The Performance Zone: Sports Nutrition And Recovery

23 Apr
The Performance Zone

The Performance Zone: Sports Nutrition And Recovery

I took up cycling a little over thirteen years ago and am still embarrassed by how little I knew about sports nutrition at the time. I’m talking about the “cover your face and hide” type of embarrassment. I started cycling to lose weight and ignorantly thought the best way to do it would be to starve myself on a ride and drink only water. It was not just a bad idea—it was just plain stupid. After an hour ride I was worn out and it took me two days to recover. However, I used to take solace in the fact I had given myself a “good workout” (what a fool).

As I grew more accustomed to cycling my friends tell me I was “bonking” or “hitting the wall.” I didn’t know what either of these phrases meant at the time—but my well-meaning friends told me I just needed to eat a lot of carbs during a bike ride and everything would be fine. Without any guidance I began ingesting too many carbs and started gaining weight again—in spite of increasing my workout time! It was a really discouraging time in my life!

Somehow I eventually found and read The Performance Zone: Your Nutrition Action Plan for Greater Endurance & Sports Performance, by John Ivy and Robert Portman, and my cycling life changed forever! This book is a primer on how your muscles grow, work, get fuel and recover. The book explains how to calculate your hydration, carbohydrate and protein needs for numerous sports. I would call The Performance Zone a “must read” for anyone participating in endurance sports, such as cycling, hockey, swimming, football, etc. Over the past ten years I’ve bought at least a dozen copies of this book—some of the copies were given  to fellow athletes, other times I bought copies to replace ones I “loaned” to friends (some of my friends can’t add or subtract, but they are great “book keepers”).

In my situation, based upon cycling speed, weight and a few other factors, I was able to plot out a suitable course of action. I followed the instructions and started consuming 30 grams of carbohydrates every 30 minutes and my performance vastly improved (I am close to being a Clydesdale, so your nutritional needs will vary). Not only did my speed and distance improve, but so did my recovery time. I quickly went from getting exhausted after an hour ride to riding for three or four hours before work and then doing it again the next morning. Eventually I worked my way up to doing Century rides before going to the office!

This paperback book is available from for under $10.00 (Basic Health Publications, Inc., 146 pages). While this book is a great introduction to sports nutrition, there are a few other books I would also recommend to serious cyclists, such as The Paleo Diet for Athletes, The Athletes Guide to Recovery, and Distance Cycling.


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31 responses to “The Performance Zone: Sports Nutrition And Recovery

  1. sueslaght

    April 23, 2014 at 11:09 PM

    I am so with you on the need for fueling your body when doing endurance sports. It takes practice and discipline to feed consistently but so vital. Thank you for this excellent reminder.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      April 28, 2014 at 8:27 PM

      It took a long time to find out what worked best for me — but once I got into the habit of watching my calorie intake things went along a lot better!

      • sueslaght

        April 28, 2014 at 9:30 PM

        Yes I agree it really takes some careful observation and then adjusting.

  2. bgddyjim

    April 24, 2014 at 3:38 AM

    So when you did those centuries before going to the office, was that to, like take a nap or something?! Love the nutrition tips. Getting the fueling right is critical, especially if you’re trying to lose weight… I know a few people who suck down gels midway through a 5k jog and then wonder why they can’t lose weight.

  3. runnershealth

    April 24, 2014 at 9:46 AM

    It is not easy to learn how to fuel your body during an endurance race (still working on it!). Thanks for the tip.

  4. imarunner2012

    April 24, 2014 at 10:14 AM

    I’ll check to see if my library has a copy. This sounds like something I could use.

  5. Art Brûlant

    April 24, 2014 at 10:42 AM

    Thank you. I am one those with an embarrassing low level of knowledge most things related to this. Still learning. Thanks for helping on that journey.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      April 28, 2014 at 8:30 PM

      We all have to start somewhere! I just wish I would have found this book sooner.

