When it comes to stage racing an athlete’s nutrition needs to be very carefully planned ahead of time. It’s important to remember this is not a single day of racing where you can wake up, race on minimal nutrition and then recover. Every day you wake up during your event you will be stressing the body, burning the calories and using those muscles over and over again. If your nutrition is not properly catered for and understood from the onset you will see yourself falling short.When it comes to stage racing there are a few critical elements to consider and by keeping these in mind you will definitely have a good experience.
Preparing Before the Event
Proper nutrition plays one of the most crucial roles when it comes to sports performance.What you put into your system consistently through the day will influence your ability to perform. We always tell athletes it does not matter how fit, fast or strong you are, if you do not eat correctly you will never reach your full potential.
With this in mind the question often asked is what should you eat before, during or after training or racing session? However, a step needs to be taken back here, because how you eat from the time you wake up in the morning until you go to sleep at night plays the most critical factor. It does not help to eat well only before a training or racing session when most of the time you are not eating well at all. Here are a few guidelines to eating healthily in order to benefit properly from pre, during and post training nutrition.
Eat Foods that Agree with you
A lot of people indulge in foods purely because they enjoy them even though in the back of their minds they know it impacts them negatively. Examples of this are foods which cause digestive discomfort such as dairy, wheat or gluten foods which can cause intolerance in a variety of forms.
If you do suffer from digestive discomfort or allergies you need to analyze your nutrition first and cut out negative impacting foods until you discover what is causing the issue.Your body speaks to you constantly and when food impacts you negatively you will feel it. Listen to those messages and avoid those food types. Types of food impact could be in the form of lactose intolerance, fatigue, immune system weakness, cholesterol, blood pressure or even blood glucose issues to name a few. Find the foods that agree with you and your body type and stick to them.
Eat Consistently for Energy
Eating too few meals or skipping meals because you cannot eat in the mornings, or you want to lose weight can actually have the reverse effect. IF doing fasted training ensure you put complete focus into you recovery meal as this will replenish lost nutrients and stabilise the system allowing you to eat normally through the day. If you don’t focus on proper recovery post exercise and eating consistently health during the day energy levels can be completely compromised placing the body into a fatigue zone. Eating consistently of course with the correct foods will enable you to have balanced energy levels, better mental focus and a stronger immune system allowing you to perform at your best. Amount of meals you eat will depend on the unique type of diet that you follow. Higher carbohydrate consumption in a diet will usually require more frequent eating as the satiety of carbohydrates is limited. In this case rather stick to lower GI healthy carbs to provide more sustainability and ensure a wide variety of health vegetables and beneficial fruits.Those adopting a low carb higher fat and protein diet, generally eat less frequently because the satiety of such eating is prolonged. Fat of course contains more than double the amount of calories of protein and carbohydrate so it’s a given it will keep you feeling fuller for longer. Whatever diet you follow ensure that proper recovery is adhered to so that the energy and immune system are performing optimally.
Avoid excessive indulgence and stimulant foods
Eating and drinking too many indulgent foods sends your body into a spiral. Stimulants such as caffeine can have a benefit but excessive consumption will be detrimental.You should try to limit coffee or tea to a cup a day preferably in the morning, or after a workout. Alcohol actually impacts the body’s ability to recover properly and at the same time it will impair performance if consumed anywhere from 48 - 72hrs before an event. Sugar loaded foods such as chocolates, pastries and breads also cause blood glucose issues and can affect your energy cycles negatively. Fast and processed foods are a complete detriment to one’s health and should be limited as much as possible. Look at your eating over a period of a week, make a food journal if necessary and assess the quality of the foods you have consumed and then let that be a deciding factor as to whether you deserve indulgent meals.
The Percentages Game
Eating healthily is a percentages game. As an example if a person consumes 60 healthy meals a week and 5 of the 60 meals are considered to be indulgence or treat meals, it still means that over 90% of the diet is very healthy. However if you only eat 20 meals a week and 5 of them are indulgent meals it means that a quarter of your diet is out the window. Monitor your eating on a weekly basis in order to get a good snapshot of where your percentage level of healthy nutrition lies.
