Endurance Nutrition

Any form of Endurance Race is as much about the running/kayaking/riding as it is the eating and drinking. Before you switch off and think ‘I only run 10km or 21km’, if you consider this to be a long way or pushing outside your comfort zone then this article will help you too. An ‘Endurance’ race is something that is long and pushes you outside your comfort zone.

The aim of the eating and drinking is to maximise your calorie intake to enhance your performance without pushing your system over the edge and making you feel sick, bloated and uncomfortable. To master the art, you will need to balance the trifecta of HYDRATION, CALORIES and ELECTROLYTES. Here is the information about each one individually:

Hydration – Even a two percent loss of water through sweat during exercise will result in a decrease in performance and an increase in effort. By the time you experience a six percent loss, dehydration has set in and it becomes very difficult if not impossible to come back. You should take on roughly 500ml to 750ml of fluid per hour of exercise. However this will depend on a few factors…

SWEAT – How much do you sweat? If it is a lot then you will need to consume 750ml per hour, if not slightly more. If you do not sweat, you will want to consume 500ml. The risk in drinking too much is always needing to pee, which isn’t ideal. It is important that your intake of fluids match your sweat losses.

WEATHER – If it is an extremely hot day you will need slightly more fluid, and on a cold day you may not require as much.

So we have covered the importance of not becoming dehydrated, however it is also important to not become overhydrated. Excess fluid can make your feel bloated, and sick. It can flush your muscles of all the electrolytes, and minerals needed for them to perform correctly. To get it right make sure:

– Your fluid intake matches your sweat loss
– You start hydrating early, and do not get behind

Calories – To delay fatigue and keep performing at your best during a race you need to replace carbohydrates before your glycogen stores get depleted. When you think about eating for a race, you should think about the number of grams of Carbohydrate you need to consume or the number calories.

I personally like to work on grams of Carbohydrate. The general rule is that you should be taking in between 0.8 and 1.0 grams of carbohydrate per kg of bodyweight per hour. You can use this simple equation to workout roughly what your intake should be:

Body Weight x 0.8 =
Body Weight x 1.0 =

It is crucial you stay within this recommended range as eating more than this and you will be in double trouble because extra carbohydrates will be stored in fat cells (a waste of time during a race) and the metabolic process of storing takes precious energy away from your racing muscles. In addition this storage of carbs takes extra water too. Taking in less than your ideal amount of carbohydrates also takes a toll because once you begin to feel fatigued and hypoglycemic (low blood-sugar) you cannot take in additional calories to make up the deficit.

-Workout what you will eat and know the Carb content
-Workout a structured plan that will meet your Carb allowance accurately
-Train on your desired plan, so that you are use to it

Electrolytes – Sodium or salt, become more crucial the longer the exercise. As the heat, duration and the intensity of the exercise increase, sodium loss can become critically high. Sweating leaves the blood thicker, which makes the heart pump harder sending your pulse rate sky high. But trying to rehydrate by drinking water alone can result in hyponatremia—diluting the blood sodium level to the point that you become confused, disoriented and faint, and in extreme cases can send you into a coma. The need for salt can vary according to the heat and the athlete’s sweat rate, so be sure and take in electrolytes in sports drinks and eat some salty snacks such as pretzels, chips, potatoes with salt, or possibly try electrolyte capsules or suck on rock salt crystals. Start early and don’t get behind.

Personal Preference – The art of eating and drinking whilst training can be tricky and needs to be practiced in training so it will become a consistent habit in racing. As you have read above there is a lot to know and understand, however to find a plan that is good for you, you will should take in to account the following:

Liquid or Solid – Would you prefer to eat or drink whilst training?
Sweet or Savory – Are you a sweet or savory person?

Liquid or Solid – Some people prefer to drink more, especially those who sweat profusely, others will prefer to eat, especially if they do not sweat a lot. These are products which I support and use personally whilst racing.

Tailwind – Is a potent energy and electrolytes drink and contains all you need to go all day. Most drinks require you to supplement calories and don’t contain anywhere near the electrolytes needed to replace what you sweat out. Tailwind’s fuel can meet your complete calorie needs and sipping it regularly gives you steady energy all day. Tailwind also has a full complement of electrolytes that mimic the composition and proportions of sweat, so you don’t have to take separate electrolyte pills to make up for what’s not in your drink.

Em’s Power Cookies – Low glycemic index rolled oats which will release slow sustained energy. Em’s Power Cookies & Bars are high energy and sustain blood sugar levels for energy that lasts, no matter your sport. Balanced sports nutrition products with a moderate fat and protein content. Easy to eat and digest while under exertional stress. Do not cause stomach problems because of the rolled-oats, easy to digest and made with natural ingredients

Sweet or Savory – Some people will find that they struggle to eat or drink foods that are too sweet for an entire day of racing. When you choose what you will be using consider whether you will still want to eat it when you are tired, grumpy and irritable.

Now you have some basic knowledge, it is time to combine it all for your needs and requirments. I am going to use an example to help explain it all. Our example is James, he is training for the Motu Challenge, he weighs 80kg, sweats profusely and does not mind eating or drinking. Due to the nature of multisport drinking will be easier as he may be riding on trails or paddling a whitewater river. For these reasons it will be best to design a nutrition plan that is mainly fluid based. James will need:

HYDRATION – 750ml Per Hour as he sweats a lot
CALORIES – Between 64 and 80grams of carbs per hour (Body Weight x 0.8 (1.0) = 64g (80g))
ELECTROLYTES/ FOOD TYPES – James prefers to use Tailwind and Em’s, so we will use this to plan his hourly cycle
PLAN – 2 Scoops of Tailwind in 750ml of Water per hour (50grams Carbs) , with half an Em’s bar every hour (25grams carbs). Caffeinated Energy Gels for an emergency pick me up if required.

15min – 250ml Tailwind
30min – 250ml Tailwind
45min – Ems Bar
60min – 250ml Tailwind

SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS – Whilst kayaking food will not be accessible so we will switch to 3 x scoops of Tailwind per hour.

Now you have all the information it is time to go and practice. Practice drinking and eating in training sessions. Get familiar with what your stomach can and cannot tolerate so you will be able to stay ahead of the fueling game with effective and performance enhancing drinks, gels, bars and food. Have a plan but be prepared to be flexible. Stable blood sugar directs calories to muscles so try to fuel yourself with small amounts continually.

If you have any questions, please fire away.

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