Tis the season, Race Season!! I know many of you are taking on various endurance challenges this summer. There are the triathletes, marathon runners, gran fondo and ride to conquer cyclists, tough mudders, and epic stage races for some of us. Despite all the training and hard work you've put into your event preparation you can really mess up your day if you don't have your race day nutrition sorted.
I guarantee that most of you do not consume enough calories during your endurance events. I remember my first Ironman; I completely fell apart halfway through the run and a major contributor to that was not eating enough during the ride portion of the race. When you loose energy from lack of glycogen (carbohydrate in you body) during a race the fancy term for that is 'bonking'. Trust me, it's not fun.
So what should you do? There is a whole heap of information out there so I've tried to simplify things a bit for you with some suggestions that come from research and personal experience. These suggestions apply to races/events that are over 90 minutes in duration.
- I like to avoid caffeine for a couple days leading up to a major endurance race - you get a way better 'boost' that way. Caffeine is the bomb for endurance events, so if you've abstained for a few days when you get back on it for race day the effects are more pronounced.
- You should think about carb loading a bit starting 2 days before your event. Don't do anything crazy, just eat healthy portions for all your meals and ensure you are getting good doses of healthy carbs.
- Do not experiment with food the day before a race - keep it normal.
- Eat a good breakfast at least 3 hours before your event, but consisting mostly of foods low in fiber and rich in carbohydrate
- Small snacks leading up to the race after breakfast are fine
- proven to have a positive effect on endurance performance, but like everything else don't overdue it
During the event:
- There is so much conflicting information out there about how many calories to eat during a long endurance event. What you choose depends on your training experience, your race pace, your size, your sex among a few other things. This is something you need to practice in training.
- Most people can absorb around 300-350 calories per hour while exercising
- Try consuming 150-400 calories per hour of racing - closer to 400 if you are bigger, racing harder, and have experience ingesting that amount of calories. If you don't train and practice consuming 300-400 calories per hour you will have no idea how your body will respond to that amount, so it's not a good idea to try that on race day.
- Good race foods: bananas, chocolate bars (no nuts), gels (especially Vega), jellies or gummies, chocolate covered pretzels.
- Hydration is extremely important, especially for replenishing electrolytes. I don't think too much plain water is a good idea during long endurance events (can lead to feeling bloated and a sloshy stomach). Mostly consume drinks with electrolytes (sodium, potassium, a bit of calcium, and magnesium too), and some carbohydrate. Avoid anything with high fructose corn syrup (that stuff is garbage), simple sugars are best.
- Some people sweat more than others, some days are hotter than others. Hydration is crucial and the amount you need will vary with the conditions. Always err of the side of too much, during a long race like ironman you should have to pee 2 or 3 times. If you have ever experienced cramping from being dehydrated you will know how it can ruin your day.
- Practice hydrating during training - so important.
Take home messages:
- You are likely under eating during your endurance races
- Practice your eating and hydrating during training - this is at least as important as any interval session you might do.
- Enjoy yourselves out there!