Friday, August 8, 2014

Fueling the Machine- Real Food Ideas

       Nutrition is often called the "4th leg" (or even 5th, if you count transitions) of a triathlon race. I can say from experience- you can have a great race and go through it feeling awesome, but if you're not paying attention to what you're putting in to your body when, you'll still puke when you're done. (Sorry, El Arroyo bathrooms!)
        Of course, there is no one simple way to fuel yourself, especially when you get in to longer endurance races, such as 70.3 and 140.6. There are a million articles and advice pieces out there, but like I feel I say all the time- find what works for you! I have tried dozens of gels, chews, bars, tablets, mixes, and beans. For better or worse, there are many, many options out there, and I do encourage you to try something new if the first or second or fifth or what have you isn't something you're excited about putting in your body!
        USA Triathlon, the sanctioning body for the sport, released a great article on long-distance nutrition planning that breaks down a typical athlete's needs in easy to understand language. The article, here, is short and sweet, so I have decided to post it in its entirety here, with full credit to the original author, rather than just rewording everything he said! I'll simply highlight what I found important.


Long Distance Nutrition Planning

By Marty Gaal
water stopThe time to dial in your nutrition plan is well in advance of your key race. There is a lot of information out there, some of it conflicting, and you don’t want to make it up as you go along. A few guidelines that most of us should follow:
  • For races under two hours and on a cool day you might be OK just drinking water and can rely on your stored muscle glycogen for energy, but you will certainly finish dehydrated (and hungry!). At a minimum, we recommend you consider a sports drink for races less than two hours.
  • For races lasting longer than two hours, virtually everyone will require some amount of fluid and calorie intake during the race itself. Read on for specific suggestions.
  • For races lasting longer than four hours, a lot of folks will need to take in supplemental electrolytes in addition to fluids and calories. Hot conditions amplify the need for fluids and electrolytes as an increased sweat rate will more rapidly deplete your stores.
  • For Ironman and ultra-distance events, everyone needs to have a plan for fluid, calories and electrolytes.
  • Don’t try something new on race day. A new breakfast, a new drink, a new supplement, (a new wetsuit) — none of it.
  • Practice your race plan on your long training days. Don’t forget to drink for two hours just because it is cool out on your practice day.
  • Don’t rely on the race to supply what you need, even if they advertise that they will provide X, Y and Z. Even the most well-organized events run out of nutrition, water and sports drink, or forget to get supplement Y to race point 2, and so on. 
  • You need a plan that accounts for total calorie intake, hydration and electrolytes. Your odds of needing supplemental electrolytes (extra salt) increase during longer events. Everyone is different.
  • My experience is that a higher number of athletes experience GI issues when supplementing with protein during an event, so if you plan to use a drink or supplement that contains protein, you must run this plan through a long distance training day more than once.
  • If you are a regular caffeine user, you will want to consume some before and during your event. There are many products that include caffeine— gels, bloks and specifically formulated drinks.
  • On average, athletes should target four to five calories per kilogram of bodyweight per hour on the bike, and two to three calories per kilogram per hour on the run. For example, a 60kg athlete would intake 240-300 calories per hour on the bike and 120-180 calories per hour on the run. Your specific needs may be more or less than this, but use this as your starting point in practice and adjust from there.
  • Electrolyte needs are dependent on how heavily you sweat, and how quickly you excrete sodium, potassium and chloride (the salts). You can get a general idea of this by seeing how caked with salt you are after a long, hot workout, but a lab test will give you a definitive answer.
  • During hotter events, your fluid requirements will be higher than during cooler events. Go figure. Your starting point is about 20 ounces per hour. Smaller athletes might start at 16 ounces per hour and larger athletes at 24 ounces per hour.
To learn more, check out these four presentations from One Step Beyond Multisport Coaching on Ironman race nutritionrace day nutritionhalf-Ironman specific training or Ironman pacing.
Marty Gaal, CSCS, is a USA Triathlon Certified Coach and co-owner of One Step Beyond in Cary, North Carolina. One Step Beyond provides online triathlon coaching and local group training programs, and is the producer of the Powerstroke: Speed Through Force and Form swimming instruction DVD.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.
      Lots of info- I know! However, it's really important if you want to avoid a dreaded DNF (did not finish) due to something avoidable, such as cramping, gastro-intestinal distress, or other nutrition related malady. The most important thing up there is to not try anything new and not depend on the race to provide. Big races have tons of awesome sponsors who provide lots of good things to eat and drink, but you can throw yourself off if a station runs out, or simply if they have a flavor you hate or a brand you've never tried. (Race directors- NO MORE LEMON LIME ANYTHING. It is the. worst.) All products have the basic components you need- carbs, salt, calories- but their formulas and amounts vary. If you haven't trained with it, don't race with it, unless it's an emergency. Most races will release what they'll have at aid stations very early, to allow you to practice if you'd rather not carry your own. Me? I'm totally fine stuffing my pockets and carrying a fuel belt!
      Personally, I have found that eating whole, real foods works best for me, especially on the bike. I just get so hungry after about 45 miles, so I have learned to bring plenty of snacks! This article from shares lots of recipes you can make at home to help fuel yourself with ingredients you can pronounce, so I'll put a few of the ones I would like to try- or have tried- here!

