More on Nutrition and Fueling
Nutrition during a full or half marathon or even a triathlon is as critical as your training during the months leading up to your race. You may be physically prepared for the race and your nutrition could ruin your day. Practice what you plan to eat and drink before the race. Find the drinks, gels and foods that agree with you and bring them to the race. Find out what the race will have and practice eating and drinking it.
Nutrition and fueling has been a major topic of conversation and speculation for endurance athletes. It has only been recently that scientific studies have been done into the benefits of various fueling techniques and supplements. The following information is based on the best data I could locate, advice from experts and my personal experience. Everything we suggest here is recommended by scientific research and experts. I’ve also tried and use everything I recommend here. A few cautions – don’t try ANYTHING new in a race! Try these suggestions and find the combination that works best for you. Finally, hydration and electrolyte balance are CRITICAL issues. Don’t neglect either.
Pre Workout / Race Nutrition
There are two parts of Pre Workout / Race nutrition. The first is the two weeks prior to a race and the second is the morning of the race.
One week prior:
· Avoid caffeine, diet sodas and alcohol.
· Fluid intake – increase
· Carbohydrates – slight increase, just don’t let it drop off
· Protein – again, keep it at your normal levels
· Electrolytes – don’t let it fall below normal
· Don’t do anything new
· Get plenty of sleep two nights before the race
· Don’t eat a big meal late the night before
Morning of the race:
· Pre workout/race meal – 3 hours prior
· 3 hours prior 75 – 100 grams of carbohydrates (complex carbohydrates / maltodextrins)
· Limit of 240 – 280 carbohydrate calories an hour into the energy cycle!
· Fat is a key fuel, but is inhibited by high insulin levels, which is created by the presence of simple sugars
· 10 – 12 fluid ounces each hour up to 30 minutes prior (make sure you are well hydrated)
Workout / Race Fueling & Nutrition
· Start off well fueled and hydrated
· Bring fluid and gel with you on the run (water will be found on course, but you don’t know what else might be there or in terms of gels – what flavors!)
· Drink electrolyte replacement fluids during any training session that lasts 60 minutes or longer
· Eat energy gels or bars during any training session that last 90 minutes or longer
· Take supplemental electrolyte replacements during any training session that lasts two hours or more
· Take supplemental electrolyte replacements during any training session where the temperature is 70 degrees or more and/or the humidity is over 80%
· 15 minutes after you start begin fueling
o Fluids – start taking fluids, keep up the intake throughout the race
o Carbohydrates – complex sugars, Maltodextrin (18-24% solution), is preferred because more calories pass into the blood faster than simple sugars (6-8% solution). Studies have shown that simple sugars result in blood sugar levels below even fasting levels!
o Protein – for events longer than 1 hour (2 hours and up) supplement with protein along with carbohydrates.
o Electrolytes – electrolytes
Post Workout / Race Nutrition
· The 20 to 30 minutes immediately after a race or hard workout is the prime refueling window
· 10 to 20 grams of protein
· One to two grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight
· Fluids – replenish!
The first 30 minutes after a hard workout or race are critical to your recovery from the effort. 1 to 2 grams carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight (130 lbs = 118 grams / 472 calories, 160 lbs – 146 grams / 584 calories) and 10 to 20 grams of protein. Although Chocolate Milk is an excellent post workout / race supplement, you can use anything that provides the protein and carbohydrates your body need. Research conducted by Mark Tarnopolsky, among others, has shown that the timing of a high carbohydrate diet can greatly enhance muscle glycogen levels. Eating a high carbohydrate meal within 30 minutes of either endurance or resistance exercise appears to improve total daily muscle glycogen re-synthesis. Additionally, this routine also positively effects protein metabolism.
One to two grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight within 20 to 30 minutes after exercise. In addition you should be consuming 10 to 20 grams of protein. It’s suggested that natural foods, not special drinks, be used because we assimilate amino acids better when they come from balanced proteins in real food. And the ideal post workout food? Chocolate Milk!
Eating carbohydrates immediately after endurance or resistance workouts improves re-synthesis of glycogen. This also improves protein metabolism. Proteins are made of amino acids. Breaking down branched-chain amino acids is controlled by an enzyme – BCOAD. A protein rich diet increased BCOAD activity. But, the presence of carbohydrates reduces the activity of BCOAD. Thus, proteins are not broken down. Training also reduced the activity of BCOAD. This is a good thing, since muscles are mostly protein, they will be broken down less and able to build with reduced BCOAD activity. High volume training will deplete muscle glycogen and can lead to a “negative nitrogen balance,” because we are losing more protein than we can build. This is especially a problem for women, who tend to have low protein and calories intake.
Mark Tarnopolsky of McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario performed a study on post exercise diets. Their overall diet was 58% carbohydrates, 16% protein and 26% fat calories. The post exercise beverage (Results from Mead-Johnson, Canada) was 66% carbohydrate, 23% protein and 11% fat calories. The post exercise beverage was taken immediately after exercise, instead of prior to exercise. The Results were that more fat was used during exercise (a good thing). More importantly, when Results was taken after exercise, Nitrogen Balance was positive (a very good thing – protein stores were increased). Weight loss was also reduced. Most importantly, when Results was taken after exercise, the athletes were able to exercise 47% longer at the end of the test! The only difference was the timing of the intake of Results – before or after exercise.
