I once ate cheese fondue right before a cross-country race. In my defense, it was in France, twenty years ago. Back then, the closest anyone I knew got to pre-race nutrition was eating a Mars bar on the start line. Hydration was for sissies. I remember taking Lucozade (dextrose) tablets to a marathon relay in High School and getting a lot of flak from other athletes because runners just didn’t take nutritional supplements back then. Never heard of Lucozade? It’s a well-known energy supplement brand in the UK. Twenty five years ago, it was pretty much the only game in town…and not a well-known one at that, despite having Olympic decathlete Daley Thompson as its spokesman.
Today, nutrition and hydration for endurance athletes is a big deal, and an even bigger business. The variety of products on the market is huge, almost overwhelming, and includes drinks, bars, gels, chews, you name it. And the flavors! Remember when there was just lemon-lime Gatorade?! We’re spoiled for choice, and everyone has their opinions and preferences. At the end of the day, of course, you have to find what works for you.
I’ve been a GU fan for a long time. (The Lucozade thing didn’t last…) In fact, vanilla bean GU used to be the only supplement I’d even consider. I’ve since broadened my horizons, adding Roctane, Nuun and Camelbak electrolyte tablets, and Honey Stinger chews. Still, I know I’m not the most adventurous when it comes to trying out new stuff. My stomach knows what it likes and, well, you don’t want to mess with that. But, with my first Half Ironman coming up in October, I know I need a good nutrition plan, possibly a better one than my “2-GUs-an-hour” plan during Capon Valley 50K. I still think GU is one of the easiest running supplements because it’s compact, there’s less fiddling with packages, it goes down fast, and you don’t have to chew (sometimes that’s hard while running!), but eating on the bike is a lot easier, so I’m in the process of trying some other stuff for variety.
Yesterday, for my 50 mile ride (yes, I have broken through the 30 mile barrier!) I took some cola Powerbar Gel Blasts with me. I’m into this cola thing right now. I don’t drink coke at all but there’s something about that coke flavor when racing that I really like. I just ordered kona cola flavor Nuun. 4 tubes. Better be good. Anyway, about an hour into the ride I tried one of these little coke gummies. OMG. They are like crack. I had to stop myself from eating the entire bag in 10 seconds flat. (It’s supposed to last an hour.) They taste like those coke gummy bottles we used to eat as kids…only better. They were so good I had to share (even though I really wanted to keep them all to myself) and I gave one to Meggan at a light. She let out a shriek right as the light changed and I thought something was wrong, then realized it was a reaction to the gummy. I quickly ate all the rest before she asked for another.
Once the ride was over I returned to Potomac River Running to buy up all the cola Powerbar Gel Blasts they had. I only saw 3 bags on the shelf so I asked if they had any more in stock. The guy opened a drawer behind the counter and I saw a gigantic box full of them. It took a lot of will power not to jump over the counter and grab them. “How many do you want?” he asked. “How many have you got?” I replied. I ended up buying 14 bags. The guy had seen the glint in my eye and knew better than to mess around with an addict in the store.
In case you’re not a cola freak they do also come in other flavors: lemon, raspberry, and strawberry-banana. Cola and strawberry-banana have caffeine. 1 bag has 45g carbs compared to a GU which has 25, so I’ll eat one bag in an hour whereas if I’m taking GU I need 2 per hour.
Incidentally, I’ve been learning some interesting nutritional stuff as I get ready for this Half Ironman, so thought I’d share. Hey, I’m a sharing person…unless it’s my cola gummies.
- Eat 200 – 400 calories 2 hrs prior to an endurance event (longer than an hour)
- Drink 16 – 20oz fluid when you wake up (you wake up dehydrated)
- After the first hour of racing, you need to take in 400-600mg sodium/hr and 40 – 60g carbs/hr
- Drink 16 – 32oz fluid/hr
- Chocolate milk is one of the best recovery drinks because of the almost 4:1 carb to protein ratio
- Got gas? Check the ingredients in all those high fiber foods. Inulin (chicory root) is the culprit. Seriously, after hearing this I went and looked at my double fiber wheat bread, Luna bars, Fiber One bars, Clif bars…inulin was a top ingredient in all of them. Holy smokes!