and the 5 Refuel Must-Haves.
I can officially say I’ve heard it all when it comes to high-intensity performance and racing nutrition:
- eat before you work out
- don’t eat before you work out
- eat right after a workout
- wait an hour after a workout
- eat fat so your body burns fat
- eat carbs so your body will burn fat but also eat protein so your body triggers fat burning
- drink chocolate milk post-workout
- don’t drink chocolate milk because it’s high in fructose corn syrup and the leading cause of pre-diabetic health issues.
- eat fruit, but be careful because fruit fiber digests slowly and can cause cramping.
Wow! Is anyone else as confused as I am after all that? I was, and sometimes still am confused on the right answer for performance and racing nutrition!
The Question and Experimentation Process
Instead of being confused, I made it my goal to test every theory, diet, method, and fuel out there to get down to the bottom of racing nutrition. Guess what, they all work, and all don’t work. With that said, how do you decide what to choose for racing and training nutrition? Let’s go back to the basics. How many calories do you need a day to maintain basic functions? Do you want to lose weight or gain weight? Do you want to maintain your fitness or seek performance? These are all great questions. With these questions in mind, I’d like to walk you through my journey which is specific to racing nutrition. I’ve tried it all and this season have found something that continues to work race after race. Note: The statements, opinions, and suggestions I make about racing nutrition are specific to me and proved to be successful in long and short-distance races, as well as hard training sessions. Everything must be tested.
Racing Nutrition Regimen
While racing, the fuel and nutrition ingested are key. When I race, I ingest around 200 calories an hour. If I’m just working out in the gym for an hour, I will NOT fuel during the workout. Racing and hard workouts over an hour are different. Think about a race car going around a racetrack. The car needs fuel and the higher the octane the better. For a test drive, the fuel may not be critical, but during a race plenty of high-quality fuel is necessary. What kind of fuel to use, what octane, which brand, and which additives are the questions we will answer.
The Products that Work.
I am particularly fond of products that work, and the one that I’ve found that works the best because it exceeds quality standards is a company called MoxiLife. Their product line has cut out flavors, colors, and hype while focusing on the body’s specific needs during high-intensity racing. I can talk about why many products don’t work but I’d like to focus on why these products do work!
Five Refuel Must-Haves
- Magnesium: It’s the foundation of the MoxiLife product line. Magnesium is a mineral that is depleted the quickest in the body each day and can take up to 10 cups of fruits and vegetables daily to restore the magnesium levels used. Add a serving of HydraMag Magnesium Chelate to your water bottle during each hour of racing and additionally, one serving a day for maintenance.
- Carbohydrates: Carbohydrate is very effective for athletes as it can be used as an immediate fuel and won’t be stored as fat. Fat as fuel is a bit different to use for high-intensity races. Can you imagine eating butter before a 5 or 10K run? Easily digestible carbohydrates are a better answer to basic energy needs. MoxiLife provides a product called Osmocarb to use as fuel during racing. Osmocarb is a low glycemic fuel that doesn’t spike blood sugar and is a pure flavorless carbohydrate in powder form. It takes up 60 calories of the 200 an hour calorie re-fuel. It’s easily digestible and loaded with power.
- Electrolytes: The body uses up the minerals and vitamins found in most electrolyte supplements during high-intensity exercise and racing. To replenish what has burnt, add electrolytes in the form of a powder called Phytolyte. It is a full electrolyte profile powder at 28 calories a scoop which combats cramping while replenishing vitamins.
- Dextrose: Next a simple, fast-burning sugar. Dextrose is a simple sugar closest to blood glucose and only takes one step for the body to break down (which is also the main ingredient in gummy bears.) Add two servings to water and end up with about 125 calories of powder.
- Gel: Lastly, take one gel per hour to complete refueling for a total of 200 calories per hour.
Racing Nutrition & Refueling Recap
Let’s make sure you got all that, so here’s a quick recap.
Hourly Refuel Regimen
1 serving of Osmocarb
1 serving of Phytolyte
1 serving of HydraMag
2 servings of dextrose
1 one base salt gel
Note: Mix all 4 powders in a 26oz water bottle.
With this combination, it’s a little over 200 calories per hour. This mix works well in both the heat and cold, as well as up to 12 hours on a slow day for a full IRONMAN triathlon.
How do You know the Nutrition Is Right?
How do you know when your refueling racing nutrition regimen is working? The easiest way to know is by thinking about what happens when you eat food that doesn’t agree with you. The common sensation is feeling uncomfortably full or having gas. Feeling full generally means digestive confusion and gas means fermentation. I won’t go into why it happens but agreement with your food applies the same way to your racing nutrition.
What you eat or drink while racing should be easy to digest, provide energy, and agree with your body. That will take some experimentation, but I offer my latest mix as a solid place to start. On the contrary, a great local cyclist who beats me in every race never mixes anything in his water and only eats real food during a race. He has certainly tested his fueling and racing nutrition many times. While some people say, “It’s too complicated of a fuel routine and I will do what Lance does – drink a coke and eat a snickers bar.” Well, yes that does work under certain circumstances. One circumstance would be winning your ninth Tour de France with the average race day being 120 miles and over 4.5 hours of riding at a threshold heart rate. During those efforts, coke and snickers bars do work. That is like throwing a used tire into a forest fire and watching it burn! But, you know what is a perfect source of fuel out there that competitors consume, Red Bull. The point is, find what works no matter what amount of effort it takes, then you can use it every time. So if Red Bull, Coke, or snickers does it for your racing nutrition, then go for it! Every circumstance and body is different.
Race Day Nutrition Action Steps
Let’s step back and take an overall look at how nutrition should look on race day.
- Eat 3 hours before a race. Have an empty stomach, be hungry, and have the nutrients from the food assimilated into the body as best as possible.
- Hydrate until the race with no calorie electrolytes or HydraMag from MOXiLIFE.
- Eat a gel 10 minutes before the race to give the body fast acing fuel.
- Start sipping liquid fuel every 15 minutes (my watch timer reminds me) after the start of the race.
- Drink one 26 oz bottle an hour with the 4 different powders. (Magnesium, Carbohydrate, Electrolytes, and Dextrose)
- After the first hour eat another Base salt gel.
- Repeat the same fueling each hour of racing or training for effective racing nutrition.
Post Race Recovery
Race recovery is vital, so be sure not to skip this final step. Opt for a carbohydrate and protein mix while leaving the fat out. 4 grams of carbohydrate to 1 gram of protein. Hammer nutrition makes a product called Recoverite, or 2 cups of skim milk is a good substitute. Then eat, sleep, train, and repeat.
Racing Nutrition Wrap-Up
You will find what racing nutrition works best for you with a little experimentation. Know and stick to the basics of healthy eating. Stay away from rich flavors and added sugars. Try liquids if you can’t take in a lot of calories. Go with solids if the liquid and gels make you sick. Refine it, test it, and then most importantly, focus on your race effort. If you drop a fuel bottle on course and your race crumbles to pieces, it may be more than fueling you need to focus on. Keep up with your racing nutrition, stay focused, have fun, be fast, and stay challenged!
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