  6. Wayne

    April 24, 2014 at 12:10 PM

    Great book tips!!

    If you can’t find those recommended titles at your library, try an interlibrary loan (usually free) or compare the listings at

  7. fastk9dad

    April 24, 2014 at 12:48 PM

    Do you have a copy I can borrow? *snicker*

  8. Chatter

    April 25, 2014 at 9:58 AM

    I so need to read this book, adding it to the list (Clydesdale as well and have found through experimentation the every 45 is to long for me before refueling). Great suggestion.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      April 28, 2014 at 8:32 PM

      If you don’t start fueling up in time it is VERY hard, if not impossible, to catch up.

  9. thehomeschoolingdoctor

    April 25, 2014 at 2:29 PM

    This sounds like a good read when I get into longer distances. Although I enjoy nutrition, I have not yet needed to delve into sports nutrition yet. I am still accumulating knowledge on general nutrient nutrition. Don’t see myself riding longer than an hour for a few years or so till the kiddos grow. Hope you are great!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      April 28, 2014 at 8:35 PM

      Sports nutrition is very tricky due to all of the variables. I’ve been fortunate enough to find two different “sports medicine” doctors who actually understand nutrition (and I am guessing they didn’t learn this in med school). By the way, I hope you get your blog back online real soon. I saw your Facebook page and think I understand what was going on (we use Lifelock to protect ourselves from identity theft — it really is a great service).

      • thehomeschoolingdoctor

        April 29, 2014 at 6:26 AM

        Sports nutrition is very tricky…and I agree! LOL! I’m sure those sports medicine doctors you found didn’t learn it in med school, residency, or continuing education! My husband’s partner, an orthopedic surgeon, has started asking me some questions (he’s a marathoner.), and gee does it open a whole new can of worms to learn about! I’ll get there eventually. You are happy with Lifelock? I checked it out but wasn’t sure whether to bite the bullet on it or not. I’m about 3/4 done with going through posts for anything that might be TMI. It’s hard to have a personal blog and not be “so personal.”

        • All Seasons Cyclist

          April 29, 2014 at 10:35 PM

          If the marathoner is on the Paleo diet he needs to check out “The Paleo Diet For Athletes” (reviewed at: Even if he is not on Paleo, the section on how our bodies react to endurance sports is worth the price of the book.

          As for Lifelock — it has already saved me twice. My computers are harder to get into than the NSA (I mean heavily encrypted with dual firewalls), but some of the companies I deal with are not as careful and my personal info (user name and passwords for different companies) has been found on foreign black market lists and Lifelock warned me immediately so I could make the corrections (changing passwords and username).

  10. simon682

    April 28, 2014 at 4:20 AM

    I’ve bumbled and stumbled along. Maybe it’s about time I took the diet more seriously. Will give it a read.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      April 28, 2014 at 8:36 PM

      Stumble and bumble no more — this book is a quick read and really changed my life!

  11. Amy Christine

    April 28, 2014 at 6:01 PM

    Great post! My husband and I are new to cycling and trying to figure out nutrition during long rides!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      April 28, 2014 at 8:38 PM

      I’ve read your blog so I know you are a great athlete — but I’ve seen people who are in a lot better shape than me crack on long rides. In my opinion their failure was just a matter of nutrition (not enough of the right kind of fuel).

  12. st sahm

    May 5, 2014 at 9:15 AM

    Aw. Why feel embarressed when you were being brave about a new part of your life? How commendable to take care of yourself and strengthen the connection of your mind to body — BRAVO! I have referred many of my family members to your blog before they purchase any cycling products. So thanks for becoming an expert.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      May 12, 2014 at 12:30 PM

      Thanks for recommending this site (but you do so at your own risk).

  13. Jason Atkinson

    June 5, 2014 at 5:31 AM

    I have been a reader for several years. I knew you would appreciate this:

  14. Jason Atkinson

    June 5, 2014 at 5:32 AM

    The second comment not the first one sorry!


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