Login | May 25, 2018

Nutrition long course

Pete’s World

Published: July 10, 2017

Are you a long course racer––marathoner, Ironman, ultra-cyclist––whose pre-race and during-the-race nutritional plan is merely a footnote when compared to your actual physical training?

And do you cringe at the thought of trying to develop yet another nutritional strategy this season?

If you answered ‘yes’ to these questions then my reply to you is this: You’re not prioritizing. Period. That's right, pre-race/during-the-race nutrition is a component of your overall training regime that you absolutely must take as seriously as your physical workouts.

One careless gaff in your nutritional plan can totally sabotage all those months of valuable physical preparation.

Now I’m not a nutritionist, and I’m not going to pretend to be one, so don’t look to me for any specific and individual nutritional advice––that’s the territory of registered sports dietitians.

But what I can offer, being a longtime endurance coach, is some very general tips as to a safe and prudent starting point with which to fine-tune your pre-race and during-the-race nutritional strategy.

1. Taper your fiber (roughage) intake 24 to 48 hours before your race. That’s because it takes at least 24 hours for those kinds of foods to completely move thru your body. Simply cutting back on your fiber consumption before the race should help to diminish the potential for any negative GI issues. And believe you me, fiber-related GI problems can be especially prevalent in events that involve running.

2. Eat your breakfast two to three hours before the race start, that way the low fiber, low fat, high carbohydrate foods and fluids should empty from your stomach by the time the race begins.

3. If you’re a javaholic like me, you won’t like this next piece of advice: Ease back on the caffeine. Caffeine can be a stomach irritant for some individuals because it can cause the valve between your esophagus and stomach to relax. And what does that spell? R-E-F-L-U-X. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way, so glass stomach folks like me should settle on a small cup of java on race morning, and then during the race don’t have more than a couple of caffeinated gels. For those of you who have an even more sensitive stomach, you may want to avoid caffeine products all together pre-race and during the race.

4. Stay well hydrated during the race, because fluid status affects your stomach’s ability to empty faster. You definitely don’t want a mass of food lying dormant in your stomach throughout the whole event.

5. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it yet again: Be totally comfortable with the type(s) of carbohydrate(s) you consume during the race. Your carbohydrate experimentation should have done while training, such that come race day you’re totally dialed in to what sits well in your stomach. Remember, stomachs are like people - they’re all different. So what may work for your training buddy might be disastrous for you.

6. If you’re going to be consuming solid foods during the race, ingest them at a reasonable dose by portioning them out into small, 50- to 100-calorie pieces. And make sure to use water to wash them down. What’s more, understand that solid foods are better tolerated when cycling, whereas sports drinks and gels work better when running.

7. Here’s another area that’s dogged me in the past: Find the proper level of concentration when using sports drink powders. Being heavy-handed when mixing your sports drinks can send you into the world of Mr. Sour Stomach. So know exactly what kind of concentrations you can tolerate before racing, and balance the consumption of that sports drink with the ingestion of plain old water.

8. Make sure you have a fueling timeline. Most sports nutritionists recommend fueling every fifteen to thirty minutes during long course racing. Thus, you need to know how much, and what kind of fuel you’ll be consuming each and every hour of the race.

9. Finally, if you do stumble into a bad stomach situation, don’t freak out. Simply slow down, take small sips of water and try to allow your stomach to get itself back to where it can absorb the nutrients and sports drinks again. You can indeed run or cycle though a bad stomach situation if you “ride it out” gradually.