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Training for Optimal Over Immediate by Maria Holee

Thousand Hills area of northern Missour
Nutrition and hydration then recovery are important for long days in the saddle.

The most potent legal steroid for athletic performance is the food you ingest.


The date was September 2017, and at 37 years young I was preparing for 12 workouts over three days. I have trained over the last year for this to prepare my body and mind to compete in the 2017 Granite Games in St. Paul, Minnesota. The first event was a 500-meter open water swim in a cold Minnesota lake then directly into a 1.5-mile run. An hour after that event I was climbing ropes and jumping over boxes, into a bike and weightlifting event. This was just day one!


I had trained for all of this after making it through a qualifier event the prior spring to be eligible. It was up to my processes now to chip away at each event as they came my way.


One of those processes is eating to fuel my body to be able to perform at optimal capacity over the next 3 days. In this worldwide qualifying event, our team finished 5th place. Not too shabby for a few late 30- and 40-year-olds. (Another story for another day, is that since the age of 11 I have fought a bone disease in my left hip and now have had and recovered from two hip reconstructions at age 17 and age 20, and one hip replacement in 2020.) Yes, I still compete in CrossFit competitions and have signed up and I am training for my first sprint triathlon coming in June 2024. 


The fact is performing optimally does not happen overnight. It doesn’t happen with immediate gratification choices like indulgences, quick pleasures, or that “magic” pill. It takes discipline and love of the long game.



Now, let’s jump into your pedaling shoes. Imagine you are cycling in your 2nd hour of the third day of your trip. By this time, you may have blisters on your feet and hands, chapped lips, a sore booty, and heavy legs. But that is not stopping you. Ideally, you have prepped and planned leading up to this ride for months, and it is GO time. Most importantly, you are sustaining yourself with optimal over immediate sources of protein and carbohydrates to keep you moving forward and feeding the muscles and cells in your body to do so. 


Why protein? Why carbohydrates? And my favorite question… why not fat?



Protein is an essential macronutrient fulfilling various functions of the body such as formation and repairing muscles, bones and other tissues. They provide structural support and facilitate thousands of biochemical reactions inside and outside your cells. Your body will crave carbohydrates when you are racking up the miles, but it is protein that is the building block of muscle repair, and a lot more sustaining than carbohydrates. The most easily digestible proteins are those like a whey isolate protein shake that you may find in any nutrition or grocery store. Shredded chicken or fish, low fat proteins are ideal because they will feed your working muscles fastest. This life sustaining macro-nutrient is most important in your training phases prior to your long ride! Optimal protein consumption would be .7 - 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight divided up over 3 - 4 meals per day.



Carbohydrates are another essential macronutrient that provides energy and regulates blood glucose, which is used for respiration and fueling body processes. Carbohydrates are going to be your energy sources to give you that extra punch while grueling through the long cardio-respiratory muscular endurance rides. Surround your workouts and rides with carbohydrates. You want to feed the muscles and cells with fast energy like quick absorbing easily digestible carbohydrates throughout a long ride.

My favorite go-to’s are applesauce packets; raisins; fresh fruit like strawberries, berries, bananas; oat; and honey energy bars. Eat a carbohydrate-rich meal 2-4 hours before the ride, ideally with a lower glycemic index (GI) so that the energy is released more slowly. Then, 30-90 minutes before the ride, consume a higher Glycemic index carbohydrate snack such as a banana. You wouldn’t want to eat a large meal too close to a grueling exercise or workout because your organs will be so busy trying to digest the food, the energy won’t go where needed and that is to your twitching, working muscles.  ("Cycling Weekly,"

The Best Food for Endurance Cycling) 


A common flaw that I see people do when competing in sports is packing hi energy protein balls that are made up of primarily fat like nut butters. Another common error is eating trail mixes full of mixed nuts. Yes, nuts have some great nutrients and minerals, including Omega 3’s, but they are a FAT. Fats are one of the macronutrients like carbohydrates and proteins, but they take a lot longer for your body to digest than an energy source like a carbohydrate. They are denser and 7 calories per gram, whereas protein and carbohydrates are only 4 calories per gram making them more easily absorbed in your body. Save the fats for after your workout to sustain you.



