Please note the content on this page is a combination of original material in addition to information sourced through Protein Supplies Australia, Hammer Nutrition and the Australian Institute of Sport via their respective websites. While this is not the be-all of pre-race, in-race and recovery nutrition, the content has been brought together after hours of internet research, personal experience and preferences. At the very least, I hope it provides some useful information and performance advantages.
• Normal fluid loss at 20°C is 2-3 litres per day
• Combinations of a cold environment and intense activity increase this loss
• Feeling thirsty indicates you are already 2% dehydrated. Physiological weakness begins at 5%. Death steps in at 15%.
• Always drink water when eating
• Cold environments actually alter thirst sensation “because blood volume at the body’s core increases the brain does not detect the blood volume decrease. Thus, the hormone AVP is not secreted at the same increased rate, despite elevated blood sodium. The kidneys get a diminished signal to conserve fluid, and thirst sensation is reduced by up to 40%.”
• Maintaining core temperature is often given too high a priority over hydration.
• Recommended intake is 200-300ml every 15-20 mins
Which sports drink is the best?
Food standards in Australia place restrictions on the formulation of sports drinks. As a result, sports drinks sold in Australia are very similar in composition (see the table below). Choose sports drinks that have 4-8% carbohydrate, 10-20 mmol/L sodium, are affordable, come in a convenient package and taste good.
Drink CHO (%) Sodium (mmol/L)
Gatorade 6 18
Powerade 7.6 12
Endura 6 14
Staminade Sport 7.5 14
PB Fluid 6.8 25
If exercising longer than 90 minutes, drink 8-10 fl oz (200-300mls) of a sports drink (with no more than 8 percent carbohydrate) every 15 – 30 minutes.
Research has shown that athletes competing longer than 6-8 hours may need up to 1 gram of sodium per hour to replace losses. Some of this can be replaced by using generic sports drinks before and during the event. There are a number of nutrients that are important in a hydration drink. The most obvious ones are potassium and sodium. Magnesium also gets plenty of attention as it helps with the formation of bone and teeth while assisting the absorption of calcium and potassium. It also helps to relax muscles, reducing the likelihood of cramps and twitches, and is required for cellular energy production. Magnesium has been reported to reduce the incidence of some stress-related health problems. It is important to note that perspiration increases the body’s use of and need for magnesium.
Should the endurance athlete consume carbohydrates during endurance activities?
As glycogen stores in the body are depleted, muscles rely more heavily on blood glucose for fuel, especially after 2–4 hours of continuous physical activity. In order to maintain blood glucose for oxidation and continued energy production, athletes need to ingest carbohydrates while exercising. Although consuming enough carbohydrates during exercise can enhance endurance performance, ingesting too many carbohydrates can lead to stomach cramping, intestinal discomfort, and diarrhoea, all of which will obviously hinder performance.
It is critical that athletes know their carbohydrate needs during activity and practice the ingestion of carbohydrate-rich foods and fluids during training to establish a nutrition plan based on personal preferences and tolerances. Carbohydrate needs during exercise are estimated at 1.0–1.1 grams of carbohydrates per minute of activity, or 60–66 grams of carbohydrates per hour. Some athletes can easily consume and digest upwards of 75–85 grams of carbohydrates per hour, whereas others can barely stomach 45–55 grams.
Athletes need to experiment with varying quantities of carbohydrates surrounding the 60–66 gram range to determine the best estimate for them individually. Carbohydrates can be consumed through a variety of foods and fluids such as sports drinks, energy bars, energy gels, fruits, granola bars, fig cookies, and even sandwiches. In addition to individual preferences, a nutrition plan needs to be developed with the limitations of the sport in mind.
When a training session or competition continues for 4–24 hours, flavor fatigue is of great concern because when an athlete stops ingesting calories, energy levels will soon plummet. Many sports nutrition products have a sweet flavour, and therefore salty foods are generally a welcomed change of taste. Conversely, if too much protein is consumed, gastric emptying can be delayed, which can cause stomach cramping and delayed absorption of nutrients. Some practical ideas for items that have moderate amounts of protein, are easily digestible, and are compact for carrying during activities such as hiking, daylong bike trips, or adventure races include energy bars, sesame sticks, peanut butter sandwiches, peanut butter crackers, meat jerky, trail mix, and mixed nuts. Given the nature of the Tough Mudder events, and especially the series final – World’s Toughest Mudder, any food/nutrients taken around the course will need to be well insulated from the filthy elements you will be competing in.
Unfortunately, endurance athletes too often adopt the if a little is good, a lot is better approach. This can lead to significant problems when you’re trying to meet your hydration requirements. All it takes is one poor performance or DNF due to cramping and you start thinking, “Hmm…maybe I didn’t drink enough?” Next thing you know, you’re drinking so much water and fluids that your thirst is quenched but your belly is sloshing and you’re still cramping. Remember, both undersupply and oversupply of fluid will get you in trouble.
