Fueling for Endurance Events
How I Fuel For Endurance Events
I love endurance racing. I’m not the fastest guy out there. I’ll never win a single event that I enter into. It’s not about winning events for me. It’s about being out there and pushing myself. Seeing what my body can endure. Then improving my fitness and skills over time. At the end of the day the endurance events just keep me healthy and motivated. That’s really the end goal for me.
For the last 18 months that has been 4 marathons (Baltimore 2x, Marine Corp, & Rock n Roll USA), 2 ultra cross races (Iron Cross & Southern Cross with Hilly Billy coming up next weekend), and 3 National Ultra Endurance Mountain Bike Series (Cohutta 100, Wildcat 100, & Mohican 100). My first cycling event was the 125 mile, 16k of climbing, 2013 Diabolical Double Gran Fondo.
Like I said, I love endurance racing.
When you are getting ready to get out and ride for 2-3 hours you don’t have to think much about nutrition. Most athletes make sure they have liquid and maybe a gel or some other kind of carb filled nutritional product. That’s about all you need.
When you are getting ready to run for 3-4 hours or ride for 8-12 it’s a different story. You need a plan and then you need to be able to execute on that plan. Otherwise you will be bonking which takes a very tough day and makes it 10x harder. I’ve seen people laying on the side of road or trail that simple ran out of fuel. These are great athletes that trained hard but simple can’t keep going because they let themselves get to a very bad place.
My Endurance Fueling Routine
Nutrition starts the week of the race. I generally ease up a little on my somewhat disciplined eating and take in 300-500 more calories per day than usual. That’s often eating a dessert or an afternoon snack that I wouldn’t normally have. The idea is to have your body topped off with carbohydrates by the time you get to race morning.
I’ve also made the mistake of over loading the week before and arriving at the starting line feeling too heavy as well. I can take carbo loading to entirely different levels if I let myself go crazy. So I try to be moderate. I stick with eating a little more each day and try to avoid bingeing.
Race morning I eat three things. As soon as I wake up I’ll have a Hammer bar. I’ve been crushing the cranberry flavor lately. This gives me 220 calories early on and gets my system working. About half an hour later I’ll have a bowl of oatmeal with fixings for another 350 calories. Finally I’ll take a shot from a one of my Hammer flasks within 15 minutes of race time. This adds the quick burning carbs you want at the start of the race. All of this is with my normal big cup of coffee.
After The Start
Once riding, I try to consume 360 calories per hour. I read somewhere that two times your body weight was a good starting point for hourly consumption in terms of calories for endurance events. I am generally weighing around 180 at the moment (unfortunately) so that’s 360 for me.
I take the calories entirely from liquid or gels. I’ve tried a lot of different things and found this to be the most reliable way to take in the calories and also save as much time as possible on the bike. I carry a 70oz camelback with Hammer Perpetuem (that’s 810 calories) and one 5 oz Hammer flask filled with Expresso Hammer Gel (that’s 450 calories). I’ve tried using bars and other products but I don’t really like having to chew things and I try to avoid wrappers and other things I don’t want to think about during the race. Camelback and flask are simple and give me what I need.
I try to drink 1/3 of the camelback every hour and I take a shot of Hammer Expresso each hour. I keep an eye on my time and start taking the gel every hour on the hour as my time ticks by. If I start to feel weak I’ll take an extra shot of the gel if I need to.
Making this happen during races is quick and efficient. At aid stations with drop bags I simply swap out Hammer gel flasks, dump a pre measured baggie of Hammer Perpeteum into my camelback and then add water. I’m usually in and out of the aid station in two minutes. For races without drop bags I could easily carry the extra flask and baggie.
So far this combination has worked flawlessly. No cramps and I still have energy to get through the race.
Everyone is very different and it takes some experimentation to find what works for you. My friend Pat (who is regularly on the podium for the same events I do) eats over 1,000 calories before a race and then 500+ calories per hour. He is 30+ pounds lighter than I am. Another friend of ours who is also very competitive takes in 220 calories per hour and weighs about 160 pounds. Bottom line is you have to find what works for you.
After the race, I try to be careful to replenish myself well. I drink a dose of Hammer Recoverite within 15 minutes or so of finishing and another after an hour if I haven’t eaten yet. I find this greatly reduces my tendency to seriously binge after the race. And it’s putting the right stuff back into my system to help me recover.
I owe a lot to Hammer for their support of my efforts. Since the beginning of my fat to fit journey I’ve used their products. As I march toward Ironman Lake Placid and hopefully Kona, they have supplied the nutritional products I use. I’m very grateful for their partnership as I continue my journey from fat to fit. This highly average, everyday athlete is honored by their assistance as I try to be the fittest, 41 year old, ex fat guy I can be.
Keep moving forward,
p.s. I have a once in a lifetime opportunity to participate in the Ironman World Championship in Kona Hawaii through the Kona Inspired program. Voting ends tomorrow, July 15th. To hear my story and vote today click here: http://gregrittler.com/kona. Thanks!