Common Fueling Issues & Overcoming Them
Nutrition Fueling Basics
- Carbohydrates: These should be your main source of energy during competition. Any competition longer than 60 minutes requires you to consume 30 to 60 g of carbohydrate per hour (120 to 240 kcal per hour). Typical sport food (gels, drinks, bars) is made up largely, if not exclusively, of carbohydrates. Competition is not the time to get carbs from overly complex or fibrous sources.
- Fat: For ultra endurance events, fat can be a useful source of fuel. The body is able to use fat to maintain a moderate effort for a sustained amount of time. Fats are also useful to promote satiety and pleasure. Add fats to your race fuel by spreading nut butter on a bagel or taking in a full fat dairy product. Avoid greasy and overly fatty foods.
- Protein: This macronutrient has little to contribute to competition eating. Lean proteins should be part of daily eating habits, but for actual energy use, it will be of no help. Avoid protein rich foods and beverages before and during competition. Protein foods should be saved for after completion of the race, as it is a crucial part of healing and rebuilding the muscles you just tore to shreds. Like fats, in ultraâ€“endurance events, protein may add satiety and comfort as well as reduce muscle breakdown.
- Hydration: Drinking is just as important as eating. Using a carbohydrate beverage is a classic and efficient way to get both energy and hydration. While this can help top off your energy stores, I recommend planning your hydration and fueling separately. Do not rely on a beverage to take care of all your needs, especially if you are doing an endurance event. Use water plain, or enhanced with a low calorie, electrolyte mix. Guidelines advise to drink 6-12oz every 15-20 minutes. This may be more than most athletes can handle. Start knowing your individual fluid needs during training by weighing yourself before and after sessions. Replace lost weight post training at a rate of 16-24oz per pound lost.
Common Food & Drink Examples and Caloric Value
Common Fueling Strategies: Race Day
- 3+ Hours Pre-Race: Your biggest pre-race meal should be consumed at this time. The more time you have, the larger and more complex the meal can be.
- 1-2 Hours Pre-Race: Aim for a small meal of mostly easy to digest carbohydrate.
- 30 Minutes Pre-Race: This is the time to top off your energy stores. There isn't time for full digestion at this point, so keep it small and simple. Stick to simple sugars such as gels, chews, or beverage.
- During Race: Your training should dictate roughly how much food you should take in during the event. Duration and intensity of the individual event, along with what your body can handle, come into play here. Take in the foods and beverages you are accustomed to. If the aid stations have products you have not experimented with, pass them up and plan to bring your own food along. If the race does not allow you to carry your own nutrition, find out ahead of time what the race aid stations will have, and use that during your training. As a general rule, take in most of your calories during the first half of the event. Start with your most hearty fuel and taper down to simpler sources towards the end of the race. This will keep you from hitting the wall and allow you to finish strong.
- Post Race: You've crossed the finish and either go straight to the celebratory meet, great, cheer circuit or are so fatigued that you crumple to a pile on the ground. Either way, you are not finishing your event properly. Within thirty minutes of finishing is the ideal time to consume recovery fuel. Aim for a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein. Something small and immediate will suffice. Return to eating normal, complex meals within a couple hours of the event.