Eating to Fuel Exercise
No matter what kind of exercise you do – whether it’s a run, gym workout or bike ride – you need food and water to fuel the effort and help you recover.
But what’s the best time to eat before and after exercise? Should we sip water or gulp it during a workout? For answers, I spoke with Leslie Bonci, director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and a certified specialist in sports dietetics. She’s also the author of a new book, “Sports Nutrition for Coaches” (Human Kinetics Publishers, July 2009). Here’s our conversation.
How important is the timing and type of food and fluid when it comes to exercise?
I take the approach of thinking of food as part of your equipment. People are not going to run well with one running shoe or ride with a flat tire on their bike. Your food is just like your running shoes or your skis. It really is the inner equipment. If you think of it this way, you usually have a better outcome when you’re physically active.
What’s the most common mistake you see new exercisers make when it comes to food?
There are two common mistakes. Often somebody is not having anything before exercise, and then the problem is you’re not putting fuel into your body. You’ll be more tired and weaker, and you’re not going to be as fast. The second issue is someone eats too much. They don’t want to have a problem, so they load up with food, and then their stomach is too full. It’s really a fine line for getting it right.
At what point before exercise should we be eating?
I like it to be an hour before exercise. We’re just talking about a fist-sized amount of food. That gives the body enough food to be available as an energy source but not so much that you’ll have an upset stomach. So if you’re going to exercise at 3 p.m., you need to start thinking about it at 2 p.m.
What about water? How much should we be drinking?
About an hour before the workout you should have about 20 ounces of liquid. It takes about 60 minutes for that much liquid to leave the stomach and make its way into the muscle. If you have liquid ahead of time, you’ll be better hydrated when you start to be physically active.
Can you explain more about what you mean by a “fist-size” of food?
That’s just a good visual for the amount. It could be something along the lines of a granola bar. I’m not a fan of the low carb bars. You need carbs as an energy source. We can’t really just do a protein bar. You want something in the 150 to 200 calorie range. That’s not enormous. Maybe a peanut butter and jelly wrap cut into little pieces, a fist-sized amount of trail mix. The goal is to put some carbohydrate in the body before exercise as well as a little bit of protein.
What if I’m planning a long run or bike ride that’s going to keep me out for a few hours? Should I eat more?
If we put too much food in the stomach in advance of exercise, it takes too long to empty and that defeats the purpose. We want something that will empty fairly quickly. If you’re exercising in excess of one hour, then you need to fuel during the exercise. For workouts lasting more than an hour, aim for about 30 to 60 grams of carbs per hour. We’re not going to be camels here. Some people use gels, honey or even sugar cubes or a sports drink.
Does the timing of your food after you’re finished exercising make any difference?
Post exercise, my rule of thumb, I like for people to eat something within 15 minutes. The reason for that is that the enzymes that help the body re-synthesize muscle glycogen are really most active in that first 15 minutes. The longer we wait to eat something, the longer it takes to recover.
If people are really embarking on an exercise program and want to prevent that delayed-onset muscle soreness, refueling is part of it. Again, it’s a small amount – a fist-sized quantity. Low-fat chocolate milk works very well. The goal is not a post-exercise meal. It’s really a post-exercise appetizer to help the body recover as quickly as it can. You can do trail mix, or make a peanut butter sandwich. Eat half before and half after.
Why is it that peanut butter sandwiches come up so often as good fuel for exercise?
It’s about having carbohydrate with some protein. It’s inexpensive and nonperishable. That’s a big deal for people, depending on the time of day and year. They’re exercising and they don’t want something that will spoil. Peanut butter is an easy thing to keep around.
What do we need to know about replenishing fluids as we exercise?
Everybody has a different sweat rate, so there isn’t one amount of liquid that someone is going to need while they exercise. Most people consume about 8 ounces per hour – that’s insufficient across the board. Your needs can range from 14 ounces to 40 ounces per hour depending on your sweat rate. Those people who are copious sweaters need to make an effort to get more fluid in while they exercise. I’m a runner, and I can’t depend on water fountains, so either someone is carrying water or you bring money. Store keepers always love that when you give them sweaty bills!
