How to fuel and hydrate your indoor bike sessions

Do you really need to hydrate and fuel differently for indoor turbo training? If so, why and how? Sports nutritionist Nigel Mitchell has the answers…

Indoor workouts are often much more intense compared to a road ride, which means that hydration is integral to making the session a success

So first off, you’re likely to sweat a lot more during a turbo session than you would out on the road. Why? Because indoor workouts are often much more intense compared to a road ride thanks to constant pedalling and a lack of fresh air circulation, and this means that hydration and topping up lost electrolytes is absolutely important to making the session a success.

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To see this difference in intensity in practice, I recommend riders weigh themselves pre- and post-workout. This is a very visual way of understanding how much fluid they’ve lost and I recommend that they rehydrate based on this difference. It’s important to remember to drink twice as much as they’ve lost, so a 1kg loss requires 2 litres of rehydration.

How to tailor your nutrition for a turbo session

Hydration aside, it’s important to tailor your nutrition to the session you’ve got planned. If you have less than 45mins on the plan then there’s no need for extra carbs (although a quick espresso can help give you a boost if you’re doing a 30min fasted session before breakfast).

However, a 45-90min session will be more effective with some extra carbs. Those carbs can be in the form of a banana, a gel, or an energy drink – it’s entirely up to your preference and should always reflect what you know works best for you. A homemade hydration drink like the one we’ve included in The Cyclist’s Cookbook is ideal for indoor training.

If you’re doing more than 90mins on the turbo you’ll need at least 40g of carbohydrate per hour just to maintain your blood glucose levels. For athletes who’ll be spending a serious amount of time on the turbo I’d expect them to regularly snack, starting from about 20-30mins into the session and taking in fuel every 20-30mins after that.

Some people may find benefit in taking 60-90g of carbohydrate per hour. This can also be good ‘gut training’, which helps the gut to better tolerate and absorb carbohydrates.

How to fuel your recovery after a turbo session

Whenever you finish a training session it’s important to make time for a recovery meal that includes carbohydrates and proteins, but that’s also nutritionally diverse. For example, following a morning workout with a porridge that includes quinoa and flaxseeds as well as oats, will replenish your energy stores.

Following this with a juice, including ingredients that are high in antioxidants, iron and vitamin C, will give you an additional boost ahead of your day.

When your workout is indoors it can often be best to take an initial recovery meal in the form of a drink, whether this is a commercial pre-mixed drink or simply a plant-based or dairy milk and a banana. This means you’ll be able to get those nutrients and top up your hydration at once.

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