High Grade Fuel for Your Engine
Strategies for Nutrition Loading
Staying well-fueled for a race is just as important as being well-fueled when training. In fact, dial in your nutritional needs during your training season to ensure confidence that what you eat before and during a race provides you with the most energy for optimal performance.
Track What You Eat
As you record your training progress, also document what you ate before your workout and the level of energy you experienced while training. And if you are training for a longer distance, write down what you ate during training and how your body reacted in terms of energy, or lack thereof.
Observing and tracking your energy levels during your training sessions will help you understand the amount of carbohydrates and hydration you will need to perform well in a race.
Keep in mind that what you read about nutrition for training and racing is a valuable guide, but it isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” plan. Bio-Individuality comes into play and means that each of us is a unique organism made up of cells, body composition and metabolism. Therefore, we each will react to nutrition differently than our race companions.
What your friend eats a few miles into the race may fuel her perfectly to the finish line, whereas the same snack for you may have you bonking before you even reach the half-way mark. This is bio-individuality at work. Know your body and learn what “high octane” nutrition will fuel your body for optimal race performance.
Experiment with gels, easy-to-consume energy bars and hydration mixes during training. Avoid trying out new nutritional brands and mixes the day of the race. Instead, test and practice during training so you know what your body needs, when and how it will react when you give it what it needs.
During training season, keep a healthy well-balanced diet of fruits and vegetables (carbohydrates), meat, fish and quinoa (animal and plant-based proteins), fish, nuts and avocados (healthy fats), and water-based hydration.
Also called carbs, carbohydrates are an essential source of fuel for our cells. Our cells need to be refueled about every 1–3 hours — or during a race, about every 3–5 miles — depending on our metabolism and activity levels.
The body absorbs carbs into our bloodstream turning them into sugar (glucose). If the glucose isn’t needed, our bodies store the extra sugar (glycogen) in the cells of our muscles and liver until it’s needed for energy later. When we need extra energy, our bodies will convert glycogen into glucose and fuel our cells.
Strategies for Nutrition Loading
For three to five days before a race, begin to increase the amount of carbohydrates consumed. Your goal is to stock-load your glycogen inventory. But don’t count on this load to get you through a race that is five miles or longer. Bring along sports drinks and energy gels to help fuel your body for the rest of the race.
Aid stations also provide energy solutions in forms of liquid and gel-based carbs. Placed throughout the race, usually every 2–3 miles, aid stations are a good reminder and opportunity to consume some sort of energy to keep you going farther into the race.
Gels require a bit of practice to consume and digest for optimal energy efficiently. Due to a thick consistency, gels can be tough to swallow without the aid of water and require even more water to help the body quickly absorb the sugars. A good strategy during training season is to consume gels throughout your workout to find a balance between consuming the ingredients, water intake and how fast and how well your body responds to the sugar and hydration.
The day before race day, load up by also hydrating with water-based carbohydrates. Water-based hydration refers to a liquid that keeps you hydrated and is mostly water mixed with nutritional sugars. Drinks that are primarily chemicals and supplements are not the most effective hydration methods during training and racing.
Hydration isn’t a nutritional source of food, but is a vital key to your energy level. Both dehydration (not enough water) and hyponatremia (too much water) can cause fatigue, headaches and vomiting — all actions that deplete energy during a race.
The amount of water-based carbohydrates required to keep the human body hydrated and refueled during a race depends directly on bio-individuality that includes not only your metabolism and body size, but your endurance level, sweat rate, pace, heat and humidity. Every person requires an individual, specific amount of water to maintain optimal performance. Through experimentation and tracking during training, you can dial in the amount of hydration you need for a reliable balance on race day.
Avoid Protein and Fats
Nutritional protein and healthy fats help repair muscles and tissue after physical exertion, and they aid in protecting our body from illness, disease and infections.
While a healthy daily diet combines carbs with proteins and fats, it is recommended that you not consume proteins and fats on or within 24 hours before a race. It takes energy to break down and digest proteins and fats and that energy can be better spent propelling your body forward during a race. The best time for proteins and fats is within an hour after your race or training for optimal recovery.
Take advantage of the time you spend training to experiment how often your body needs to be refueled. There are many online guides and print books to reference for tips and recipes. Start experimenting with these ingredients now so that by race day you’ll know how to refuel for optimal race performance.
Snacks to Get You Going — Healthy Snack Bars for Sustainable Energy
GoMacro (Macro, Mini and Thrive®) Bars
GoMacro MacroBars are a great blend of plant-based protein and energy-burning carbs that come in 11 tasty cold-pressed and organic nut-butter based flavors. The Minis offer four great flavors that pack 90 –110 calories in pocket-size bites. Boasting an ancient-seed superfood recipe, the Thrive® Bars are naturally low glycemic and high in fatty Omega 3 oils. All three bars offer a balanced energy boost on and off the trail, course or field.
It doesn’t matter that Zing Bars come in 210-calorie and 100-calorie sizes, both pack tasty flavors combined with nutrient-dense, allergen-free ingredients. Boasting healthy fats and proteins with nut and seed butters, each flavor also offers the right amount of fruit-based carbs for steady energy. Absent of sugar alcohols, synthetic vitamins and minerals, artificial flavors, colors or additives, these high-fiber, easy-to-pack energy bars are perfect for anyone on the go. Retail: 1.76-ounce bar $2.25; 0.88-ounce bar $1.12
Pro Bar — Real Food Products
Pro Bar offers nutritional energy bars, meal-replacement bars, protein bars, nut butters and energy chews in a variety of tasty flavor combinations and sizes. With a variety of options such as certified organic and dairy- and soy-free, these delicious, convenient and healthy plant-based nutritional real food products provide any athlete or active outdoor enthusiast a high-quality nutritional snack or meal replacement. Retail prices depend on product and size, ranging between $1.20 and $3.50 each