The trials and tribulations of fueling your body to go the distance in endurance sports.
Taking on a long distance endurance event can be daunting enough, but add proper fueling to the mix, and things can get even more complicated. The slew of options available to athletes can feel overwhelming and difficult to find the signal through the noise. Here’s a quick list of some things to consider and hopefully help guide you on your fueling journey based on my experiences!
Know how much fuel
Especially given elevation gain, weather, distance and start time, your body may need more or less of certain types of nutrients based on the extent of the conditions above.
Test different types of fuel
- Different examples are gels, chews, tablets, electrolyte and carbohydrate mixes.
- Figure out which your body prefers and the flavor you like best.
- It will take time to train your stomach to take fuel while exercising over long durations, especially if you are used to doing shorter, fasted workouts.
- Start testing your fueling strategy from the start, so you can tweak things as you go along. This method gives you plenty of time to understand what works best for you and avoids any surprises on race day.
- Keep a fueling log to track what you’ve tried, what worked well and most importantly, what did not work well. You can do this on your phone’s notes app, in a training diary, or your training platform of choice.
- Have a well-rounded assortment of nutrients (electrolytes, carbs, even caffeine if you like, etc.).
Consider if you will need different types of fuel
Different parts of an event will require different types of fuel. For example, if you are racing in a triathlon, your nutrition strategy for the swim will vary greatly from the bike and the bike to the run.
Don’t take in too much at once
Small sips and small bites more frequently are better than larger gulps and big chews less frequently. You want to give your body enough time to take in the nutrients so you do not end up with digestion issues.
Don’t completely reinvent the wheel for your fueling strategy each workout. Assess which parts of your workout feel good or bad and decipher what the cause could be of those sensations. For example, if you go on a 2.5 hour long run on an 80 degree day and begin to feel nauseous towards the end, was it: eating too many sugary foods? not enough sodium intake? under hydrating?
Have fun and godspeed!
Racing in endurance events is such a rewarding experience and a true celebration of your incredible achievements! You worked so hard to get to this day, so remember to keep that positive mindset, visualize your success, take in your fuel, and go get ’em!