When you work, you sweat and burn that energy. Another way to replenish your cells and keep them moving forward is a proper electrolyte balance. According to Cleveland Clinic  --

Electrolytes are substances that have a natural positive or negative electrical charge when dissolved in water. They help your body regulate chemical reactions, maintain the balance between fluids inside and outside your cellsMost importantly these electric charges are how your muscles contract. Magnesium, Sodium, Chloride, Calcium and Potassium are electrolytes. An adult’s body is about 60% water which means nearly every fluid and cell in your body contains electrolytes.” 

Some side effects of low electrolytes in your body are muscle cramps and fatigue, brain fog, headaches, confusion, and in very low electrolytes, you may experience constipation, abdominal pain and vomiting. I believe that is the last thing you want to endure while on a long bike trip or competing in any type of exercise event.


Some great sources of electrolytes are your own concoction of water, with a Himalayan pink sea salt, and lime juice. One of my favorite go-to’s for a convenient dose is the brand “LMNT.” It doesn’t have all the extra sugar that a lot of other electrolyte marketed drinks have. You should also be taking in at least 3/4 in ounces of water of your body weight at minimal, if not more when competing. Remember, I said your body is 60% water, if you don’t hydrate, you are dehydrating!



Finally, let’s talk recovery. Your muscle, organs, body, and mind recover when you sleep. People often think that it is when you are doing the workout, the long ride, the swim, the weights, that you are building muscle. You are actually tearing them down. And that is why you need to fuel during and after those muscles you tore down to replenish the cells, but you also need to sleep so that those muscles can grow and heal from the work you put them through. Your deep sleep and REM cycle of your sleep periods is when your muscles grow. The best quality sleep involves both DEEP and REM cycles. You will get them both when you put the electronic devices away and have 8-9 hours of rest to heal up. It’s understandable in a several day event, you may not get those 8-9 hours of comfort, but you can be proactive to make the sleep you do get the best sleep.


Ways to maximize your sleep – Sleep in 68 Degrees, Sleep in the dark (wear an eye mask), and do not eat an hour before bedtime. That last meal should be high in easily digestible carbs and protein with minimal fats, so you are fueled for the next day. And deep breathing is a great way to relax the mind and body. My favorite technique is box breathing. Through the nose, 4 seconds in, 4 sec hold, 4 seconds out, 4 second hold. This technique works great to calm the mind during exciting moments in a race, ride, or competition! Stretching and yoga are also great ways to keep your body flexible, stable and relaxed for competition.


Habits for Optimum Performance

The holy grail of creating processes to perform optimally are at your fingertips. Keeping things simple, like focusing on these foundations reap great benefits. 

1) Nutrition with focus on Carbs and Proteins.

2) Electrolytes and Hydration.

3) Rest, Recover, and Sleep.


Build these habits over time. Learn to work for optimal habits over immediate gratification and quick pleasures. The rewards of hard work done well go far beyond any quick pleasure. Hard work and discipline toward your love of the game will help you continue to grow and feel accomplished. After this ride and on to the next one!


Maria Holee is a content contributor for America Bicycle Journeys

She can be found most days coaching and training at Jefferson City Crossfit; Jefferson City, Missouri.

Crossfit Endurance Nutrition Biking Breast Cancer Awareness
Maria Holee, Breast Cancer Awareness Crossfit competition

2016 – 5th in Nation Strongman Nationals, Louisville, KY

2017 -5th Place Team World Wide Granite Games, St. Paul Minnesota

2019-2020 – Top 200 Age group 35-39 in the Worldwide CrossFit Open

2021-2023 - Top 200 Age group 40-44 in the Worldwide CrossFit Open

CrossFit Level 2 Certified

CrossFit Gym Owner 2012-2022

Coach at Jefferson City CrossFit

CrossFit Gymnastic Certified

Outlaw Barbell

Enderton Strength

2019 Squat University Physical Therapy Seminar

Enderton Strength

OnBalance Seminar

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