But nobody can be a camel. If you aren’t taking fluid in you have a risk of heat injury and joint injury, and strength, speed and stamina diminish. This is an important part of any training. Put fluid back into the body during exercise.
Should we keep sipping fluids while we’re exercising?
How we drink can make a difference in how optimally we hydrate our body. A lot of people sip liquids, but gulping is better. Gulps of fluid leave the stomach more rapidly. It’s important to do this. It seems counterintuitive, it seems like gulping would cause a cramp. People are more likely to have stomach cramps sipping because fluid stays in their gut too long.
When you take more fluid in, gulps as opposed to sips, you have a greater volume of fluid in the stomach. That stimulates the activity of the stretch receptors in the stomach, which then increase intra-gastric pressure and promote faster emptying. This is why gulping is preferred.
Do you have any recommendations about the frequency of meals for people who exercise regularly?
If you have breakfast, lunch and dinner and a pre- and post-exercise snack, that’s at least five times a day of eating. When people are physically active, anything under three meals a day is not going to be enough.
A: Value. Our philosophy at Precision Bikes is to offer you the best brands at the best price. While it’s never smart to pay too much for a bike or product, it’s equally unwise to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money once; when you pay too little, you lose a lot of money over time.
We cater to beginning cyclists as well as experienced riders and are experts at matching up the type of riding you will be doing with the best bike for your particular needs and budget. Our staff will help you choose the bike that is right for you and assist you in sizing it up to your particular riding style. What’s more, our bikes are all professionally assembled so you can be sure your new bike is ready to ride when you leave with it.
Friendly Service: At our shop, you won’t get the attitude you sometimes find at other bike shops. Our goal is to effectively answer your questions and to educate you on what it is you are considering purchasing. Along those lines, we pride ourselves on being women-friendly, family-friendly and beginner friendly. Haven’t ridden a bike in years? No problem. We’ll test ride with you if you’d like us to. We’ve even taught some adult customers how to ride a bike for the first time.
The point is, you know you can feel comfortable asking questions and learning about cycling without the annoyance of someone talking down to you.
Follow-up after the Sale: We stand behind every product we carry. What’s more, we do our very best to take care of you while you wait. Just stopping in to have a minor adjustment? No need to leave it with us for three weeks like at some other shops. If we can’t do it for you on the spot, we’ll usually have it ready later that same day.
Q: Why should I take my bike to Precision Bikes for repairs?
A: Quality. The most important reason to choose Precision Bikes is the quality of the service you will receive from us. At our shop, we use only the finest tools from Park Tool and Campagnolo to assemble and work on bikes. Furthermore, we test ride every bike we work on to be sure that we have fixed what we set out to fix.
Expertise: Mark Miller, owner of Precision Bikes, brings a wealth of experience to the job, a ferocious Iron Man/bike racer has studied extensively under John Cobb, an internationally respected “aerodynamics guru”. Nick has years of experience having worked as a mechanic and has great knowledge of fixed gear and mountain bikes and also races bikes like a bat from hell. Tim has developed tremendous skills as a service-and store manager over the years, and is also an avid bike racer. Mark and his staff work on all makes and models of bikes. In fact, we have one of the largest, best equipped shops in the Lafayette area. Our investment in our tools and training ensure that there are few things that can go wrong with your bike that we can’t fix. Whether it’s a tricycle or a titanium racing machine, we’re equipped to do it all.
Value. With so many levels of service, we have structured our repairs so you pay for only what you need. Our shop is completely visible to you, our customer, so you will know exactly what parts and components are being used on your bike. We strive to offer the best service at the best price.
For your peace of mind, we back all of our work with a 30-Day Guarantee. We are confident that once you try us, you’ll use us again. Our goal is your satisfaction. We’re not happy until you’re happy!
Q: Does Precision Bikes sell used bikes or do trade ins?
A: No. We only sell new bikes.