How much should one drink? One expert, Dr. Ian Rogers, suggests that between 500-750 milliliters hr (about 17-25 fluid ounces/hr) will fulfill most athletes’ hydration requirements under most conditions. I believe all athletes would benefit from what Dr. Rogers suggests, “Like most things in life, balance is the key. This balance is likely to be at a fluid intake not much above 500 milliliters (about 17 ounces) per hour in most situations, unless predicted losses are very substantial.”
[Rogers, I.R. Fluid and Electrolyte Balance and Endurance Exercise: What can we learn from recent research?, Wilderness Medicine Letter, 18:3, USA (2001)]
It is recommended that most athletes do very well under most conditions with a fluid intake of 20-25 ounces (approx 590-740 milliliters) per hour. Sometimes you may not need that much fluid,16-18 ounces (approx 473-532ml) per hour may be quite acceptable. Sometimes you might need somewhat more, perhaps up to 28 ounces (approx 830ml) hourly. Their position, however, is that the risk of dilutional hyponatremia increases substantially when an athlete repeatedly consumes more than 30 fluid ounces (nearly 890 ml) per hour. If more fluid intake is necessary (under very hot conditions, for example) proceed cautiously and remember to increase electrolyte intake as well to match your increased fluid intake. Good electrolyte solutions include Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes capsules, powder or Fizz tablets to your water/fuel bottle(s).
Cramping is your body’s final warning signal that you’re on empty, electrolyte-wise. When you’ve reached that point, the performance of many bodily systems has been severely compromised for some time. To keep your muscular, digestive, nervous, and cardiac systems firing on all cylinders, you need a consistent supply of all of the electrolytic minerals, not just sodium and potassium. Plus, in many instances, you require greater volumes of electrolytes than any sports drink or gel can provide. That is why Endurolytes fulfills such a crucial component of your fueling by supplying your body with a balanced, full-spectrum, rapidly assimilated electrolyte source, allowing you to meet your widely variable electrolyte needs with tremendous precision, hour after hour, no matter what the weather throws at you. A word of advice though….keep this capsules in a small clip-lock container if you’re carrying them around the course in a hydration pack or similar (such as my own CamelBak MULE), otherwise you’ll be scooping up Endurolyte paste after your first roll under the barbed wire.
In general, an intake of 240-280 calories per hour is absolutely sufficient for the average size endurance athlete (approximately 160- 165 lbs/approx 72.5-75 kg). Lighter weight athletes (<120-125 lbs/ approx 54.5-57 kg) will most certainly need less, while heavier athletes (>190 lbs/approx 86 kg) may need slightly more on occasion, the key word being may.
When it comes to calorie intake, your focus should NOT be “how much can I consume before I get sick?”, but rather, “what is the least amount of calories I need to keep my body doing what I want it to do hour after hour?” As is the case in all aspects of fueling, when it comes to caloric intake you need to determine, via thorough testing under a variety of conditions, what amounts work best for you.
Words of Caution
Should I eat solid food during the race?
In the 1985 Race Across America (RAAM), Jonathan Boyer rode to victory using a liquid diet as his primary fuel source. Since then, it has become the norm for endurance and ultra-endurance athletes. Liquid nutrition is the easiest, most convenient, and most easily digested way to get a calorie and nutrient-dense fuel. Solid food, for the most part, cannot match the precision or nutrient density of the best liquid fuels. In addition, too much solid food consumption will divert blood from working muscles for the digestive process. This, along with the amount of digestive enzymes, fluids, and time required in breaking down the constituents of solid food, can cause bloating, nausea, and/or lethargy. Lastly, some of the calories ingested from solid foods are used up simply to break down and digest them; in essence, these calories are wasted.
Occasional solid food intake provides a welcome diversion during ultra-endurance efforts, but it is not recommended it as your primary fuel source. In fact, Hammer Nutrition suggest that NO solid food is necessary during workouts or races in the 12-hour-or-under range. If, however, you choose to consume solid food during your workouts or races, even during ultra distance events, it is suggested you take heed to these two recommendations:
1. Choose foods that have little or no refined sugar or saturated fats. Don’t think, I’m a calorie burning machine so I can eat anything I want . . . calories are calories. Remember, what you put in your body greatly determines what you get out of it. The well-known phrase “garbage in, garbage out” fully applies here.
2. Use solid food sparingly, and only as an exception or diversion. Maintain your primary intake through liquid/gel sources.
I have used Hammer Nutrition’s Perpetuem for a number of long distance races and have one major criticism. Flavour. There are only two options and they are both just too sickly sweet. The orange-vanilla is like milky Fruit Loops and the caffe latte is just not the kind of flavour you want to be sucking down for 24 hours. Personally, I prefer light citrus flavours or similar….the Protein Supplies Australia Maltodextrin is an excellent source of fuel, with a complex carbohydrate profile and higher GI it will break down at a slower rate while remaining gentle on the digestive system and not overly sweet.
