As an under 11 through to under 17’s I used to compete for Bicester Athletics club, both on the track and for cross country. Representing Oxfordshire in the high and long jump as well as for the 800 metres and also for the cross country team, as a under 15 I took up cycling alongside my athletics and am currently a full time cyclist for the Montezumas Race team. During the first national lockdown I did a diploma in sports nutrition and have used that as well as my research on the topic to write a little article on fuelling athletic performances. In addition, I have also written my own energy bar book to help keep you fuelled during exercise and I have included a few recipes for you to try out at the bottom of this article.

For any athlete the correct nutrition is crucial, under fuelled and your glycogen stores will be empty leaving you with no energy to train or race, over fuelled and you risk putting excess strain on the body, creating digestive issues that can also lead to a decline in performance. It is a very fine balance to in ensuring you have the correct amount of fuel inside your body and a balance that often takes athletes years perfect. I hope this article will give you a better understanding of how to achieve this perfect balance.

The first thing to understand is that you only have a very limited amount of glycogen that can be stored in the body. Within 90 to 120 minutes of high-intensity exercise these stores will be emptied and if they are not replaced your body will essentially run out of fuel and you will end up bonking. This raises the question, how much should I be eating when training and racing then? Now that’s a tricky question to answer because there are a number of variables that go into fuelling an athlete.

The first thing to consider is the duration of exercise, for shorter sessions of up to 2 hours you should aim for around 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour. It’s not quite so essential to consume as large amounts of fuel as you would for exercise over a longer period of time because the energy already available inside your body will help to keep you fuelled for most of the duration of the exercise. However the fuel inside your body is not infinite and so it will eventually run out, therefore if you are looking to train for anything longer than 2.5 hours you will need to take on a larger amount of carbohydrates to compensate for this. It is therefore recommended to consume anything up to 90 grams of carbohydrates per hour when training for a prolonged period of time greater than 2.5 hours.

Now comes the question: what should this 90g of carbohydrates be made up of? For optimum performance you want to have a mixture of both fructose and glucose making up this 90g. With the two being transported by different stores this can maximise the amount of energy that is able to be taken on board whilst also maximising the rate at the energy is absorbed. By consuming in a ratio of .07-1:1 of fructose to glucose you maximise the rate at which the energy source you are consuming can be absorbed. With that in mind, the jam sandwich actually makes a great snack and energy source with the jam and then the bread giving a perfect combination of fructose and glucose. Other common sources of fructose include honey, apples and oranges whilst examples of glucose include oats, pasta and bread. For more great snack ideas check the recipes at the bottom of this article that are taken from my new book, Natural Energy, if you would like to purchase a PDF copy giving you the recipes to 50 great tasting bars for only £5 please email me at couzenst@gmail.com and I will be more than willing to help you out.

The second most important factor to take into consideration when deciding what to eat is the intensity of exercise. During low intensity exercise your body will be using the aerobic system, at this intensity your body is able to oxygen and therefore is able to breakdown fat in the body and use it as an energy source alongside carbohydrates. Your fuel for this type of exercise should therefore come from a mixture of both carbohydrates and fats in a ratio of 3:1. You also want to be consuming foods with a low GI as these foods take longer to breakdown and help to regulate blood sugar levels giving you a more sustained energy source. As the intensity of exercise increases your body starts to move into the anaerobic system. In this energy system the intensity of exercise is so high that the breakdown of glucose is done almost immediately without the presence of oxygen as otherwise this will slow the process down. Although the advantage of this energy system is that energy is provided to the muscles almost immediately the lack of oxygen means that lactic acid is produced, limiting the time this energy system to around 120 seconds. When exercising at this intensity for this length of time glucose is the primary source of energy which is gained from the breakdown of carbohydrates. In this case for exercise over this period of time, carbohydrates with a high GI are what you are want to be consuming as these carbohydrates are broken down the fastest, delivering energy to the muscles in the quickest time possible. Examples of high GI foods include white bread, white rice and jelly beans.

During competitions many athletes find it hard to eat; this is totally natural and is down to the body going into the fight or flight mode. In this mode many lose their sense of hunger so that your body can instead focus on the task in hand. However, it is still as important to keep fuelled during these times even if it may be the last thing you want to do. To make it easier you want to eat foods that you are familiar with and have practised using in training before to make sure they work well for you. Its also best advised to eat little and often, a small energy bar every 30 minutes for instance is a perfect way of making sure that you get enough energy into your body.

Using ideas from this article I have put together my own energy bar book, containing the recipes to 50 different energy bars there is a huge variety of flavours, all of which taste amazing and are incredibly easy to make. Below I have included a few of my favourite recipes from my book, if you would like a PDF copy for £5 please email me at couzenst@gmail.com. All proceeds go towards helping support my cycling career as I try to make it as a professional cyclist.

I hope you have found this interesting and thank you very much for reading.

By Tom Couzens

https://couzenst.wixsite.com/mysite/single-post/fuelling-for-exercise

Sticky toffee pudding

  • 150g oats
  • 100g dates
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup
  • 2 tbsp muscovado sugar

Method:

  • Place the dates into a bowl of boiling water to soak for 10 minutes.
  • Place all the ingredients into a food processer and pulse until broken up into smaller

pieces. Add a splash of water if needed to help break up the mixture.

  • Press the mixture into a tray lined with baking parchment making sure to properly

compress the mixture together so that it all stays together.

  • Place in the fridge overnight before cutting into the desired number of bars with a

sharp knife, wrapping in parchment and placing back in the fridge until ready to eat.

Chocolate orange:

  • 200g oats
  • Zest 1 large orange plus 3 tbs of the juice
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
  • In a large pan melt the golden syrup and stir in the orange juice.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients to the pan and mix well.
  • Press the mixture into a baking tray lined with baking parchment and place in the

oven for 15 minutes.

  • Take out and leave until cooled before cutting into slices, wrapping in parchment and

placing in the fridge.

Tropical delight

  • 150g oats
  • 50g dried apricots
  • 50g dried figs
  • 50g raisins
  • 40g desiccated coconut
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup

Method:

  • In a food processer blitz together all the ingredients until there is a fairly smooth,

sticky paste. Add a splash of water if needed to help break up the mixture.

  • Press the mixture into a tray lined with baking parchment making sure to properly

compress the mixture together so that it all stays together.

  • Place in the fridge overnight before cutting into the desired number of bars with a

sharp knife, wrapping in parchment and placing back in the fridge until ready to eat.