/ Nutrition for an endurance race event - help!
I'm taking part in the Patrouille des Glaciers ski mountaineering race from Zermatt to Verbier in Aprril. About 4000m of vertical and 56km or so with a midnight start in Zermatt and at altitudes up to 3600m. Whilst I have experience of long days in the hills fuelled by a cheese sandwich, a Mars bar or two and a litre of sports drink, I'm advised that this won't cut it for 10-14 hours hard effort with few stops. So, something more systematic is needed. Some websites I've looked at suggest mainly gels, 1-2 per hour, and vast amounts of sports drink but its difficult to work out fact from advertising. The first 4-5 hours will be without support and I'm not going to be carrying much more than a litre of drink and a diet of gels doesn't sound good. Any racers out there who can share what they do and use ?
I'd suggest for something that long that gels and sports drinks alone won't be a good plan. Your stomach will probably revolt.
I find mixing normal foods bananas, flapjacks, sandwiches, etc in with gels and sports drinks works best.
Having said that, it's highly personal, what works for some won't work for others. The only thing that is certain is that you shouldn't trial an unknown nutrition strategy in an important event.
Mini pork pies and mini scotch eggs work for me. Seriously.
I echo the advice above. I've done lots of 100+ mile ultras. Doing "mainly gels, 1-2 per hour, and vast amounts of sports drink " would destroy my digestion. Judging by the smears of oily puke streaming from blue-lipped cadavers at around 30-40 miles, I'm not alone.
Find food you enjoy, so you can actually look forward to eating it. For me, it's flapjacks (Chia Charge work for me, and Nakd), cheese butties, potatoes, peanuts... Sweet things make me bilious, and are saved, along with caffeine, for emergencies. We're all different, though.
Edit: I meant cheese-and-onion-and-butter butties. Of course.
I'd have a half litre to drink and a couple of cereal/energy bars(or even a cheese & jam sandwich) on the start line, just 10-15mins before the off. Early enough to give you time to snack, sort rubbish etc.. but not to early to turn the desire for a nervous pee into a real one. I'd have another bar or two in my pocket.
Unless you are accustomed to gels 14hrs of them could have undesired conseuences with your stomach and bowels. I'd aim to snack on something more solid and save the few gels for a boost just before the climbs.
Drink early. You aren't likely to finish over hydrated.
Some pals did it a few years back, there are refuelling stations. Also, get good at skating.
I met them at rosablanche with some extra supplies too.
As said above whatever you use train with it too. Personally I'd suggest a mix of gels and real food and a carb sports drink. Carb drink keeps you topped up by regular drinking and you can carry the powder in a zip bag for fuel stops if you have them. Gels are quick and easy as long as they agree with you and if you don't binge on them you should be fine (High5 is quite good). Bag of mixed nuts whatever you fancy really sod the calories its irrelevant IMO. I quite like honey roasted cashew something I'd never eat loads of day to day or I'd be the size of a house! One thing I tried and definitely don't recommend is peanut butter and jam wraps/sandwiches. In theory you get alot of energy but they stick to your mouth, hard to eat especially if cold.
Drinking regularly is super important for most people, you get the odd "freak" who can do hours on a thimble!
Whatever you use if its working in training and you sustain the effort you expect then it's right for you in my opinion be that mars bars, gels, pork pies or jam sandwiches. Don't turn up with a pack of "science" in your pack that you've not used before ;-)
For that length of event, would you not need to supplement fast burn carbs/gels with something more fatty to last the day?
If I'm out for a long day in the hills (nothing as long as this race though), and eat only sugar, I'll crash towards the end of the day if I don't keep regularly eating (like really regularly, and quite large volumes of sugar).
For the same day out, if I fuel it with fat-rich food (cheese, nuts etc) and start off with a fatty breakfast (and no 'carb loading' the night before) then I'm much more able to perform at a constant intensity throughout the day, and refuelling is nowhere near as time critical. Personal choice of course, but that works for me. Might help you too.
Oh, and make sure you get enough salt throughout the race and immediately afterwards.
Loosely: fatty and complex carb foods with lots of seeds, nuts, and whole grains for the first half of the outing, such as cheese sandwiches on lumpy bread, wholemeal flour sausage rolls, brown rice onigiri, foods with a lower glycemic index, that sort of thing; slightly sweeter fatty and complex carb wholegrain things for the third quarter (such as flapjacks, any recipe of those home-made energy bars that are popular these days, GORP, bombay mix, etc; and simpler carbs for the final quarter... Mars bars, snickers, cake, rocky road; and save the gels for the last couple of hours.
Keep the ultra simple sugars out of your blood for as long as possible, and rely on fats and complex carbs as much as you can for most of the day, little and often. Have one or two mouthfuls wrapped individually every twenty minutes instead of trying to polish off a whole sandwich at once.
