THE T:ZERO BLOG
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By Head Coach (and qualified nutritionist) Scotty Farrell
When it comes to race day nutrition, experienced athlete or not, I still hear and see so many basic boo boos. We know this stuff, we just forget, especially if we are not racing often, as has been the case this year.
So… a refresher for your convenience.
The please do’s:
Think of your gut like any other muscle in the body. If you want it to perform well on race day, then you need to teach it what’s expected and train it accordingly.
On the bike, in my experience, I find it’s a lot easier for athletes to consume a higher amount of carbohydrates, so perhaps start with 60g/hr and work up from there. Using a glucose/fructose mix, athletes can train their gut to absorb around 90g/hr and in some cases even higher than this. Personally, I like the 70-80g/hr mark on the bike.
On the run, with pavement pounding happening, I find my gut struggles a bit more and I need to down regulate and aim for more like 50g/hr. But again, practice and trial it out.
Same deal with hydration… train your gut to handle the amounts of fluids you will ideally need on race day. If your race is going to be hot, then it makes sense to keep your fluid intake up, so train for this. If it’s going to be a cold weather race, then maybe a bit less fluid is needed? Use your nut, it’s common sense stuff, we don’t need to over complicate it, we just do.
The other thing to consider is that if the race is intense and short (let’s say under 90 minutes in length) then smashing down carbs and fluids isn’t as important. A well trained athlete could very well punch out a 80-90 minute race with barely any nutrition at all, maybe a gel or a couple of Clif Bloks and a few mouthfuls of water. And the more intense a race is, the more blood flow is diverted away from the digestive system to the working muscles, and the harder it will be to digest anything.
If the race is longer than 90 minutes, then nutrition and avoiding total energy depletion and the dreaded bonk, becomes more important.
The longer an event goes, let’s say all day or multi-day, the lower the intensity, but the more important it is to keep the fuel going in steadily. An Ironman, in my opinion blurs the lines of pushing ‘hard’ all day and being classed as ‘intense’ for most of us. And therefore, it’s super important to be practicing and training your gut for the rigors of race day stress. For multi-day events or ultra distance runs, we find that the intensity is generally low enough, that we can train our gut to eat almost anything. The longer an event goes too, the more important it becomes to avoid flavour or texture fatigue and mix up your nutrition between sweet, savoury, umami etc.
There you go. Keep it simple. Control the controllables.
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