Drink Plenty of Fluids
It is recommended drinking at least 30-40ml’s of water per kg of bodyweight.That is for an average person who does not train. Add training and stimulants such as coffee into this equation and this need climbs drastically. For some coffee or green tea acts as a diuretic so for every cup of coffee you drink, you might want to increase your fluid intake in the form of water. When you train you need to replace lost fluid, always drink to thirst when exercising.
Eat a variety of Healthy Foods
Vary your foods in order to give yourself a wide range of nutrients. Eat plenty of vegetables at least 3-5 servings a day and some healthy fruit over and above. If you are on a low carb diet you will need to limit your fruit intake, however, there are plenty of nutrients available in vegetables which are suitable for this kind of eating.
Rather opt for healthy complex low GI carbohydrates such as quinoa, wild rice and unprocessed oats or millet which provide more blood glucose stability meaning healthier energy levels. Ensure you consume healthy unsaturated fats with a focus on Omega-3 and easily digested proteins such as lean meat or vegetable proteins. Fats are an excellent source of fuel and should not be overly restricted in a diet. Medium chain triglycerides such as coconut oil are very beneficial for energy level maintenance and satiety.
Many people tend to put a focus on dinners as the meal of the day.The truth of matter is that the biggest emphasis needs to be put on your post training recovery meal. Eating a proper recovery meal post exercise with the right portions of carbohydrate protein and fat depending on the type of exercise you have done, will set the tone for the rest of the day. Especially if training first thing in the morning.
Eating fast and processed foods is a definite way to create health issues for yourself.This type of food should be limited as much as possible if not avoided at all costs.Try to eat foods that are more natural and require as little cooking as possible. Keeping your diet simple and clean is the true key to providing a healthy nutrient intake and looking after your body.
There is no chance you can go into a stage race not having properly practiced your nutrition during training.Our recommendation is to choose a day where you test out your race nutrition.This means waking up in the morning eating a pre-training meal as if it was your pre-race meal going out for a few hours at a fairly intensive pace (slightly slower than race pace) and checking the following:
- • Digestive Comfort
• Energy Levels
• Ability to Perform
If you can finish that session strong and feeling good with all the check marks in the boxes you are definitely on the right track.This does not need to be done too often as you would not want to try and mimic race day efforts too much, but you need to find a winning formula.
Once you are happy with race day nutrition,move on to testing your stage racing nutrition.The critical area of stage racing is recovery in order to be able to keep consistent performance’s each day and keeping those energy levels constant. It would be highly recommended to do at least 3 repeat performance each day including pre, during and post racing nutrition which will give you an idea of exactly how you feel day to day and whether your nutrition strategy is working for you. If it’s untested do not try it on race day.
Stage Race Nutrition
The most critical aspect of stage race nutrition is the ability to truly recover from one stage to the next and put in a good performance or at least a consistent performance each day. In a stage race a runner might go out hard in stage 1 and by stage 3 they are suffering quite badly from fatigue. Each stage requires pre, during and proper post nutrition requirements to ensure that the body’s energy system remains stable and recovers well.
Pre-Stage Racing Nutrition
If you are thinking of waking up in the morning and running on an empty stomach you need to completely re-think your strategy.The pre-race meal is critical to the success of your event and should never be skipped. Its recommended to eat a meal of at least +- 400Calories of stability carbohydrates at least 2hrs before the event so as not to spike blood sugar and to give the food time to settle before the start.This will provide sustainability and balance, which tends to work best for most athletes.
Add in a mix of protein and fats to make sure it’s a proper meal and provides excellent nutrients for fuel. If you are only able to eat 60min before the event start then reduce the meal size to approximately 200Calories.
If you are an athlete that is attempting the low carb fuelling route in a stage race, it is difficult but not impossible. In this case it would be highly recommended to stock up on medium chain triglyceride fats, such as coconut oil, as it’s a non-stored but more easily accessible fuel source in the form of fat. The pre-race carb eater would also benefit from the fat consumption. Adding some protein into the mix will ensure hunger is kept at bay for quite a while and it will assist in lowing any blood glucose spikes.
Check the 32Gi Fuel Guide on page 23 of the 32Gi Brochure: http://www.32gi.com/images/32Gi_Product_brochure.pdf Also read the Caffeine Benefit or Drawback to see how you can use caffeine as a benefit to assist your endurance event.
