Fueling the Body to the Finish for Endurance Athletes

A question that always seems to arise when people are chatting with me about racing for endurance athletes (i.e. cycling, running, swimming…or any combination thereof) whether it is a newbie or a seasoned racer, is how to fuel their body, on race day or in training, to finish their race or long training day.  I never claim to be a doctor or a nutritonist, but what works well for me, is gauging my plan based on the race’s distance.

What may seem obvious isn’t always the case for some….first and foremost, a good daily diet rich in whole foods, including fruits, vegetable, carbohydrates and lean proteins, is essential to getting a head start.  We are lucky to belong to a local, organic CSA which “forces” us to consume plenty of veggies and our BerryBreeze helps them stay fresh.

Second, always sample your race-day nutrition plan during your training; NEVER leave it to the day of the race OR you may be “that guy” stuck in a stench-filled port-o-potty on the course killing time.

Third, eat some form of protein for breakfast on race day, at least 1-2 hours before the event i.e.  peanut butter on a bagel.  Again, make sure you test timing of food consumption prior to exercise before the big race day, to avoid “that guy” theory listed above.

Fourth, plan your on-race-course nutrition according to the time and distance.  Racing an hour or less? Water (hydrates) and electrolytes (prevents cramping) such as a sports drink should be sufficient.  One to three hours?  Water, electrolytes and some form of complex carbohydrates (energy) such as gels, chews, energy bars, etc.  Three plus hours? Water, electrolytes, complex carbohydrates, and protein (replenishes lost protein and restores muscle tissue).

Fifth, remember your post-race recovery! Crossing the finish line does not mean you are done!! Eat or drink protein, such as a protein shake, meat, protein bars, within 30 minutes after crossing the finish.

Finally, my theory is to have fun and do your best to finish, despite your time (physical injuries are the exception)!  Unless you are a professional athlete that has his/her next payday to worry about, finish the race and remind yourself how lucky you are to have a body that will allow you to cross the finish line! Happy racing!

Mike Drury, and his wife Heather, own Pulse Endurance Sports, a bike & running shoe store in Chula Vista, CA.  MIke has competed in a variety of races ranging from Ironman triathlons (includes 6 Ironman World Championships), to a100 mile trail run, to being the champ of the Beer Mile. The most important, challenging and rewarding race has been parenthood, as he is the proud daddy of his two boys, Cyrus & Maximus. Visit his website at www.pulsendurance.com