I love food so much that I used to look at my exercise routine as my avenue to eat more. I did in fact say, “I ride my bike so I can eat whatever I want.” Want to guess what happened? That’s right, I started gaining weight regardless of riding hard for 2-3 hours or more.

Why is that? Well, simply put, the calories burned reported from our devices are often slightly elevated. And worse, the calories on food labels are often under-estimated. It’s a no win! So, what’s the answer? Don’t rely solely on tracking calories.

Research tells us that for most exercise < 60 min, we should not need to add any calories to those planned for the day if we’re trying to lose weight. Different if you’re maintaining. If we know we’re trying to stay active for up to 2 hours or more we need to plan on putting small amounts of calories in while we are active, aiming for 100 calories every 45 min.

Those experts also tell us that real solid food better by the stomach for most people during those first couple of hours. After that, it takes too much energy for your gut to break it down, so you start looking at those simpler sources like gels. And believe me, as much as those taste like frosting, you get tired of them quickly. Drinking water makes it a little better.

The other key is that when you’re exercising that long, and especially if its vigorous, you’re probably sweating a lot. Know what leaves your body with sweat… salt. So, you should ensure that your nutrition during exercise has some salts in it because your body really needs it.

Most exercisers stay under 60 min of vigorous exercise at any one time, which will burn maybe 5-600 calories. It takes very little food to make that up. And sadly, it’s probably not even a full piece of cheesecake. The point being, don’t try to make up all the calories you think you’re burning with more food, like I used to. If you want a general idea about your calorie intake and output, try tracking things on any number of apps like MyFitnessPal or Lose It.

References:

https://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/a19982208/food-rules-for-strength-training/

https://www.bicycling.com/training/a20011394/how-to-fuel-on-rides-of-every-length/

https://www.healthline.com/health/how-many-calories-do-you-burn-biking

https://www.runnersworld.com/nutrition-weight-loss/a20843760/running-v-walking-how-many-calories-will-you-burn/ h

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