trainer, and she’s dialed in indoor nutrition.
Unless you have an ultra-high powered fan, Kumar points out that you’re missing the cooling effect of the wind outside, and that means that you can really only cool off through sweat. Indoor environments can also be humid, and in winter months, much warmer than outside, so you’re likely going to be sweating up a storm. Kumar suggests upping your water and electrolyte intake slightly to account for that change in environment, and have those fans set up or open a window if you’re sweating heavily.
In addition to guzzling water, Kumar urges riders to take in proper nutrition on the trainer. She says all too often, people skimp on on-bike calories when riding indoors—possibly because a bonk situation is less stressful when you’re literally three feet from the fridge. The problem with skimping on calories is that it decreases your ability to put out power on the bike, which not only lessens the effectiveness of your intervals but makes you ravenous when the workout is over. So make sure your nutritional intake is similar to what you’d have outside: 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour is what Kumar recommends.
Since portability and temperature are smaller factors, now’s your chance to eat real food on the bike! Kumar doesn’t suggest chowing down on leftover pizza or noodles on the bike, but she does say that the trainer is a good time to save a few bucks (and your gut) by swapping your energy gels to whole food snacks like homemade rice bars or even dried fruit.
… But Consider Race Prep
If you’re not going to spend much time out on the road ahead of your big race or ride, Kumar recommends adding in a few of your race-day ride food, such as gels or blocks, some of the time. This way, she explains, you train your gut to digest and process these specific foods, which will help you avoid gastrointestinal distress on race day.
The problem with trainer rides, Kumar says, is that they’re so close to the kitchen that binging after a hard session is entirely too easy. To alleviate the “what can I eat” pressure post-ride, have your snack or smoothie pre-made and ready to go for when you hop off the bike. That way, you’re not digging through the fridge hunting for that last chocolate bar you know is stashed somewhere.
The idea of riding the trainer is to prepare for riding outdoors, so Kumar’s last tip is to ride like you’re riding outside (i.e. you can’t just hop off to grab a snack whenever you want.) Keep bottles in your bottle cages, not on the table next to the bike, and have your food stuffed in jersey pockets, not stashed in the refrigerator for you to jump off and grab between intervals. This will help you stay in the routine of proper fueling when the temps go back up.
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