I have four siblings and up until now all of us girls have gotten into running. We are so excited that our baby brother, Hayden, is going to start training for the San Diego Rock and Roll half marathon so we can all start the race together! Our baby sister, Haylee, is going to toe the line for her first full marathon. Can’t wait for June to get here for us all to be together and cheer on our little siblings with their new goals!
My brother used to play hockey when he was a kid but running for pleasure will be a new journey for him! He asked me if I could put some thoughts together on what he needs to do nutritionally for training and racing. We want to avoid at all costs any of us going out on a stretcher and not crossing the finish line like our poor Haylee babe at her last Fargo half marathon! She’s doing a great job with fuel for her marathon training, live and learn!
My racing/training fuel advice is based mostly on working out in the morning which is when I do most of my training. This practice works out great for me as all my races except one has been at dark thirty a.m.! The team, HERevolution, I am representing this year has a good blog on nutrition for morning training that you can refer to.
Some people think if they drink water that will be sufficient for when they exercise. I incorporate plain water into my training and racing but make sure I also have an electrolyte drink (your body needs minerals and electrolytes to function). If you only drink plain water you will flush your essential minerals and electrolytes and have physical problems (see picture above). I’ve used Nuun, Vega hydrator and can’t wait to try Ignite Naturals product as I love their gel. The main liquid I consume on a daily basis is water so I am pretty good about staying hydrated so if I am swimming or doing a short run in the morning I don’t bring water/electrolytes with me. When I was newer to training I usually brought a drink with me on a run over six miles but now can run up to 8 miles without bringing anything with me. Race day is different as I don’t want to get in the depleted zone so I usually drink at least every other aid station. If it is hot and humid skip the water and just stick to the electrolyte drinks to ensure your minerals and electrolytes aren’t affected. If you are prone to cramping and are racing in hot/humid conditions you also want to consider a “salt” pill. It is rare that I cramp during training but inevitably during a race I get calf or quad cramps so I incorporate “salt” tabs such as Endurolytes when I race.
As the HERevolution blog mentions, I usually don’t eat something before a short workout (under an hour). If I am going to be training over an hour or a more intense hour workout I will have something like a banana, energy bites and/or Vega preworkout energizer for some quick clean fuel.
During longer training days I eat 100-200 calories every hour. According to other resources, the body can’t digest more than 250 calories per hour and more than that will cause GI distress. Everyone is different but I’ve found that 100-200 calories per hour keeps me fueled and avoid bonking or “hitting the wall“. Here are the fuels I use for different activities:
Night before race or training: I am a wholefood vegan and eat primarily fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts. I know there is a school of thought of carb loading with pasta before a race but I have found that for me since I eat mostly clean carbohydrates that I have enough glycogen storage to draw from so I just eat a regular meal the night before a race or heavy training day. For me a regular meal might be a veggie, tofu and brown rice stirfry or a bean, veggie, brown rice bowl from Chipotle if I am traveling.
Pre race or long training day: plain oatmeal with fruit, pure maple syrup and almond milk has been my main pre race meal. I usually have to be at the race transition about 5:30 a.m. so my pre race meal is usually at 4:00 a.m. which gives it plenty of time to digest before a usual 7:00 a.m. race start. For shorter races and shorter more intense training days I have been skipping the oatmeal and just having some preworkout energizer and energy bites before I head out.
Swim: before a race swim I usually eat a banana, preworkout energizer and 2-3 Endurolytes at least 30 minutes before the swim. I have used gels such as Vega and Ignite Naturals Reloads while standing in line for the swim start too. During a half Ironman race I even saw a girl drinking a beer while she was waiting in line for the swim! She knows how to carb load and ease the nerves! To each their own!
Bike: getting in fuel during a triathlon is easiest on the bike so I use endurance bars such as Clif and Lara, energy bites and dates. If you use dates make sure to take the pits out before the race and look at the inside to make sure they are not moldy. Biting into a moldy date is not something I wish for you, disgusting! During a triathlon I will eat a bar earlier in the ride and then switch over to quicker fuel towards the end such as dates or gels. I also keep an electrolyte or calorie drink on my bike such as Hammer Heed and take 2-3 Endurolytes per hour.
Run: I don’t think I am alone when I say eating solids while running is challenging. For me it is hard to chew and breath at the same time. Despite this I have eaten energy bites or energy chews during a run but gels or my new favorite, Mamma Chia squeezes are the easiest thing to consume for me while running. I’ve worn a fuel belt for longer races but at some point during the race the belt gets on my nerves so I end up throwing it to my family and use the aid stations every mile to get in drinks (yes even Coca Cola!) every or every other mile. During my last Ironman I was having GI stress (likely from altitude) so I had to turn to orange wedges to get some calories and try to get my GI system working again. Sometimes during the run you just need to do whatever it takes nutritionally to keep you going! Again since I cramp during races I keep on 2-3 Endurolytes at least every hour or more frequent.
Post training/racing: this is such a critical step that people miss, recovery is key! I always give my family members my recovery to give me after a race or keep it in my car. I like coconut water for electrolyte replenishment and hydration and also use Vega recovery accelerator and plant based protein to ensure a smooth start to my recovery process! You should strive for a 4:1 carb/protein ratio within 30 minutes of exercise and then focus on protein to continue restoring the muscle glycogen before an hour after your activity.
The key to being successful in your physical activities is practicing nutrition as without proper fuel and recovery you won’t be able to preform to your best abilities! Everyone’s nutritional needs are different but key to know what yours are! It takes time to dial in your nutrition so practice each time you train and race and reevaluate what is working and what you need to adjust. Don’t forget the fourth element of triathlon: Fuel, Swim, Bike, Run!
If you have any training and racing fuel practices that have worked for you I’d love to hear them! If you are looking for someone to guide you through nutrition, racing, training and logistics professionals like Race Day Sherpa can help you!