With all the hype about nutrition and sports-nutrition, it is hard to know what you should use to do your best on race day. My advice is always to practice what you *think* you should use on race day on your key workouts (intensity, volume, race-specific simulation). If you find you perform well and/or that you vomit then you have an idea if it works for you. There are some variables around race nerves but generally, the issues on race day are due to not practicing the type and amount of fuel you will need so that you have too much or too little on race day.
Want a book to help with what to eat on different diets to optimize health, body composition and performance? Check out Fuel Your Ride!
Remember you are Resilient and The other 23 hrs of the day
It is important to remember that hydration and fueling are important but we can do a lot without, so if you end up short, drop a bottle, miss a feed it is fine, especially in short events the difference is not huge, especially if you do not get stressed on it. Practicing *WITHIN REASON* some fasted rides or less hydrated rides are worthwhile if it is likely in races. It is quite common that fueling time/practices and stressors take away from overall race time.
There are a few factors but it is not uncommon for the front-runners in a race to be lighter (slightly dehydrated) at the finish compared to the slowest finishers who take on more water and maintain or even gain weight, which can have consequences at extremes.
It is also very important to consider how you eat pre, post and during the rest of your days in the months ahead of any event. Your body composition, energy, sleep and ultimately your performance is affected by this. If you only eat sugar, eat constantly (graze), get hangry, or find your sleep is off then there are some lifestyle factors that need attention much more than the order of your race day chews, chomps and waffles do.
What to use?
- Mix – Many people like the convenience of getting fuel with their hydration. This works well for some applications but be careful in extreme conditions where the mix may become less palatable or when you need to drink more. water relative to fueling (ie. hot weather). Some people find gels hard to get down and so mix may be a better option.
- Gels are nice because they are separate from your water consumption. So when it is very hot you can fuel with the gels and use cold water to douse yourself and to hydrate. These can be in the form of gel packets, gel flasks or ‘blocks’ and gummies.
- Bars/solids are generally for endurance rides and long events where you are mostly under 85% (in my opinion) … some people can stomach more, some can stomach less
- Electro tablets are nice to add some taste and light calories/electrolytes to drinks, they may help you drink more (if that is required). Many athletes make the mistake of only using this and do not end up fueling their work capacity (ie. they go slow, do not recover, risk over-training in long-term).
There are rules of thumb for fueling Hydration
(satisfy with gels, bars, mix as you like or as above situations dictate)
- 200+ kcal an hour (50-60 grams carbohydrate (the more you can eat/absorb an hour the faster you will generally go BUT you also risk of GI issues … so there is a balance and optimal for each of us … this can be trained and is not specific to body weight)
- Water at 16-20 oz an hour depending on heat and sweat rate … in extreme heat/exertion perhaps more but as getting to top end or higher adding salt/electrolyte is likely important/wise. (shake of sea salt is great)
Plan your event strategy ahead of time (and practice it):
- Expected time to complete x 16-20 oz water
- Expected time to complete x 200+ kcal
- 90 min XC race = ~24-30 oz (so don’t take full bottles each lap unless dousing yourself) and ~ 300kcal. This would mean 3- 4 gels and 4 bottles at ~6-8oz
- 9 hour Leadville / 100 miler = 150-180 oz water and 1800kcal. Plan your pack size and # of bottles and feed strategy to accomplish this.
Does this fit with your strategy? What Have I missed?