As others have said, gels are harsh on the stomach. You get far too much highly available sugar in at once, so your stomach has to draw water in from elsewhere in order to process it. This is OK for a while, but if you keep asking your body to divert precious water resources while it's under sustained pressure to make that it available to the rest of your system, eventually the whole process will fall over.
Solid foods don't have the same problem as the slower digestion means there is much less water required at any given time.
Most of the commercial energy drink powders are not that great either, as they come with too many short chain sugars - which means if you mix a drink with enough energy density, you'll still have to keep drawing water back in. Also they tend to be flavoured to taste nice for someone doing an hour or two of exercise, and after three or four hours of working hard that starts to become nauseatingly strong.
If you do want to avoid carrying too much real food, working out your hourly water, electrolyte and fuel requirements, and creating a custom powder formula, for me was the gold standard. I've only gone up to about 8 hours that way but it was the only strategy I found for those sorts of distances that guaranteed me no GI distress whatsoever. There used to be a company called infinit who did the customisation for you once you'd worked out your requirements, but they're no longer operating in the UK, so a bit of geekery would be required.
My husband does ultra distance stuff and uses various of the Mountain Fuel products. Doesn't use gels any more. He's coeliac so can't rely on food provided at feed stations at most events, so carries various flapjack sort of things too. He says he has a distinct need for savoury food at some points so factors that in too.
Rather than gels, you may want to consider Clif Shot bloks - basically chewy sweets. I use these when cycling or running. Apparently one packet is equiv to 2 gels, but because there are 6 in pack you can go for the little/often approach. Plus you don't have the problem with a sticky wrapper in your pocket, and once opened you can squeeze them out with your gloves on. I even think they are pretty tasty too.
Suggest you try them first, but I buy boxes of 18 at a time - brings the cost down to about £2 a packet
For an Ironman I alternated pieces of clif bars and clif blocks (aiming for 300 cals/hr) every 15 minutes and a bottle of sports drink every hour during the bike and first half of the run (hrs 1-12) and the second half of the run was anything I could get my hands on, the aid stations had and I was craving salted tortilla chips and coke.
Gels make me poo
> If you do want to avoid carrying too much real food, working out your hourly water, electrolyte and fuel requirements, and creating a custom powder formula, for me was the gold standard.
That sounds interesting. Do you have any pointers for how to go about estimating this? Water = weight so that sounds simple. Not sure about the others. Thanks!
Read Extreme Alpinism by Mark Twight - there's a lot of excellent info including a brilliant chapter on nutrition: https://www.goodreads.com/work/editions/117454-extreme-alpinism-climbing-light-fast-and-high
You can get some guidelines online to start you off, but then working out how many calories you need is a bit of trial and error over your long training runs. Electrolytes also, but that's more complicated as you want to work out how much you need in low sweat and high sweat environments, and then guestimate how much you're likely to sweat in the conditions on race day.
When it comes to creating the formula, you would need to understand the osmolality of the made up drink. Unless you're a chemist, or have a good memory of your high school science, there's a wee primer here to start you off: https://www.infinitnutrition.us/osmolality-101
That's great, thanks. I ask because I tend to need a lot of salt to avoid cramping, eyelid twitches, and if it gets bad then occasionally brief odd heart rhythms. Day to day this is fine, but on long days out I need to be aware of it and compensate.
Yeah, that will unfortunately compromise the amount of energy you can pack into an isotonic drink, but the whole thing is a mad balancing act anyway. The important thing is to figure out what works for you during training
> I'm taking part in the Patrouille des Glaciers ski mountaineering race from Zermatt to Verbier in Aprril. About 4000m of vertical and 56km or so with a midnight start in Zermatt and at altitudes up to 3600m. Whilst I have experience of long days in the hills fuelled by a cheese sandwich, a Mars bar or two and a litre of sports drink, I'm advised that this won't cut it for 10-14 hours hard effort with few stops. So, something more systematic is needed. Some websites I've looked at suggest mainly gels, 1-2 per hour, and vast amounts of sports drink but its difficult to work out fact from advertising. The first 4-5 hours will be without support and I'm not going to be carrying much more than a litre of drink and a diet of gels doesn't sound good. Any racers out there who can share what they do and use ?
Based on personal experience I would say that a litre of drink is not enough for 4-5 hours of hard excercise. If you dehydrate early on it is hard to recover.
Thanks everybody for all the excellent and sensible-sounding ideas and advice, plenty to look into and try.
To JuneBob: I can skate as I do a lot of Nordic track ski skating, however one of the team members isn't so hot at that. Somebody else also advised that skating can save a lot of time.
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