FUELING FOR ENDURANCE SPORTS

By Adam Galuszka
June 15, 2014

Fueling for an endurance event requires a balance of carbohydrates, sugars, proper hydration and some serious willpower. Discovering what fueling plan works best for you is a process of trial-and-error that can take years to perfect. However, if you follow these general guidelines you’ll be ahead of the pack. Our bodies use fat and carbohydrate as fuel. During intense exercise, however, fat is often burned too slowly to get energy, so our bodies first rely on carbohydrates. It’s recommended that you ingest between 30-60 grams of carbs per hour of exercise. Depending on your size and weight, the intensity of your workout, and your own personal metabolism - you’ll fall somewhere within that range. Our bodies can process only about 1 gram of carbohydrate per minute, so consuming more carbs doesn’t mean more energy. Consuming too many carbs results in more work for your digestive system as well as extra food sitting like a brick in your stomach. You want to ration your carb consumption so that your body can extract and transport the glucose into your bloodstream at a steady rate. If you eat too many carbs you’ll experience gastrointestinal distress, bloating, cramping and an upset stomach. If you consume too little fuel, your body will burn through its glycogen stores and leave you with cramps, mental fogginess and not enough energy to continue. This is what we call ‘bonking.’ Avoiding the bonk starts with consuming heavier, or long-term energy foods like Bonk Breaker Bars or Enduro Bites toward the beginning of your workout. If you can fuel your body with complex carbs, like the quinoa and brown rice in a Giddy-Up Bar, your digestive system will work continuously to break down the food and supply you with sustaining energy. It is extremely important that you follow consumption of foods with sips of water, to help aid digestion and maintain whole body hydration. For anything more than two hours, you should consume bars and denser foods for the first half. Throughout the course of your workout or event you might need to switch to some short-term energy in the form of chews or gels. As the length of your event increases, your digestive system begins to slow down, so you need products that have simple carbs and more readily available energy. The less your body has to work for fuel the more you can focus on getting after it in your workout. By eating chews like Honey Stinger Energy Chews or Clif Bloks one at a time you can ration the amount of carbs you’re getting. Most gels contain 100 calories and 20g of carbs, which is a megadose of simple sugars which are absorbed straight to your bloodstream as glucose. You’ll start to feel the energizing effects of a gel between 5 and 15 minutes after taking them. Again, always follow with consumption of water. Once you start taking short-term energy, you need to continually supply your body with it or else you’ll begin to feel the crash-and-burn effect. Every 45 minutes or so you will need another dose of rapidly-digestible carbs. It is important to practice your fueling strategy during training. Try different products, figure out how your body reacts and what it likes best so that on race day you can be sure you have a winning nutrition plan.