Endurance events and fuel go hand in hand. Fail to plan, then we must plan to fail. Sports nutrition is vital to achieving your goals when it comes to endurance events.
The overall energy needs for endurance athletes are high, with carbohydrates being the primary source of fuel. Athletes must consume enough carbohydrates daily to replenish the muscle glycogen that is used during training. It is extremely important to realise that individual tolerance of sports products and fuel differ and that race day nutrition should be practiced during training to monitor tolerance.
Carbohydrates are the powerhouse of fuel for our bodies, which is stored in the muscle and liver. These glycogen stores are relied upon to ensure that your blood sugar levels are stabilised and allow for optimal muscle functioning. Generally speaking , if an athlete is meeting their carbohydrate requirements (45-60% of their meals containing carbohydrates), they can store around 2 grams of glycogen per pound of muscle tissue plus an additional 100-130g within the liver. This amount of glycogen stores can fuel the energy needed to run for around 2 hours at a moderate intensity. Therefore, the addition of carbohydrates is absolutely necessary during a long run in order to avoid “hitting the wall”.
Pre-event fuel should generally be low fibre, low fat (easy to digest) carbohydrates and protein consumed 2-3 hours leading up to the race. Simple, easy to digest carbohydrates include pretzels, plain bagels, bananas, white pasta, white rice, potato, sports drinks and energy bars. On race morning, you should be aiming for 100-150 grams of easy to digest, low fibre carbohydrates. A good example is a plain bagel with peanut butter and jam and a 500ml sports drink consumed 2-3 hours prior to the race. Include 10-20 grams of protein in the 2-3 hours leading up to race to stabilise blood sugars. Common pre-race protein sources include peanut butter, non-fat milk or yoghurt, eggs and energy bars.
For events lasting more than 90 minutes, race fuel in the form of sports drinks, energy gels, bars and energy chews are recommended. To maximise carbohydrate intake into the muscle, choose products that include multiple types of carbohydrates such as maltodextrin, glucose, dextrose, sucrose and fructose.
After your race, it is extremely important to re-fuel as this aids muscle synthesis and recovery. Aim for 50-100 grams of carbs and 10-20 grams of protein (3-4:1 ratio) in liquid form preferably. This could be something like chocolate milk (YUM), meal replacement shakes, or specialised recovery sports drinks.
TOPS TIPS :
- Make sure you recover right: Fuelling doesn’t stop when you cross the finish line. It is important to make sure you are eating after your race. This will aid immunity, increase muscle synthesis and recovery.
- Focus on carbs: Carbohydrates are the most important macronutrient when it comes to performance and recovery. Get your carbs calculated for you to ensure you are performing at your peak!
- Eat protein: Consume 15 to 20 grams of protein to kick-start muscle repair. Get it from a high-protein energy bar along with fruit, or a PB&J sandwich.
- Hydrate: Adequate hydration prevents dehydration and the serious health complications that can occur. Add sodium to your water to aid water absorption.
- Watch your fibre: Fibre can cause gastrointestinal discomfort during your race, opt for low fibre options to avoid this and ALWAYS practice race day nutrition.
Written by Jenaed Brodell, Sports Dietitian, Sports Nutritionist, RD