During the Race
There is a period of time from the start of the race until you need to consume some form of nutrition and this is best to wait until your body is in a state of equilibrium. By this we mean that the aerobic engine is warm and you are in a rhythm.This could be anywhere from 20 – 30 minutes from the start. Once you are feeling comfortable it would be worth feeding frequently and not waiting too long.You want to try and keep your energy levels topped up and not wait for them to dip as a feeding signal. Generally, the more frequently you feed earlier on, the far more you will benefit from it later.
In trail running the terrain varies a fair amount.Try to consume something every 20 – 30 minutes and in this way you will limit the peaks and troughs of your blood glucose levels by ensuring more stability over the undulating course.
Hydration & Fuelling
When it comes to hydration during an event, it’s important that you hydrate to thirst. If you are dependent on calories in the form of liquid such as an energy drink you can make the mistake of taking in too few calories and landing up in trouble. Hydration amount will of course depend on temperature conditions and sweat rate. If it’s hot you will drink more if it’s cold you will drink less. If you are relying on calories in the form of liquid and it’s a cold stage you will most likely under consume the fuel required to keep your energy levels up.This is why we would recommend taking some food solids on board so that you are able to take in calories without the need for drinking in order to get them.The other option is making a concentrate of carbohydrate drink if you prefer a liquid feed and marking off the bottle so you know how much to consume over time to get the desired fuel intake.
A carbohydrate drink is not a bad idea in that the carbohydrates and generally salt in the fluid help with faster absorption of fluid, whereas water on its own takes longer to be absorbed. However, there are many athletes that cannot consume a sweet drink for a prolonged period of time and it also plays with the thirst trigger mechanism by making you feel that you are thirsty due to flavour and taste. In this case as with the suggestion above of a concentrated bottle and plain water in a camel back would be an excellent solution to this or carrying one bottle of a concentrate and the other plain water.
There are many runners that don’t like to carry anything heavy on route especially not water bottles. If this is you then ensure that you are familiar with the water tables on route and make sure you are able to hydrate sufficiently if you are relying solely on them. If you are relying on water tables then it’s imperative you familiarise with the nutrition that’s offered on course and use it in training to get used to it.
After the Stage
The most critical part of completing the stage is without a doubt recovery. Recovery consists of 3 main elements
- Glycogen Replenishment
- Muscle Repair - Rehydration The best way to assist with glycogen replenishment is to consume carbohydrates immediately post exercise, it will be quickly absorbed and utilised in order to get the recovery process started. Consuming protein is the other critical factor in order to assist with muscle resynthesis.The two are best consumed together within a short period of time after completing the stage where absorption rate will be at its highest. This is best done in the form of a protein/carbohydrate shake which is easy and quick to consume. Another recommendation would be to consume protein towards the end of the stage so that it’s already in your system at the finish and can be utilised immediately to start the recovery process. However if this is done remember the protein consumed would need to be digestive friendly and have a fairly good absorption rate not to mention taste good. Rehydration is really just ensuring you are consuming enough liquid post event to rehydrate your system especially for the next stage. Do this consistently until you go to sleep. Please try to avoid any stimulants through the day as they act as a diuretic and will be counterproductive in the hydration process. Keep the stimulants to pre-race. Once you have taken in your immediate post-race recovery nutrition, relax, shower, stretch and then plan to eat another balanced meal at least within 60 minutes of race completion.
32Gi Fuelling Options
When selecting a proper fuelling solution for your endurance event its important to understand if your preference is a liquid feed or a solid feed or a combination of both. Click on the link below for a comprehensive product and fuelling guide with 32Gi.The fuel guide is on page 17.
32Gi Chews are an awesome product for fuelling on a difficult terrain where a food solid needs to be quickly accessed.The main issue with a food solid is the need to remove from packaging and also the stability of the product while sitting in a cycling jersey or a bag in high temperatures where most foods spoil. 32Gi Chews have a high melting point of 90 degrees and will not melt. Even better they can be removed from the packaging before the stage and placed loose in a cycling vest or bike bag without worrying about them turning to liquid.This makes them easily accessible and environmentally friendly in that packaging will not be a concern.
