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Fuel Your Body, Fuel Your Training

Fellow adventure racer and performance nutritionist Laura Mahony shares her expertise on what we need to fuel our training.

Just as we all plan our training regimes, whether that is our cycling, running, kayaking or strength and core work, we must also plan our nutrition intake around our training. 

A mistake made by many endurance athletes is not changing their nutrition intake as energy demands change. As a Performance Nutritionist, part of my job is to educate athletes on the importance of energy balance and nutrient timing. 

Energy balance ensures you have the energy to complete the required training without compromising other bodily functions, for example immune system, bone health, endocrine or reproductive systems. Nutrient timing involves looking at the type, total and timing of your meals and snacks to ensure you are providing your body with the right fuel at the right time. 

For example, carbohydrates are the body’s primary fuel source for high-intensity exercise, therefore if you are planning high-intensity bike or running sessions, carbohydrate content of meals/snacks around training time should increase. 

If you are building up your fitness base and doing lower-intensity runs or cycles then your body’s primary energy source will be fat and you don’t need to rely on increasing carbohydrate intake to support this, regular meals with a carbohydrate component should suffice.

If you are looking to gain or reduce body weight, then you will need to look at total energy intake and adjust your proportions of carbohydrates, fats and protein accordingly. 

A simple way of visualising daily energy intake is basing each meal around the Athlete Plate Model.

In practical terms, this could simply mean increasing the portion size of porridge you have in the morning if you are about to go for a longer and quicker run/bike ride than normal. 

If on the other hand you are planning to take it easy on the bike, do you need to have the extra slice of toast with your breakfast to fuel your ride? No, is the answer here. 

If you come back from a really hard bike and run combined session and have no food ready to eat a smoothie makes an ideal recovery ‘go-to’ option.  You can adjust the nutrients and calories to meet your own energy demands and it is ready in literally 2 minutes.

Try this delicious Recovery Smoothie:

60g oats
250-300ml milk
125g Natural yogurt
Handful of frozen berries
1 banana
Honey to sweeten
Optional – spoon of nut butter / chia seed / cinnamon

Laura Mahony ( is a registered dietitian and performance nutritionist working with elite sportspeople for over 10 years via Sport Ireland Institute, Connacht Rugby and the Sport Institute Northern Ireland.  She is an active adventure racer herself and comes from a family of adventure racers, even though she is normally the one that all the rest of the family are waiting on at the finish-line!   


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