My nutritional support needs to be CLEAN. After some serious hunting around, I’ve found this solution on my own doorstep. Protein Supplies Australia boasts the cleanest product on the market….good fuel IN….high performance and recovery OUT. It’s a simple equation, people. With my own diesel engine, I speak from experience….whether training harder or rapid recovery after a 100km ultra-marathon trail run, this product delivers. Hit the image below to take a look through their range and pick out what you need. These products provide precise amounts of specific nutrients and are designed for easy digestion, rapid nutrient utilisation, and less chance of stomach distress. If I do decide to consume solid food on a long race, it will be sparingly and via high-quality, raw options.
Should I carb load the night before the race?
Over-consuming food the night before a race or workout in the hopes of “carbo loading” – It would be nice if you could maximize muscle glycogen stores the night before a race or tough workout; unfortunately, human physiology doesn’t work that way. Increasing and maximizing muscle glycogen stores takes many weeks of consistent training and post-workout fuel replenishment. Excess consumed carbohydrates the night before will only be eliminated or stored as body fat (dead weight).
The goal of pre-exercise calorie consumption is to top off your liver glycogen, which has been depleted during your sleep. Believe it or not, to accomplish this you don’t need to eat a mega-calorie meal (600, 800, 1000 calories or more), as some would have you believe. A pre-workout/race meal of 200-400 calories—comprised of complex carbohydrates, perhaps a small amount of soy or rice protein, little or no fiber or fat, and consumed three or more hours prior to the start—is quite sufficient. You can’t add anything to muscle glycogen stores at this time so stuffing yourself is counterproductive, especially if you’ve got an early morning workout or race start.
The Australian Institute of Sport states that eating fibre prior to racing contributes to the development of ‘stitch’ where the expanded stomach ‘rubs’ against the abdominal wall causing pain.
When is the right time to eat before the race starts?
Let’s assume that you’ve been really good – you’ve been training hard (yet wisely) and replenishing your body with adequate amounts of high-quality calories as soon as possible after every workout. As a result, you’ve now built up a nice 60-90 minute reservoir of muscle glycogen, the first fuel your body will use when the race begins. A sure way to deplete those hard-earned glycogen stores too rapidly is to eat a meal (or an energy bar, gel, or sports drink) an hour or two prior to the start of the race.
Don’t go overboard with your food consumption the night before a workout or race. Especially important for races is the adherence of these two rules:
1. Eat clean, which means no refined sugar (skip dessert, or eat fruit), low or no saturated fats, and no alcohol.
2. Eat until you’re satisfied, but not more.
If you’re going to have a meal the morning of your workout or race, you need to eat an appropriate amount of calories (don’t overdo it), and finish all calorie consumption at least three hours prior to the start of the workout or race. If that’s not logistically feasible, have a small amount (100-200 calories) of easily digested complex carbohydrates 5-10 minutes prior to the start. Either of these strategies will help top off liver glycogen stores (which again, is the goal of pre-exercise calorie consumption) without negatively affecting how your body burns its muscle glycogen.
The best performances in long-duration events are achieved by getting to the starting line well rested rather than razor sharp. In doing so, you may find yourself not hitting on all cylinders during those first few minutes. In fact, you might even struggle a bit. However, your body will not forget all the training you’ve done and it will absolutely reward you for giving it the time it needed to “soak up” all of that training.
A 70 kilogram athlete has about 1400 kilocalories of stored muscle glycogen, 320 kcals of liver glycogen, and 80 kcals of blood glucose. During shorter races, this athlete may only require 150-200 kcals per hour to maintain blood glucose levels, relying on his glycogen stores for the remainder of his caloric needs. During an ultra-endurance event, however, this athlete may burn over 6000 kcals and glycogen stores will become depleted. Nutrition strategies must address this caloric deficit. Other aspects of nutrition to consider during competition include the nutritional composition (carbohydrate, protein, fat) and vehicle (liquid, gel, solid), convenience and availability, palatability, digestibility, and tolerability.
In summary, fueling during an ultra-endurance event should consist of 60-90 grams of carbohydrates per hour, preferably from a mixture of sources. Adding branched-chain amino acids in a ratio 1:4 can delay fatigue, improve performance, and reduce muscle damage. Ingestion of fat is not recommended. Fluids, gels, and solid foods may be combined as tolerated by individual athletes. Nutritional strategies should be developed and refined during training, not during an important competition.
Avoid use of aspirin, ibuprofen, and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents as they may increase the risk of hyponatremia in athletes. Many athletes take these medications without knowing of their detrimental effect on performance. Additionally, chronic use of these medications often mask the bodies own warning mechanisms that alert athletes to pain and injury. Athletes should be discouraged from excessive use of these medications.