How best to use the 32Gi Chews - The 32Gi chews are best split up over a period of time. We call this drip feeding.There are four blocks in a packet and an athlete can eat a block every 20 – 30 minutes providing his carb intake. If you feel you want to take in more calories in the form of chews you are welcome to shorten the feed time.
The 32Gi Foodbar can be used as an ideal snack on the bike. It contains close to 200 calories of carbohydrates, protein and fat. It will provide you immediate and sustainable energy in a long event. The bar won’t melt under high temperatures, and although it’s easy to remove from the convenient packaging while riding,it can be removed prior to the stage in order to allow for easy accessibility.The bar is soft, it is easy to chew and goes down well without getting stuck in one’s mouth. It’s specifically designed for meeting an athlete’s requirements, before and during a race.
How best to use the 32Gi Foodbar – We recommend splitting the bar into 2-3 pieces and eating them over a 80 – 90 minute period this way your feed is smaller yet more consistent and will provide you more stability. It also makes for easier storage.
32Gi Endure tablets are basically our energy drink pressed into tablet form.This is for athletes that don’t want to consume an energy drink and would prefer drinking water and then consuming the tablets while on route with water.The tablets are chewable and easy to swallow.
How best to use the 32Gi Tabs – The 32Gi tablets due to amount of carbohydrates per a tablet would need to be consumed frequently and this would mean at least a tablet or two every 15 – 20 minutes.We would recommend the tablet fuelling for a more fat efficient athlete who is looking for fat store reliance.
Although the name recover is on the tub, this carbohydrate/protein drink makes a perfect pre, during and post racing recovery drink.The 1:3 ratio of the drink allows for a nice supply of energy to the system and the protein will provide stability. We use a vegetable protein which digests over a long period of time allowing for digestive system ease and also perfect for an endurance event. 32Gi recover has shown to delay the onset of muscle fatigue by consuming during a long endurance event.
How best to use 32Gi Recover
32Gi Recover can be taken as a pre-race drink.The phenylalanine content provides alertness and the vegetable protein also acts as a buffer in extending the rate of muscle exhaustion. During the event one can use it as a halfway bottle on a long stage instead of consuming a solid meal. The drink can be premixed and frozen, it won’t go off. One can also alternate sips between the protein drink and carbohydrate drink as an example for ensuring protein and carbohydrate intake on route. Post racing, it’s important to consume a protein recovery immediately after finishing the stage, 32Gi Recovery will assist with immediate and longer term recovery.The carbohydrates inside 32Gi Recover will assist with glycogen replenishment so you are getting both the benefits at once. 32Gi Recover digests at a nice rate so it will keep you stable ensuring you don’t over consume calories post event and land up paying for it later with digestive issues.
32Gi Endure Sports Drink
Endure is a slow releasing carbohydrate drink.The purpose of the Endure sports drink is to ensure that an athlete does not get any blood sugar spiking and to provide a stable and consistent feed. With a variety of flavours and the ability to pre-mix and freeze the drink it has become a popular choice amongst many cyclists.
32Gi Endure is an excellent carbo-loading,training and racing drink.The low carb consuming athletes will benefit greatly from this drink in that it still allows access of the fat stores as a source of energy and will not mitigate it.
How to best use 32Gi Endure – Its best to start consuming 32Gi Endure 60minutes before the start of the event to get it into your system and then from there drink to thirst.
32Gi Race Sports Drink
32Gi Race is 32Gi’s high intensity racing drink. Race is a very fast releasing energy drink, which causes spiking without a sudden drop by using stage releasing carbs to taper the athlete slowly. It’s a very high calorie drink for the high performing athlete.
How to best use 32Gi Race – Accelerate should be consumed during the race and to thirst when required. Recommended to the athlete racing at a very high intensity.
It’s important to give thought to all these aspects of nutrition, plan it and practice it before your event in order to ensure you have trained your mind and your gut into a proper fuelling plan for your event. Once you have your racing nutrition strategy do not deviate it from it no matter what.Training is the time to play with nutrition, racing is the time to stick to it.
The 32Gi team spend a lot of time working with and assisting a wide variety of athletes with training and racing nutrition. If you have any questions or need nutrition advice feel free to contact us and we will do our best to assist.
All the best The 32Gi Team