Unlike cars, used bikes are rarely a value and more times than not wind up costing their new owner more money in the long run than a comparable new bike. Mass market bikes are not really a good value when new, so beware of them if they are used.
From a store’s perspective used bikes tend to be a safety liability and a huge headache if a bike turns out to be stolen.
Typically, the best outlet for finding and selling used bikes is online. A fair price for a bike that is in excellent riding condition is half of what that bike sold for new.
Q: What if I don’t see the bike I like on the floor?
A: Precision Bikes can order you any model, style and size bike you like!
Q: I have an old bike that’s been sitting in my garage for a few years. What do I need to do to get it up and running again? Is it even worth fixing?
A: If the bike you have is a bike shop quality bike it is usually worth fixing. Most of the time the bike simply needs a tune up and a cleaning. When you bring your bike in, budget about 10-15 minutes for us to check the bike in and fill out a ticket. We will go through the bike with you and if you need any additional parts, we let you know up front what they are and the cost.
Typically, if a bike has been sitting for several years we look for wear and dry rot on anything that is rubber – tires, tubes, rim strips and brake pads. We also check your chain for wear, since chains wear out over time and can cause expensive damage to the drive train if they are not changed out regularly.
Our policy is to be as thorough as possible and to give you a complete estimate when you leave. We never go over the estimate without calling you first.
The typical turnaround time for a tune-up is 1 to 5 days depending on our repair volume.
Q: How often should I get a tune-up?
A: Usually, once a year is adequate for most bikes. Mountain bikes or commuter bikes that are ridden in harsh conditions should be tuned up twice a year. Bikes that have been in storage or not in use for an extended period of time would also benefit from a tune-up.
Q: Are there some basic maintenance procedures that I can do myself?
A: There are some basic things that you can do to keep your bike in shape year-round. Keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure is one thing that will help prevent flats and make your bike easier to ride. Also oiling your chain on a regular base helps to keep running smooth. Cleaning your bike after a dusty/rainy ride helps the longevity of your prized possession.
We are always willing to share what we know, so feel free to ask us if there is something you are unsure of or something you would like to learn to do yourself.
Q: I bought a bike on-line and it came delivered partially assembled. Do you guys assemble bikes that are not purchased from your store?
A: Yes. We do this quite frequently, in fact. We assemble any brand of bike not purchased from us for $75.00. This is a complete assembly and includes a one-time readjustment of the brake and shifter cables after they have broken in and stretched.
When you drop your bike off for assembly, we will take it out of the box and be sure that there are no missing parts and that there is no damage to the bike. If you need additional parts, we let you know up front what they are and the cost. Please allow 10 minutes or so for us to check the bike in and fill out a ticket.
The typical turnaround time for an assembly of this nature is 1 to 3 days depending on our repair volume.
Q: Is Precision Bikes a franchise?
A: No. We are a locally owned and operated shop and not part of a chain or a franchise system. Many of our customers think we are a franchise because we don’t look like the typical bike shop found around Lafayette and the country for that matter.
We have a well thought out look, logo, website, and nice looking display materials. We’re also detail oriented and pay close attention to every aspect of our image. That shows in the way our shop looks and in the way we treat our customers.
One problem with many chain stores, concept stores and franchises is poor inventory and product representation. When you shop at Precision Bikes, you don’t have to drive all over town to get what you need. It’s all under one roof.
Another problem with many chains is that as their business organization gets larger, the focus becomes geared toward opening more stores and squeezing out as much profit as possible. You pay a penalty in the way of higher prices and inconsistent service.
At Precision Bikes, you’ll get consistently great service and no pressure to buy. Sure, we’d love to sell you a bike, but we’ll gladly spend time with you and answer your questions even if you are just looking. That’s what we’re here for.
You see, our “concept” is to create loyal customers through consistently great service and a fun atmosphere.
So, sorry, franchises are not available. And never will be.
Q: Why don’t you open on Sunday?