Burke L. M. and J. A. Hawley. Effects of short-term fat adaptation on metabolism and performance of prolonged exercise. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 34:1492-1498, 2002.
The concept of manipulating an individual’s habitual diet before an exercise bout in an attempt to modify patterns of fuel substrate utilisation and enhance subsequent exercise capacity is not new. Modern studies have focused on nutritional and training strategies aimed to optimise endogenous carbohydrate (CHO) stores while simultaneously maximising the capacity for fat oxidation during continuous, submaximal (60-70% of maximal O 2 uptake [VO 2max ]) exercise. Such “nutritional periodisation” typically encompasses 5-6 d of a high-fat diet (60-70% E) followed by 1-2 d of high-CHO intake (70-80% E; CHO restoration). Despite the brevity of the adaptation period, ingestion of a high-fat diet by endurance-trained athletes results in substantially higher rates of fat oxidation and concomitant muscle glycogen sparing during submaximal exercise compared with an isoenergetic high-CHO diet. Higher rates of fat oxidation during exercise persist even under conditions in which CHO availability is increased, either by having athletes consume a high-CHO meal before exercise and/or ingest glucose solutions during exercise. Yet, despite marked changes in the patterns of fuel utilisation that favour fat oxidation, fat adaptation/CHO restoration strategies do not provide clear benefits to the performance of prolonged endurance exercise.
Tea: As an anti-oxidant!
Sports scientists at Rutgers University found that a nine-day supplement of black-tea extract decreased delayed-onset muscle soreness after cycling intervals. “The black-tea extract reduces the oxidative stress of the exercises and speeds recovery between intervals,” says assistant professor Shawn Arent, PhD. Try it yourself: “Add four bags of decaffeinated tea to 32 ounces of cold water and steep in the refrigerator overnight,” suggests Barbara Lewin, RD, a sports nutritionist who owns Sports-Nutritionist.com. Drink tea in place of water before, during and after events.
Superfood: Soybeans or Tofu
The branched-chain amino acids in soybeans stop muscle degradation during long eventws while the antioxidants help alleviate postride aches and pains. Research published in The Nutrition Journal found that both soy and whey proteins build lean muscle mass, but soy protein also prevents exercise-induced inflammation. “Chocolate soy milk makes an excellent recovery drink,” says Barbara Lewin, RD, a sports nutritionist who owns Sports-Nutritionist.com. Also, keep soy nuts in the car or at the office for a great protein-rich snack.
Nutrition Tip: Eat Often, Refuel Quickly
To keep your blood sugar from dipping, eat every three hours and refuel within 20 minutes of exercise. These guidelines are especially important during the seven days before your event because you don’t want to give your body any reason to tap into energy stores. Plus, cells are most receptive to recovering glycogen and muscle immediately after activity. Eat protein, too—it helps musclecells repair and recover. Use a 4:1 carb-to-protein ratio. For example, a cup of low-fat yogurt, with about 30 grams of carbs and 6 grams of protein, is an ideal snack.
Loaded with a potent anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin, this yellow spice may help to increase endurance and speed recovery. In a 2007 study at the University of South Carolina, exercise physiologists gave mice curcumin supplements for three days before a 2.5-hour downhill run. The curcumin reduced muscle inflammation and increased endurance more than 20 percent the next day. So, make turmeric your go-to spice. Add it to marinades, rice, vegetables and more. You’ll hardly notice the subtle flavor.
Superfood: Cherries and Berries
In a study at the University of Vermont, students who were given 12 ounces of tart cherry juice before and after strenuous exercises suffered only a 4 percent reduction in muscle strength the next day compared with a 22 percent loss found in subjects given a placebo. “Antioxidants and anti-inflammatory molecules in tart cherries suppress and treat the micro-tears in muscles,” says Declan Connolly, PhD. These molecules are also found in blackberries, raspberries and strawberries. Stock up on frozen berries, and add them to smoothies, yogurt and cereal. Or, defrost a few in the microwave for a sweet postride snack. Try Raw Power Australia via the link below for some awesome superfood powder blends.
Sulfur: Did you know?
Everyone is deficient in sulphur! MSM (Methyl Sulfonyl Methane) is a naturally-occuring form of dietary sulfur. MSM is volatile and destroyed by cooking. In the body, MSM softens leathery internal tissues by rebuilding connective tissue with elastic sulfur bonds. This is how MSM lives up to its reputation of building collagen and maintaining healthy joints. This is also why MSM increases flexibility, hastens recovery time from sore muscles, and is excellent for recovery from athletic injuries. MSM makes the tissues more permeable so that they may move nutrients in and toxins out with greater ease. It also reduces inflammation. The recommended dosage is up to one teaspoon per day in juice or in water with the juice of ½ a lemon.