Fueling our bodies appropriately is essential to training and performing. If we don’t fuel well, we don’t perform well…or at least that is how it goes with most people. I can tell you firsthand from my competition yesterday, I had a strong performance because I was fueled well. I spoke with a client who was at a different competition and didn’t fuel well and her events later in the day did not go as well for her and her teammate.
It is one thing to be fueled for training sessions. It is even more important to be fueled during competitions and races so you can compete well.
When it comes to fueling during long training sessions or competition/race days, we need to think about both what we take in as well as when we take it in.
First off, you want to consume foods that you know settle well with your stomach, especially during your events. We have all been in those long training sessions where the digestive system is just not happy because we consumed something that didn’t settle well, either before the session or during the session. It is not fun!
If you are wanting to test something new out, though, during training is when we do want to do that. At least if digestive issues happen during training, it is less mentally stressful to stop to use a restroom because you are not competing with anyone at the time. During a race, it can be more mentally stressful because you know each stop you make is causing you to lose time and positions.
Along with making sure we are consuming foods that settle well, we also need to think about the types of foods we are taking in. Some of what we take in depends on what you have conditioned your body to burn – carbs or fats. Many people are highly carb–fueled. Others (myself included) are more fat–fueled and burn more fats when training and racing, so that needs to be taken into consideration when choosing fuel options. In a general sense, during long sessions, you want to consume some carbs, some fats, and some proteins. The ratios of carbs and fats will vary depending on which fuel source you tend to burn more of. As for proteins, those will be the lowest fuel source in long training sessions or events, but still important, nonetheless.
And we can’t forget about electrolytes. Replenishing with water is great, but when we sweat, we also lose electrolytes. If we let our bodies get too out of balance, things may not go well later on during the training session or event. I know for me, I get dizzy, lightheaded, and nauseous if my electrolytes get out of balance. Others develop muscle cramping. The symptoms can vary, but regardless of what they are, they will negatively impact your performance.
As for how much we need and when we take it in, that will vary based on the length of training or competition/race.
For short endurance events less than 90 minutes, hydration will be key.
In endurance events longer than 90 minutes, it is time to start taking in some calories. The goal is to take in 200-300 calories/hour for endurance events lasting between 4-12 hours events and 400+ calories/hour for endurance events >12 hours.
Yes, this can be difficult to do, but if you do it right, it is possible! The intake during these sessions can be a mix of liquid nutrition as well as solid food sources. Typically, the solid foods sources will be used more for sessions longer than 8 hours, but may be needed for shorter sessions as well depending on what your body requires.
Get the what and the when figured out and you will be dominating your training sessions and races in no time!
Are you fueling appropriately? Or are you not sure what to do? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions.
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