Sunday, July 7, 2019

Nutrition Can Make or Break Your Race

At Marji Bike Camp a couple weeks ago, I gave a post lunch talk on nutrition.  While I made several good points, I feel that I left a lot out, and perhaps did not organize it as well as I should have.  I am gonna blame it on Matt Acker for dragging us around Ishpeming at my race pace (his party pace) and the 231 West food coma I was failing to fight off.

To give you some background, I have been racing for 19 years.  In the beginning, I would carbo load the night before with a big ass bowl of spaghetti, my race morning meal was brown sugar cinnamon Pop Tarts, and my race food was an odd mix of gels and whatever C-store "sports" drinks I could grab in town the night before.  And I did absolutely fine with this.

But what works for us today may not in 5 or 10 years.  In late 2009, I hit a "wall."  My wattage began to tank, and recovery was taking twice as long.  I was carrying huge loads of fatigue, had frequent headaches, and then my GI tract began to act up.  I was on a rollercoaster of bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.  After 2 year, seeing 3 doctors and getting nowhere, except for having my gallbladder removed and being put on a "pill" for IBS, my coach told me to go on a gluten free diet.  After 2 weeks I began to feel better and by the 6th week, I was golden again!  So I took this info back to my primary doc, additional testing was done, and I was found to have celiac disease.

From there I did the Whole 30 Challenge and discovered that I was also intolerant of grains, legumes, and dairy.  The symptoms were celiac-like (bloating, constipation, fatigue, low energy) but were not as severe and would not last as long (a week as opposed to 6 weeks if I got "glutened.")  Every year I would repeat the Whole 30 Challenge, during my off season, which was around Thanksgiving.  And then I would re introduce a trigger food like rice, corn, or beans to see if I still had a negative response.  After 5 years, my GI tract now tolerates rice, corn, and legumes (in moderation) but still has negative effects with dairy.  "In moderation" for me means having  the above 1-2 times per week and no more than 1 cup.

So ... NUTRITION is an integral part of your success on the bike.  You can have a well-oiled machine, you can be producing all the watts, but if you neglect your nutrition, it can be what DNF's you.  And the older you get, the more important it becomes.  You cannot take a cookie cutter approach to nutrition.  It feels like I have been a science project for the past 8 years, constantly tweaking and dialing what works for me. 

I am going to tell you what works for me, both on a daily basis as well as during a race.  This is not to say this is what you need to do, but generally speaking, it might be a good starting point.

My almost daily Big Ass Salad

Day to Day Nutrition

  • vegetables/fruits:  8-10 servings/day.  If I need more carbs, I will add in sweet potatoes or white potatoes.
  • protein: 90-100 grams/day.  I shoot for 0.8-1.0 grams/pound.  High quality, as in pastured meats, wild game and fish.  I am lucky for my in laws raise black angus and my family gets a steer every year. My husband is also an avid hunter and we feast on deer, duck, and turkey.
  • fats:  healthy (EVOO, avocado, coconut), NOT industrial (canola, corn, sunflower) --leave those for filling hydraulic lines  
  • I don't drink my calories.  
  • Fluids include my morning Christopher Bean Coffee, water, and Stevia sweetened iced tea.
  • Treats include dark chocolate (70% or darker) and home made grain free goodies like chocolate zucchini bread, tahini blondies, or fruit crisps.

Grain Free Blondies -- just ask my Rescue Racing team mates how good they are!

Week of the Race

  • I will gradually add in a bit more carbs in the form of potatoes, in the two days prior to the race.
  • I won't necessarily drink any more water than normal, but will throw in a electrolyte tab (NUUN or Hammer Fizz) into my water.
  • I do my best to stay away from junk food.

My daily jet fuel

Morning of the Race

  • Christopher Bean Coffee with honey and collagen peptides
  • sweet potato
  • 1 hard boiled egg

10 minutes before Race Start

  • 1 gel, chased with a couple ounces of water

Their registered dietitians will gladly consult with you on a custom formula.

During Race

  • Infinit Nutrition, customized for me (slightly sweet flavor, carbs, and additional electrolytes).
  • 6 ounce gel flasks (4 parts gel to 2 parts water)
  • for races longer than 10 hours where intensity will decrease as fatigue increases, I might incorporate some solid food or real food (Honey Stinger GF waffles, Cliff shot blocks, rice cakes, dates with almond butter and salt, crunched up potato chips).
  • I will take a hit of caffeine (50-100mg) 2/3 into a race in the form of a gel, Coke, or I have a custom Inifinit mix with 200mg of caffeine per 22 ounce bottle that I will drink in the latter 1/3 of a long race.
  • I aim for 200-225 calories per hour.  I am always sipping my drink or eating small amounts.  I don't take this in all at once.
  • I have a reminder on my Garmin to drink and eat every so often.  It is easy to be so focused on the trail that you forget your nutrition.  For those of you who don't have this option, write it on your forearm; that is what I used to do.

Other Take Aways

  • Practice eating your race food at the intensity you will be racing at.  Don't think that eating a PB&J during a social ride will work for you during a race when your HR is pegged!
  • Find sports drinks that are the same osmolality as your blood.  Here is a good article:  Gatorade is NOT a good idea ... unless you dilute it.
  • Put lots of variety in your drop bags.  What may look scrumptious to you at the beginning of a race might not be so tempting 65 or 80 miles into it.  Temper sweets with some savory bites!
  • In a race as long as the Marji Gesick, start your nutrition in the first hour.  Don't get behind, as you will never be able to catch back up.
  • Do what works for you.  If that is an extra large supreme pizza, then so be it.  (I am jealous!) Some racers are dirty diesels, some are jet fighters.  I am the latter.

Listen to your body.  It might not be overtraining or undersleeping or job related stress.  It could be what is going into your pie-hole.  I am still learning.  At Marji camp, I just didn't feel on top of my fitness.  At first I attributed it to coming off my 2 week vacation with my daughter and having dead legs.  But I explored it a bit deeper and discovered that my GI tract was having some cross reactivity with some gluten free certified oats that I was making granola out of.  Since having stopped eating oats for the past two weeks, my gut is back on track!

Check out Kelli Jennings' website.  A couple years ago, I sought out her coaching plan for 6 months just to see if I was missing anything.  Like I said, everyone is an individual, and she helped me to discover a few more missing pieces of my puzzle. I highly recommend her e-book Fuel Right Race Light.  I printed it out and it sits on my nightstand ... next to my Bible.

Creamy pesto zoodle pasta with veggies

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