All Natural Chew Alternative- Date Balls
  • 2 cups raw almonds, pecans, walnuts or hazelnuts
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut, plus extra
  • 2 cups Medjool dates, pitted
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Place nuts, seeds and coconut in a large food processor fitted with the "S" blade, and process until crumbly. Add the dates, coconut oil, maple syrup, salt and vanilla extract and pulse until the batter comes together (it will be sticky). Roll in shredded coconut if desired.

Cut the balls up into quarters and roll in plastic wrap or place into a resealable bag. Tuck into pockets or fuel belt. 

Blogger Note- I have also found healthy, raw, clean-eating energy bites pre-made in our grocery store bulk aisle (the hippie aisle as my boyfriend calls it. Whatever- so much awesome stuff!)

Make Your Own Energy Gel- Honey and Molassas
  • 7 and 1/3 tablespoons of honey
  • 3/4 teaspoons of blackstrap molasses
  • 1/10 teaspoons (just shy of 1/8 tsp) of table salt
Be sure to mix everything together well. It should make enough to fill a five-serving GU flask. You may see some bubbles on the surface, but that's just a natural reaction from the molasses. Neither honey nor molasses needs to be refrigerated, so you can keep this in your pocket all day and even use it the following week. 

Nutritional content approximates: 25g carbs, 45mg sodium, 35mg potassium with plenty of vitamins and minerals that you wouldn't get with the store-bought stuff.

—Derek Nolek

Blogger Note- gels are definitely more suitable for most people on the run. Your tummy is jostling, you're dead-tired, and fumbling with whole foods gets annoying. I like to still snack on a bar or something during long runs, but gels do the trick alone for most runs ranging only 6-13 miles!

Real Food Alternatives for Fuel- Fruits and Nuts
Frozen grapes are just as sweet as candy. They cool your mouth and they're easy to carry. Freeze small bags of
grapes and carry them on your long runs. Another fresh fruit snack: watermelon dipped in salt. The watermelon re-hydrates you while the salt replenishes your electrolytes. This is a refreshing and satisfying snack that can immediately boost your energy and help you pick up the pace.

—Vanessa Rodriguez

Trail mix is a versatile snack that can provide quick energy, help ward off hunger between meals, and answer your cravings for a sweet treat. Like any good road food, it's also easy to transport and eat while en route. The key with trail mix is to have the right proportion of nuts-to-fruit-to-chocolate, and to practice good portion control.
  • Choose healthy nuts and seeds that are rich in good fats, protein, fiber and antioxidants. Top choices include almonds, walnuts, cashews, peanuts, soy nuts, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.
  • Dried fruits can help boost the carbohydrate content of any trail mix in addition to providing additional vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Top choices include cranberries, cherries, mango, apricots, dates, figs and raisins.
—Emily Brown

Blogger Note- Other things I have found that I like include: organic dried mango slices, banana chips, raw bananas, almond-based trail mixes, raisins/craisins, or event PB & J on whole-grain bread.