A: We believe that everyone needs a day to worship, to spend time with family, or to just relax. For this reason, we will never open on Sunday. We try to offer convenient hours for our customers, but we also realize that our team needs time to have a life outside of bikes. Because of this balance we believe our team is better rested, both physically and mentally, and better able to offer you outstanding service.
Q: What’s the difference between bikes that you sell and those at the big box discounters? They look the same. A: Big box stores sell plenty of bikes for less money than local bike shops. To the untrained eye, they look like the same thing you’d find in a bike shop. That’s where the similarities end. Mass market bikes are cheaper because they come in only one size (yes, bikes are supposed to fit you – it makes them more comfortable to ride), use cheap parts that are heavy and don’t hold an adjustment very long. Most importantly, they are not assembled using the proper tools nor or they assembled by trained mechanics. What many folks don’t realize is that bicycles come to retailers un-assembled and need to be put together properly. Assembling bikes is not rocket science, but like any profession it requires a core level of knowledge to be competent. The point is you get what you pay for when it comes to most products. With bikes that is magnified. Cheap bikes are not bargains – they’re unsafe money pits. We routinely see $80 bikes that need $100 or more of service. What most folks don’t realize until it’s too late is that cheap bikes require more time to work on than a bike shop quality bike due to sloppy tolerances and poor quality control and many times will cost more to repair than what the bike sold for new. Usually, they still don’t run great after being repaired because the components used have poor machining and are inferior to begin with. Trust us – that full suspension mountain bike is really not the sweet deal you’re being led to believe. There’s a reason it’s only 80 bucks. So go to the super cheap mega mart for cases of toilet paper and 10-lb tubs of mayonnaise, but leave the bicycle stuff to the pros. You’ll save a lot more money in the long run.
Q: How do I get my child to ride a bike without training wheels?
A: Here’s a quick way to do it in 5 easy steps:
1. Choose a safe relatively flat area that is free of obstacles. Of course, pick a spot where street traffic isn’t a concern.
2. Lower your child’s bike seat so that they can comfortably put their feet flat on the ground.
3. With a properly fitted bicycle helmet, have your child sit on the bike with their hands on the handlebar.
4. Have your child “walk” with the bike while still sitting on the seat. They can either go one leg at a time or use a “frog type” of push, where both feet push together (at the same time).
5. As the bike goes forward, encourage your child to coast a little bit by picking their feet up from the ground. If they feel like they are going to fall, they can quickly put their feet down and avoid injuring themselves. Once they feel comfortable doing this, try repeating on a slight downgrade.
We’ve taught many children and even a few adults how to ride using this method. Since the rider can quickly put their foot down if they feel that they are going to fall, they are firmly in control of the learning process, unlike the “old school” method of mom or dad running alongside the new rider with their hand on the seat and then letting go.
Q: Do you ever run any specials or have sales?
A: Rarely. We decided a long time ago not to try to be all things to all people.
Occasionally, we’ll order something that sits on our floor too long and we’ll mark it down a few bucks, but mainly we stick with bikes and accessories that our customers want at a price that allows us to pay our employees a good wage and keep our doors open.
Shop around; you’ll find that our prices are reasonable. Every now and then we’ll get beat on price. But we’ll never get beat on service.
Q: I used to love riding my bike when I was a kid, but when I ride my bike now it’s very uncomfortable. Why are bikes so uncomfortable to ride?
A: Most of the time when a customer tells us their bike is uncomfortable to ride, it is due to one reason: the bike is not fitted properly to the person. Usually the culprit is the seat – either the seat is too high, too low, angled too far up or down, situated too far forward or back, or just doesn’t fit their anatomy. Another cause is that the handlebars are not adjusted properly, which may make you lean too far forward on your seat.
If your bike is uncomfortable for any reason, we can solve your problem. We help by properly fitting you to your bike and making recommendations on how to get the most comfort from it. Whether you are competing or just riding with the kids around the neighborhood, your bike needs to be comfortable.
You still have questions? Please feel free to call us, shoot us an email or better yet, come by the shop. We’ll go out of our way to answer any question to the best of our knowledge.
And there is plenty of knowledge at Precision Bikes!