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Know your Local Cuisine

Nutrition and Hydration advice for your next training camp in Spain


Author; Karen Parnell



Having looked at packing light for you training equipment, Karen now looks at Nutrition and Hydration for your Spanish camp.

A good thing to pack are hydration tablets as they take up little room and you know as soon as you arrive you will have access to an electrolyte drink, my favourite at the moment is OTE pink grapefruit. You may need more electrolytes in hotter climates.

Most bike shops sell nutrition or hydration products and of course there’s always Decathlon. Something that surprised me was that Mercadona supermarkets that you find all over Spain stock Enervit products (electrolyte drink and gels) in the soft drink isle and also Lidl have various protein powers and glucose drink powders. So, if you don’t have any specific dietary requirements, you can always get something.

You can also make your own electrolyte drink but it’s best to make it with bottled water. It’s worth doing a sweat test to see how much salt you need during a hot bike ride or run. Plus remember you will sweat as you swim so always have a drink to hand.

You will probably need between 500-1000ml of fluids per hour of bike riding assuming a medium to hard tempo. As a rough guide, drinking every 10-15 minutes will suit most rides.


Local Nutrition Options


You may have seen Turron on the shelves of Spanish shops and wondered what it is. It’s a Spanish sweet treat typically made of honey, sugar, and egg white, with toasted almonds and usually shaped into either a rectangular tablet or a round cake. The bars can contain upwards of 60% almonds which are a great source of protein, healthy fats and fibre. Honey is a great source of carbs to fuel your training sessions. Turron also contains potassium, calcium and iron. 



At Christmas I was given some individually wrapped marzipan figurines called “Figuritas de Mazapán El Abuelo”. They were in my cupboard for some time before I decided to try one. They are delicious and basically almonds (45-50%) and sugar. On my next bike ride I threw a few into my bento box and being individually wrapped and soft were extremely easy to eat. They are packed with carbs, protein, and fibre. Aim for 100-150 calories of carbohydrate (25-37 grams) per hour during rides longer than 90 minutes. Each marzipan figurine contains 9 grams of carb so on an hour long ride you can eat 3 of these little treats.

You can also try these Spanish marzipan and mountain honey bars from a company called BeeHi. They also do an all-natural honey-based gel. 


Dried Fruit

Many people have discovered the benefits of taking died fruit on long bike rides and runs and they are plentiful in Spain. My favourites are dried apricots (albaricoques) and large juicy raisons. The raisons local to me are called Pasas and are sun dried muscatel grapes. The raisins still retain the muscat flavour of the grapes from which they are obtained, reinforced by an intense after flavour. Apricots contain Carbs, Protein, Fat, Fibre and Vitamins A, C and E plus potassium which can help avoid cramp. Pasas contain Carbs and fibre and are a good source of Iron,  Potassium,  Copper,  Vitamin B6 and Manganese.

Raisins also contain boron. This mineral helps maintain good bone and joint health, can improve wound healing, and may improve cognitive performance.  


Café or Bun Stops

All around Spain you can stop for a coffee, churros or breakfast roll to help fuel your morning rides. If you are in need of some extra carbs and protein, then try a ColaCao. ColaCao is a sugary chocolate drink with vitamins and minerals that originated in Spain and is now produced and marketed in several countries. Cola Cao comes in a powder form which is intended to be mixed with milk but can also be mixed with water or soya milk. If you like it you can buy the powder in tubs in supermarkets.

Chocolate offers many benefits for athletes, and especially those who love this food type 

There are many types of coffee in Spain so it’s worth knowing the name of how you like it:

Café con leche – coffee with milk

Café Americano or Café Solo grande – large black coffee

Leche manchada – very milky coffee

Café descafeinado – decaffeinated coffee

Cortado - strong espresso shot, topped with frothy hot milk

Café Bombón - sticky sweet, condensed milk topped by a shot of bitter espresso.

Café con hielo – cup of coffee with a cup of ice to make your own iced coffee.

Carajillo - a small glass filled with espresso and shot of your favourite liquor. Reserved for after your training!


Breakfast Heaven

At breakfast you may not be able to get cake, but you can get a crusty roll filled with a range of ingredients. Where I live the small, toasted rolls are called “pitufo” or Smurfs. My favourite is Pitufo con aquacate y tortilla francesa which is avocado and a small one egg omelette and sometimes comes with garlic or aioli, this pitufo is a great source of carbs and protein. These small rolls cost between 2 and 3 euros.

On a breakfast menu (menu de desayuno) you will see the name pitufo followed by different fillings, including Mixto (cheese and ham), Andaluz (serrano ham, tomato and olive oil) or tomate y aciete (grated tomatoes, olive oil and salt). You can also get atun (tuna), tocino or beicon (bacon), mermelada (jam) and other toppings of your choice.

Instead of Pitufo you may see Tostada (small baguette), Bocadillos (baguette cut lengthways), or Mollete (bap). If you don’t see a menu, you can ask for “tostado con tomate” or “tostado con beicon” and I’m sure they will be able, get this for you. You could also ask for tortilla as they usually have this egg and potato dish which is also great to fuel your ride.

If you prefer brown bread, then you can ask for “pan integral” and gluten free is simply “sin gluten”.

If you are looking for something sweet, then you are never too far from a Churros hut by the side of the road serving long donut like churros and very sweet hot chocolate.

There is a reason that cyclists crave bacon sandwiches, cake and coffee after a ride, your body wants that water, it wants those juicy carbs and salts.



Karen Parnell is British Triathlon Federation (BTF) Level 3 High Performing Coach and Tutor and ASA Open Water Swimming Coach. She is also a qualified NASM Personal Trainer, Nivel 3 Técnicos Federados FATRI España and IRONMAN® Certified Coach as well as being a Stryd running with power coach. Karen is based near Malaga in Southern Spain where she runs ChiliTri coaching and camps



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Categories: All topics, CrossFit, Cycling, Running, Spain, Swimming, Triathlon