Nutrition and proper hydration are my biggest downfalls in general when it comes to training, and, personally in my life in general. It’s a fact. I’ve known it, and have felt the blows from it–and it was one reason I didn’t finish the race I was training for last year. Well, there were a lot of reason why I didn’t finish–all stupid mistakes in training for the race, and caused by me. Yet, what I love is that you can always learn something–from training, or racing.
As above, there is a huge issue I have is properly fueling up for and during races. Now, I’m experimenting with different types of energy products during training to figure out what works with my body and what doesn’t. As I’ve found out already, gels and Gu Bloks don’t work with my stomach.
This post is more geared for triathlons, specifically the bike part, which killed me last year at Mooseman. And, upon hearing that Timberman’s bike course is more difficult than Mooseman (which, if I consumed more than simply 5 gels and Gatorade might have finished, because that course wasn’t bad coming from someone living in the Catskill region) I really need to (1) switch up my bike training and (2) fuel myself before, during, and after training rides and runs.
The other day I did a 50 miler and ate a good breakfast about an hour before the ride, of steel-cut oats with Soy milk, peanut butter, and strawberries since the bananas were not ripe. For a non- breakfast eater (BAD BAD me, I know), it was tasty and sat well with me.
For the ride, I tried some Hammer Nutrition Perpetuum powder to be added to water. It is a product based on weight, and hours of intense training. From multiple Iron Man finishers (and, these people have finished multiple Iron Man and half Iron Man distances), I was told you need to be consuming between 200-300 calories per hour on the bike, because after that bike, you still need that umph power for the 13.1miles. Perpetuum is different from an electrolyte additive, because it has nutrition and calories and is balanced in composition, and “easily digestible” according to the package. They have different flavors, and I tried the Strawberry-Vanilla flavor. It had no negative effects on my stomach on the ride–the one thing I noticed is I needed a lot more water when consuming the drink mix, because it made me quite thirsty. (Hammer Nutrition has a great section on their website for endurance athletes). I did find that it did give me fuel to keep me going for the ride– and I finished the ride faster than I have in prior 50 mile rides with one gel or nothing. (Yup, stupidity talking to you right there).
After the ride, I did have a FRS energy power that I added to my water bottle–it was orange flavored and tasted a bit…Nasty, but I drank it anyway.
I tried FRS chews on a run and they are tasty (but only 40 calories), with the main “Energy” ingredient being Quercetin, and you don’t need to drink water with them (but, you do need to drink water when on long runs–no dehydration).
There are a couple other supplements I might try, as in Cytomax and some other endurance specific items. Of course, foods are always the best source of calories.
So, what’s really important during training? Regular food!!
- Protein. I’m a vegetarian so this is slightly more difficult finding good sources of protein. But, a vegan has finished the hardest mountain bike race, and I know plenty of vegan/vegetarian athletes out there who perform amazingly. Protein is necessary to repair muscle damage done by training, maintain the immune system, make enzymes and hormones, and replace RBCs that carry oxygen to muscles. Athletic performance is dependant on external protein sources, because the body cannot produce it by itself from scratch (Friel, Joe, The Triathletes Training Bible. 3rd ed. Colorado: Velo Press, 2009). What are good sources? For meat eaters: chicken, fish, red meat, turkey, cheeses, yogurt, eggs, milk (the list goes on). For vegetarians/vegans: almonds, beans, peanut butter, oat meal, soy products,lentils, quinoa, Tempeh, Seitan, TVP, Vegan burgers…
- Carbohydrates. Carbs are important in training, but sometimes overrated, and athletes tend to focus on carbs the most in their diet. Carbohydrates ARE important before, during and after training or competition are essential in maintaining energy levels, regulated blood sugar, prevention of fatigue, and quick recovery after an event. However, certain carbohydrates, according to their glycemic index (how quickly insulin is entered into the blood stream) cause a spike in blood sugar, leading to a quick decrease in insulin, and quick decrease in energy. A GI food search can be found here. And then there is the Gluten Free diet which is a controversial subject. I have, in the past, and actually might start again going gluten free, because wheat/barley/rye tend to lead to digestive issues
- Fat. Ohh, the dreaded mention of fat. I walk down isles in the food market and see loads of “low fat, fat free” foods. (By the way, if you are worried about calories, low fat foods do not necessarily mean fewer calories). Fat is an important part of the diet. It helps absorb vital vitamins (such as vit.K, A,D and E), and is actually the body’s most efficient source of energy. Then again, there are the “High Density Lipoproteins” which, if able, should not be a large portion of fat intake as it can increase chances of heart disease amongst other issues. Low Density Lipoproteins, are, however, good fats to eat. Heard of “Omega-3″? That’s a good fat, and can be found in fish, fortified foods, oils in nuts.
Now, hydration. Related to the nutrition, and one which I’ve known more about from my earlier running days.
There is (still) this idea that people have that hydration is the most important part of racing. When I ran marathons, people told me to hydrate…Hydrate…Hydrate. Yes, this is important, during high intensity workouts, or days of high humidity, and depending on how much you sweat (I admit it, I’m a sweater…The secret is out). But too much water can do more harm than good–there have been more deaths do to over-hydration. Why? You are diluting your body’s sodium and potassium levels, causing hypo-natremia. This can cause seizures, coma, and death. I’ve seen this as a nurse. It’s a scary thing.
Lastly, there is a LOT of information out there on this subject. Check it out.
Okay, lastly lastly. An interesting site/blog to check out, for triathletes, is Fearless Food.
For you athletes out there, what are your thoughts on nutrition and supplements?