How to Fuel Your Next Marathon or Sportive
Having an effective nutrition and hydration strategy for your next marathon or sportive will help you to get the best performance on the big day. Getting it wrong can have a drastic effect, and this is why we should always have a nutrition and hydration plan worked out beforehand.
In this blog we summarise the basics about energy use and hydration during endurance sports, and give some key pointers to help you make the most of your event.
First Things First
Our bodies fuel endurance sports using a combination of the limited glycogen stores in our muscles and liver, along with our relatively unlimited fat stores.
High intensity efforts will be drawing close to 100% glycogen for energy, while more moderate efforts will be in the region of 30% glycogen and 70% fat.
So, if we are working hard (climbing hills, riding in a fast group or running into a strong breeze) we’re going to be using more of our limited glycogen stores and ultimately accelerating the depletion of this limited supply.
If we allow our bodies to run low on glycogen we see a significant fall-off in effort and, in many cases, hit the dreaded marathon runner’s wall or the cyclist’s bonk.
How to Fuel Your Next Marathon or Sportive
There are four key aspects to consider when planning a marathon or sportive from a fuel perspective - pace, energy management, hydration and emergency fuel.
Judging our effort will help ensure that we don’t dip into those limited glycogen stores too much or too early. This is especially important during the early miles when the buzz and excitement tend to carry us along at a pace that’s probably higher than planned.
Not being able to resist the urge to overtake people is another glycogen killer - each of those little extra efforts shifts the energy ratio more towards the glycogen zone.
Work out in training what’s a sustainable pace and try to stick to it. If anything, under-cook it in the early miles so there is something in the tank later when everyone else is tiring.
Making sure we have enough of the right fuel starts before the event. Get fully loaded with the good stuff (carbohydrates) by eating well in the days before the event - pasta, pizza, wholemeal breads - and try to have a good slow-release breakfast such as porridge on the day of the event. Elivar’s PREPARE works well where you can’t or don’t want to eat a meal ahead of an event.
During the event have a steady supply of carbohydrates on hand to supplement glycogen stores. Ideally we will be staying ahead of our glycogen needs - topping up the stores with sustained release energy sources from the start rather than trying to catch up with high-GI energy sources such as gels later in the day - that’s called emergency fueling!
Oat-based bars or sustained release energy drinks such as Elivar’s ENDURE are good options – this has a blend of carbs designed to deliver sustained release energy.
Water, water, water. We can’t say it enough. If we don’t drink we will grind to a halt. It’s needed for cooling but also as part of the conversion of fuel into energy and for the digestion process.
The only question is how much to drink and when. Little and often is a good rule of thumb and between 500ml to 1 litre an hour is a good guideline, depending on temperatures. The hotter it gets the more you need to drink and you may wish to include electrolytes which help keep your salt levels up and regulate the water and electrolyte balance in your body.
Elivar’s Hydrate Plus includes electrolytes along with sustained release energy. This gives us the best of both worlds.
Some days, despite having done all the hard training or eaten correctly, things just don’t go to plan energy-wise. Maybe we couldn’t contain ourselves and went too hard or the course was just harder than expected. So here we are staring at the dreaded wall or feeling like we’re cycling through tar. It’s time to break out the emergency sugar rations…..
Fructose or sucrose-based gels, drinks and sugar-laced Jelly Babies all deliver rapid energy. While you should avoid using them during normal training due to the health implications of regular use, they have their place - as emergency energy. They may not be healthy but they do the job - rapid supply of energy to get us over the hump.
The same applies to caffeine gels or tablets - they have a stimulant effect and should only be used in emergency. Use them with care - they aren’t a great way to fuel our otherwise healthy adventure.
We all know that effort requires energy which, in turn, requires fuel. However, we sometimes neglect this very basic part of our preparation and begin an event with no clear plan for nutrition or hydration. This is too important to leave to chance and following these basic guidelines will help ensure that you get it right on your big day.
If you have specific questions about how Elivar’s products deliver performance and health benefits for endurance athletes feel free to email us directly