While individuals often have personal preferences, here’s my quick guide to proper fueling during an endurance event like the Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race.
Nearly everyone that starts Leadville or any other endurance event has logged the training hours to complete the bike race. Those who don’t finish typically suffer from dehydration and improper nutrition during a 10 hour + race. Bloating, nausea, upset stomachs and cramping can potentially be avoided if you fuel yourself correctly throughout a race. Here are my 5 tips to maximize your chances of, not only finishing an endurance event, but racing to your potential.
Eat early and often.
Whatever you eat, be sure to eat early and often during competition. Waiting until you are hungry puts you dangerously close to hitting the wall or ‘bonking’ as we cyclists call it. If you fail to eat often and keep on top of your intake then you’ll struggle throughout your bike race.
Carbs are king.
There is no myth about “carbo-loading.” Carbs account for the vast majority of the energy used by muscles. Most sports drinks contain some form of sugars and, contrary to what you may think, this is a good thing. Recent research indicated a combination of carbohydrates may work best – e.g. maltodextrin (a very rapidly metabolized glucose polymer) and fructose rather than just maltodextrin or just sucrose alone.
Keep the tank full.
For longer events, especially at Leadville, I recommend 200-250 calories per hour. Some people (pro-cyclists, larger men) can accommodate up to 400 calories per hour. The average 10 hour finisher at Leadville does holds about 150W (remember, it’s at 10,000 feet!), which equates to about 550 calories / hour – meaning he or she will burn about 5,500 calories during the race. Hence, it’s essential to keep eating whatever you can to keep the gas tank full.
Electrolytes are important for preventing cramps, supporting proper muscle function, regulating pH, enhancing hydration, and facilitating carbohydrate update. Most sports drinks claim electrolytes – but read the fine print – many sports commissions recommend 500-1000mg of sodium per liter during exercise. Look for easily absorbed electrolytes like sodium citrate.
Protein is good.
Protein is still controversial for inclusion in sports drinks. Most of the studies only look at time-trial simulations between 60-90 minutes, and the researchers don’t see significant differences in performance. But as we all know, true athletes train day-after-day, and need to recovery quickly. It’s quite clear that protein consumption during exercise helps to prevent muscle breakdown and speeds recovery. During an endurance event like Leadville, many bike racers have great success consuming some protein. The key here is some. And, research shows, protein isn’t well metabolized during exercise – so keep the carbs high and the protein low.
by John Heiss Ph.D
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