March 23, 2016 - When was the last time that you showed up to your goal race for the season without properly training? For most athletes, it doesn’t happen. Athletes decide what race is important to them, and then they diligently prepare for that race. Everyone seems to put a great deal of thought into that one day, but why do so many athletes leave their race day fueling to chance?!
If I asked you to tell me exactly what your sweat rate was, could you answer? What if I asked you to tell me how much carbohydrate you needed per hour to keep your energy levels steady? Do you know if you are a heavy sweater? A salty sweater? How do you know? These are the questions that EVERY endurance athletes should be able to answer before race day, but so many athletes leave this part of racing to chance.
What if I asked you, when was the last time that you bonked in a workout or race? Can you remember a specific time this happened? Can you remember a specific time that you got dehydrated during a workout or race? If you can, you are DOING SOMETHING WRONG!!!! Endurance athletes should not be bonking or allowing themselves to get dehydrated. Finishing a race or workout depleted and dehydrated does not mean that the race or workout went well. It means that you messed up your nutrition badly. Bonking should not happen. This only happens to athletes that do not prepare. This happens to athletes that may be smart enough to train for their race, but still dumb enough to ignore an enormous part of the race; nutrition.
If you are one of these people, you aren’t alone. We have ALL been there! It only takes a few failed workouts or failed races because of nutrition before you wise up. However, some people continually make the same mistakes. Regardless of where you fall along this spectrum, everyone can pay a little more attention to their fueling in order to perform to their potential on race day.
Proper nutrition or fueling refers to eating carbohydrate often enough to maintain a constant blood sugar level AND drinking enough fluid to stay adequately hydrated. So how much carbohydrate is enough? How much fluid do you need to avoid dehydration? How much sodium do you need to avoid cramping? How often should you eat and drink? What products should you use? These are all great questions and we want to help you answer them!
The first step is determining the best plan of action. Since proper fueling can and will be the difference between a good endurance race and a bad one, this isn’t something that should be ignored. Make a plan, stick to it, and alter it as needed. Sometimes a little trial and error is needed and sometimes you need to hire a professional to help you make this plan. Keep in mind, your triathlon coach SHOULD be capable enough to help you with your fueling. If they can’t help you figure out exactly how much YOU need in terms of hydration and carbohydrate per hour, you may want to start looking for a better coach. Every athlete is different in terms of their hydration and carbohydrate needs, so don’t let your coach give you a number that they ‘think’ works for everyone. AJ Baucco Coaching provides all of their athletes with detailed Fueling Plans for every race distance (from Sprint Triathlon to Ironman and even Half Marathons and Marathons). Our fueling plans are 100% individualized and they cover exact hydration needs, carbohydrate needs, and specific instructions for the timing of nutrition. Our 11 page document even provides the athlete with specific instructions on their carbo load, and it gives the athlete nutritional troubleshooting techniques for race day. Not coached by AJ Baucco Coaching, but interested in getting your own individualized Fueling Plan from us? Click here to learn more or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The second step is determining YOUR specific sweat rate. This is important to making sure that you don’t get dehydrated. Athletes can lose (roughly) up to 2% of their body weight before their performance is negatively affected by dehydration. Therefore, a 175 pound person can only lose about 3.5 pounds of sweat before they will suffer performance consequences (if they are not drinking during exercise). Now, 3.5 pounds may seem like a lot, but that is only 56oz. Many athletes can lose more than 56oz of sweat in one hour, especially in hot environments. That means that some athletes can enter a state of dehydration after only 1 hour of training without fluid comsumption. So how much fluid do you need to consume in order to avoid dehydration? That depends on race distance, your sweat rate, and your weight. If your weight is 175 pounds, your sweat rate is 40oz and you are doing a 12 hour Ironman. Then, you can only afford to lose 2% of 175 pounds (3.5 pounds or 56 ounces) over the course of 12 hours. That is only a 4.67 ounce deficit per hour, so to be safe, you will need to drink roughly 36 ounces of fluid per hour. Determining your sweat rate can be done a variety of ways. Just be sure to test this several times so that you get a good idea of your sweat rate. Sweat rates are largely affected by environment so testing in an environment that is similar to race day is very important. Heat acclimation also plays a role in how much you sweat. Athletes that are more acclimated to a hot and humid environment will sweat a bit less. Regardless of your sweat rate, a great rule of thumb on race day is drink until you pee. Athletes should be peeing at least twice during an Ironman bike and once during a half ironman bike.
The third step is determining how much carbohydrate you need, figuring out how much you can handle, and then practicing your nutrition strategy enough so that you can handle as much as you need!!! Determining how much carbohydrate you need definitely varies depending on each person and your lean body mass. A decent rule of thumb for determining this number is just multiply your body weight by 0.6. So a 175 pound person would need roughly 105 grams of carbohydrate per hour. For those people that were sleeping in health class, that is 420 calories PER HOUR!!! That may seem like a lot, and it is if you are used to fueling your workouts with water and no other calories. If you are one of those people, jumping right into 420 calories an hour is certainly going to make you sick. Ease into it. That number is still a base line. I have seen athletes with high sweat rates consume far more than 0.6 grams of carbohydrate per pound. I myself have done Ironman triathlons consuming closer to 1g of carbohydrate per pound because of my higher hydration needs. My point is, like your legs, your stomach can be trained. Figure out what YOU need in terms of hydration and nutrition so that you can perform at your best.
If you don’t feel comfortable figuring this all out for yourself, leave it to us. AJ Baucco Coaching has written over 100 fueling plans in the last few years and we have not had one athlete bonk or get dehydrated when following our plans. We don’t leave anything to chance. Click here to learn more or email me at email@example.com.