I’m coming to the end of my detailed review of each chapter of this book – I’ll be doing a detailed look at chapters 10, 11 and 14, and that will conclude the series. This chapter and chapter 11 were of special interest for me, as I train for my first full marathons, and start
Chapter 10 – Long Distance Events
Chapter 10 looks at nutrition plans designed specifically for long distance events – and this is definitely my area of interest right now. These events include half and full marathons, trail or adventure races taking 2 hours or more, duathlons and half Iron distance triathlons, metric century and century bike rides, double century rides, and road races or time trials lasting more than 3 hours, and other sporting events lasting multiple hours.
Pre-event Game Plan – Going into a race properly fuelled and hydrated means we should have about 2,000 calories of muscle glycogen stored prior to the race. Carbohydrate loading before a race like this makes sense, but does not require consuming large quantities of extra food. A proper taper means that eating regular quantities of high carbohydrate foods will be sufficient. Ensuring you avoid low blood sugar and low blood sodium during the event will be key to finishing well and staying healthy. Eberle also addresses the use of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen), and the associated risks.
In the week before the event, the goal is to carb load. You may wind up feeling a bit bloated, and even gain a couple of pounds. The extra carbs your body is storing requires additional fluid, adding to the bloated feeling. It will be helpful to drink water, juice, milk and sports drinks with meals to help your body hold the fluid longer, assisting with good hydration on race day. Increasing your salt intake will also help prevent low blood sodium.
If you are travelling to your event, make sure to pack some of your favourite foods to take with you; you may not be able to find everything you want at a new destination. Trying new things right before a big race can lead to digestive upset and poor race performance. Make sure all your gear is in order, and you have any supplies (gels, beans, supplements) you need for the race. The night before the event, eat a meal you are comfortable with – it is not necessary to carb load for this final meal, although many athletes like to eat pasta or pizza the night before a race.
On race day morning, breakfast of some sort is important. If you have a nervous stomach, a liquid meal replacement may be a good alternative. 0.5 grams of carb per pound of body weight is one recommended ratio for an hour before an event, or 2 grams per pound if you eat three to four hours before your event.
During the Event:
Eberle gives some general recommendations for nutrition during the event, then provides specific suggestions for various sports. In general, staying hydrated is a primary concern, with a suggestion of 2 to 8 ounces of fluids every 15 to 20 minutes of exercise. Water should only be one component of the fluids, as sports beverages contain electrolytes that will help maintain blood sodium levels.
Fuel in the form of carbohydrates will be necessary for long distance events, with a suggestion of 25 to 60 grams (100 to 250 calories) per hour of activity. Sports drinks, gels, sports chews, glucose tablets, candy, soda and fruit juice can all be used, and if solid foods can be tolerated, energy bars are a good option too.
Sport Specific Tips:
Runners – Make sure to stop at water stations, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Sports drinks may be a better option than plain water as they will meet fluid, carbohydrate and electrolyte needs. Energy gels may be the best option when running – they are easy to digest and reduce the risk of stomach upset. Plan to drink every 15 to 20 minutes.
Cyclists – Cyclists have higher energy needs than other endurance athletes. Rapid evaporation of sweat may distract racers from the amount of fluids they are losing. Bonking can happen faster than an athlete anticipates. A cyclist should ingest 16 to 20 ounces of fluid per hour in normal conditions, and more in extreme heat or wind. For rides up to two hours, a sports drink should provide sufficient additional carbohydrates; for longer rides you will need to refuel on the bike. Solid foods such as energy bars, raisins, grapes, fig bars, and even sandwiches can be eaten while riding.
Triathletes – Replacing 30 to 50 percent of expended calories should be the goal for triathletes. For the swim, hydrate right up to the start, then try to consume fluid immediately after finishing the swim (if your stomach permits). Learn to eat on your bike. Try to eat the last items at least 30 minutes before the run if you suffer from stomach issues. By the run portion, stomach upsets are common. Some solid foods, such as bananas or energy bars, can help.
Suggestions are also provided for marathon skiers, adventure racers and multi-sport adventures.
Post Event Recovery – Practice during training to replace nutrients during the recovery window. Drinking carbohydrate rich beverages is a good start. Eating a meal with some protein as soon as possible after the race will also speed recovery.
In Chapter 11, Eberle looks at UltraEndurance Events.