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Race Nutrition

Race Nutrition
September 7, 2018 Nick Seitz

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Athletes at Endorphin Fitness should be well aware of the great nutrition guidelines that Coach Michael sends out for pre-, during, and post- race nutrition. With these in mind, I find it especially important to understand why these guidelines are so effective, and how we can get the most out of them. I know that at the beginning of my triathlon journey, I made a lot of mistakes that could have been avoided if I had heard some of this information a little sooner! This message will focus on the “during” portion of race nutrition. Bonus tip: if you practice these things in your training (not just race day), you are more likely to experience nutrition successes rather than failures.
What are the Guidelines? 
Simply, the guidelines are 300-400 calories when cycling, and 200-300 calories when running. Calorie tolerance is a little lower when running because running utilizes more muscle mass then cycling does, so more blood is shunted from the digestive system to the working muscles to supply them with vital oxygen needed for energy production. These calories should be in the form of carbohydrates, which are formed by combining glucose and other sugar molecules in various ways.
How it works:
The muscles store glucose in the form of glycogen, which is broken down when needed to provide energy during exercise. Unfortunately, we do not store glycogen in nearly as great a quantity as fat, so unless you are working at VERY low intensities, you will run out of stored glycogen in around 2 hours at best, and even shorter if you are working harder! When we are out of stored glycogen, we stumble (literally) upon the dreaded bonk. Bonk = no more fuel. Our brain will not allow us to continue exercise through a bonk.
Therefore, if we have hopes of continuing exercise, we must supplement with exogenous (or outside) carbohydrate in the form of gels, sports drinks, or other foods like waffles or blocks. To make a very exciting and complicated process simple, different carbohydrates can be digested at different rates based on their transporters. When you calculate the calories per gram, and the rate at which the carbohydrates can be taken through their transporters, we find that the caloric guidelines from above are backed up by science!
Final words: 
I strongly recommend implementing a race-worthy nutrition plan in training workouts and never trying something new on race day. Additionally, even in short course racing, you can benefit from exogenous carbohydrate supplementation! When training and racing, we love carbohydrates-our muscles were made to love them! That being said, everyone is different and while Tailwind makes me feel unstoppable on a bicycle, I know people who will choose other options over Tailwind. Finally, not all snacks are equal.
Strive to find fuel that is primarily carbohydrates, a combination of glucose and fructose (they use different transporters, and thus you can absorb more in a given hour), and palatable to your taste buds. Save fuel full of fat and protein for after the race. Did I mention the value of experimentation? Try your plan out, and tweak it until it’s perfect!
As athletes we train A LOT, and I can speak from personal experience when I say it is a huge disappointment when my race doesn’t go according to plan because I either messed up or ignored fueling during the event. Best of luck, and please feel free to reach out if you have further questions!

Erin Horil
Endorphin Fitness

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