Avoiding Packaged Bars- Make your Own Protein Bars
    Protein Powder Layer
    In a food processor, combine the Amazing Meal, powdered peanut butter, 1 tablespoon peanut butter, 1 teaspoon of maple syrup and 1 ounce of almond milk. Puree it all. Hand stir in the oats.
  • 1 serving Amazing Grass Amazing Meal (Pumpkin Spice, Original, Vanilla Chai, Chocolate or Mocha all work well)
  • 28 grams roasted unsalted peanuts
  • 28 grams unsalted walnuts, divided
  • 28 grams unsalted almonds, divided
  • 28 grams pumpkin seeds
  • 20 grams gluten-free oats
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup, divided
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons powdered peanut butter
  • 2 ounces unsweetened vanilla almond milk, divided
  • 20 grams extra-dark chocolate
  • 1/2 teaspoon vegetable, canola or grape seed oil
  • Coarse salt
  • First Layer
  • Line a baking dish with wax paper.
    In a food processor, coarsely chop all the peanuts, half the almonds and half the walnuts. Hand mix in 2 teaspoons of maple syrup and 1?2 ounce almond milk. Spread this mixture into your 
  • prepared pan in an even layer. For easier smoothing out, place another sheet of wax paper on top of the mixture and use a spoon or your palm to spread the mixture. Toss your pan in the freezer for an hour or so.
  • Take the pan out of the freezer and spread the protein powder mixture on top of the first nutty layer.
    Use the same wax paper sandwich technique to spread it evenly. Put it back in the freezer.
    Third Layer
    Coarsely chop the rest of the almonds and walnuts in a food processor.
    Combine with the last tablespoons of maple syrup and peanut butter and 1?2 ounce almond milk. Remove the pan from the freezer and do your spreading thing one last time.
    Top Layer
    Press the pumpkin seeds into the top layer of the bars. Sprinkle with some coarse salt. Cut the bars into six even parts and separate them in the pan. Freeze for another 30 minutes or so.
    Microwave the chocolate and the oil in a bowl for 30 seconds. Remove. Stir. Microwave for another 30 seconds. Remove. Stir until smooth. Use a spoon to flick some chocolate over the top of the individual bars. Freeze until you're ready to eat them.
Blogger Note- I haven't tried this yet, but they sound delicious! Bars that I have tried from the store that I do enjoy are PowerBar protein bars, Clif Bars (coconut chocolate chip is the best!), OatMega Bars (Vanilla crisp!), and Kind bars (they're all good.)

      There are lots of other great ideas in that article, and all around the Internet. You can't even glance at Pinterest without finding bou coups recipes for smoothies, and most of them are excellent, just watch the amount of added sugars- especially in yogurt! 

        When I train or race, I aim to take in fluids before I'm thirsty (which is all the time because I drink a ton and sweat a lot. That's why I have an 80oz bottle on my bike plus 24ozs of electrolytes and another bottle to run with!) and ensure that I'm getting good-for-my-tummy flavors and ingredients in. I like NUUN tablets for electrolytes because they don't have added sugars and are really yummy mixed with plain water. 
        For food, I try to consume calories about once an hour or so. So I don't overload my stomach, sometimes I alternate between easy stuff like gels and chews and real food, like bananas, bars, or sandwiches. When it's a cycling trip, usually it's real food, because I know I get way hungrier, and sometimes gels just don't cut it. However, on the run, I cut back to 1 or two easy to eat bars and consume the rest of my calories and carbs via gels or chews. When it comes to the packaged stuff, I like PowerGels, Huma Chia Engery Gels, Clif Blocks, and Honey Stinger everythings because they're delicious. 

I hope you find this helpful. Nutrition is a complicated process when you first start, but once you find what works for your body and practice, practice, practice (just like training for the athletic part of the race!) you'll find it's really pretty simple! Just remember to read labels, and find a good balance without over loading your tummy!

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This blog is following my training as I get ready for the Athleta eSprit de She event season. Three events happen in Texas, the Duathlon in Dallasthe Katy 5k & 10k, and the Cycle Tour in Austin. I'll be doing Austin and Dallas, come join the fun! Enter Comp Code EDS57 for the chance to win some cool prizes!

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