Additionally, studies show that eating carbohydrates after exercise increases insulin into the blood stream. Studies have shown that this results in a positive protein balance. Muscles lost 30% less protein post exercise after eating carbohydrates. Muscles were able to build-up in response to the training. Muscles took up three times the amount of Alanine (a specific amino acid). The bonus is that you will have a better training session on the following day! Remember, muscles are most receptive to talking up carbohydrates in the 2 hours immediately following exercise. But, the rate of up-take diminishes after 30 minutes. Tarnopolsky recommends eating a minimum of 1 gram of carbohydrates per kilogram of weight (2 grams are better) within 20 minutes, and 10 to 20 grams of protein are suggested.
Skim chocolate milk is the best source of the carbohydrates and protein:
Two cups of skim chocolate milk, 1 cup of an electrolyte/energy drink, one banana and a bagel. This will provide:
2 cups of skim chocolate milk
18 Grams – Protein
52 Grams – Carbohydrates
1 cup of electrolyte/energy drink
15 Grams – Carbohydrates
28 grams – Carbohydrates
38 grams – Carbohydrates
133 Grams – Carbohydrates
18 Grams – Protein
Whey protein from milk is rapidly absorbed, while the casein protein from milk is absorbed more slowly. This post exercise meal is particularly important if you are doing two a day workouts. Normally, it takes 24 hours to absorb carbohydrates. So, it’s critical to get that carbohydrate boost.
Summary – Practical Examples
Three things to remember:
1. Don’t eat for 2 hours prior to the start. You last full meal should be the night before and plan on getting up early enough to complete a smaller meal 2 hours prior to the start. The night before should be a normal meal, nothing special and nothing heavy. It’s fine to drink water up to 15 minutes prior to the start.
2. 15 minutes into the start begin taking carbohydrates, fluids and electrolytes. During the run you may want to carry a bottle and a gel flask. Use the same routine – drink lots of carbohydrates/protein/electrolyte fluids and take energy gel every 20 minutes.
3. 30 minutes after the race have 10-20 grams of protein and 250-350 calories of carbohydrates.
Try everything before the race and bring your own gels, electrolytes and carbohydrate drinks. Don’t be dependent on the race for your energy/electrolyte needs, they may be using products you’re unfamiliar with, that don’t agree with you or they may run out!
Carbohydrates are the primary fuel source for your muscles. Your muscles can store a limited amount of energy. If you are exercising for more than one hour, you will need to replenish the carbohydrates. The longer you workout the more fuel – carbohydrates – you’ll need. You should be consuming approximately 100 calories per hour of exercise. Strenuous exercise and hot weather conditions will increase that amount.
Carbohydrates vs. Fats
Fats provide more energy – fuel – than carbohydrates. But, they require a longer and more complicated process to provide energy for your muscles. Carbohydrates are quickly and easily available to your muscles. For short hard efforts, carbohydrates are the primary fuel source. For long continuous moderate efforts fats are the primary source. But,, your body needs to learn to burn fats instead of carbohydrates. Proper training will teach your muscles to use fats as a source of energy.
Your diet should consist of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. A good balance will provide all the nutrients, minerals, vitamins and fuels needed for exercise. You should not over do or eliminate any food group. If your concern is also weight loss, eating smaller portions and eating more frequently will aid in weight loss.
Hydration – Don’t wait until you are thirsty. By that time, it’s too late!
Being well hydrated will allow you to perform up to your potential. It will also prevent serious medical problems caused by dehydration. You should be drinking plenty of water during the course of the day. Eight 8 ounce glasses of water will keep you hydrated. During exercise and during warm weather, the need for hydration increases dramatically. But, there is also a danger of over hydrating. To avoid this problem, use an electrolyte balanced fluid replacement drink – especially during extreme exercise and extreme heat. You should be consuming 8 to 12 ounces per hour of exercise. Again, extreme conditions – intense exercise and hot and humid conditions will increase the need for fluid replacement. Drinking just water will potentially change the balance of electrolytes in your body and can lead to serious problems. Although you may not feel the need to drink during cooler weather, it is still important to drink electrolyte replacement fluids. Additionally, very dry conditions will mask the need for re-hydrating.
Routines and Practice
You should establish a routine for eating and drinking during your rides. Stick to your schedule of eating and drinking and you’ll avoid problems. Eight to 12 ounces of electrolyte replacement fluid and 100 or more calories of gel or food per hour is a good starting point. Adjust this routine according to your exercise effort and the weather. Practice eating and drinking while riding. You need to be able to get to your water bottle and food while you’re riding. Try different products. There are many different electrolyte replacement fluids, gels and energy bars available. Try different ones until you find what you like and what agrees with your body. Some are slow acting – they take longer to provide energy to your muscles, but last longer. Others are fast acting – they are quickly available for your muscles to use. Taste and agree-ability with your digestive system are important considerations. So, try lots of different products to find what works and what doesn’t work for you.