During Race Nutrition
Welcome to Blog Post #2 in our series on Race Day Nutrition! With Nutrition being 90% of the training equation, not eating right is the nutritional version of skipping leg day. While the timing of meals/nutrients isn't as crucial for people exercising less than one hour daily, it can be a huge factor in how elite OCR or endurance athletes perform and recover. By discussing pre-, during, and post-race nutrition (and most importantly, hydration), we hope to guide you into creating better habits to help you peak on race day.
The question of whether you should be eating during your race or workout depends on the timing of your last meal and the level of intensity of the exercise you're doing. When eating during workouts and races the goal remains the same as pre-race nutrition, with staying hydrated being the most important.
Goals for nutrition during exercise:
- Stay hydrated
- Provide immediate fuel
- Boost performance
- Preserve muscle
- Improve recovery
Do I Even Need Fuel During A Race?
That depends. Make sure you fuel properly in between workouts, because your body should have enough fuel stored and in your bloodstream to get you through a 2 hour race/workout without needing added fuel...but only if you are keeping your nutrition on point! That being said, during-exercise/Race fuel is especially necessary for athletes doing long, intense trainings or races (e.g., working for more than 2 hours continuously) and/or more advanced competitors with the goal of significant body composition. This means that, as long as your nutrition is on point between workouts, if you are racing or exercising for less than 90 minutes continuously there is generally not a huge advantage to consuming fuel during the workout and adequate hydration alone should be enough. It is also important to note that while the "90 Minute Fuel Rule" is a good rule of thumb, there are a lot of other factors that can play into this such as temperature, level of effort, intensity, condition of the competitor, etc. So take stock of where you're at as an athlete and make a judgement for what feels right to you and give it a try! Just not on race day: Never Try Anything New On Race Day!
Do not depend on water alone if you are exercising for longer than 2 hours: Your performance and recovery will suffer! This can also lead to hyponatremia: where sodium levels in your blood become too low and can cause your muscles and heart to contract erratically, and can even lead to death.
Protein During Race Or Workout
For those athletes who would benefit from consuming protein during exercise, eating protein during exercise helps prevent muscle breakdown which can lead to both faster recovery and improved performance of your training in the long run. In order to reduce protein breakdown, you only need to eat a small amount during your longer workouts: starting after hour 2 of the exercise, you only need around 15 grams per hour. The best options for this that Fierce Gear OCR carries is the Munk Pack Protein Cookie (with 18 g of protein per cookie), or the Picky Bar (with 7 g of protein per bar), although a protein powder may be absorbed faster. For those who prefer to run on an empty stomach: between 5-15 grams of EAAs (Essential Amino Acids) during training can be helpful.
Carbs During Race Or Workout
Carbs during a race or workout provide quick fuel. This helps fast track performance goals and nurture faster recovery. It keeps our stress hormone (cortisol) down, and good hormones high. If you prefer "solid" food, the Honey Stinger Chews have 39g carbs per package, the Rip Van Wafels have 19g per wafel, the Picky Bars have 28g per bar, and the Munk Pack Protein Cookies have 34g per cookie. For quicker absorption, take a look at the Honey Stinger Gels (27g per serving) or the Tailwind drink mix products (their Endurance Fuel has 25g per serving, and their Rebuild Recovery has 43g per serving).
(P+C) Protein & Carbs: How Much?
Here, again, the magic combo here is Protein and Carbs together. A rule of thumb for what you need is 15g protein : 30-45g carbs starting after 90 minutes of exercise. Carbs give you the energy you need by replenishing glycogen stores, but it’s recommended to incorporate protein as well as it will protect your muscles from breaking down. If you can’t get protein in, the max amount of digestible carbs at once is 60-80g. While it's up to you to determine what works best for your body and race day needs, the products Fierce Gear OCR carries that are closest to this ratio are the Munk Pack Protein Cookies (18g protein/34g carbs), Picky Bars (7g protein/28g carbs), and Tailwind Rebuild Recovery (11g protein/43g carbs).
What About Fats?
Although fat is great for long-lasting energy (and it also creates more energy faster per kCal), it’s recommended to stay away from fats during races and workouts because they are slow to digest and can slow you down by dividing your energy. So, stick to eating fats pre-race! If you want a refresher, you can check out our recommendations for pre-race choices here.
Races Or Workouts Lasting Less Than 2 Hours
The main focus when exercising for less than 2 hours should be hydration. Sports drinks don’t offer a ton of benefit if you’ve done your homework with your pre-race nutrition and you ate well before the race/workout. However, there are a few exceptions: if you’re sweating heavily and need to add extra electrolytes to your system, a sports drink is the perfect fix. An option like Nuun or Tailwind would work well here. And for my weekend warriors that like to double-up on races in the same weekend, a sports drink will help you jumpstart that recovery process for your next race.
You're So Extra
For athletes who want a little extra recovery boost, more advanced athletes looking to lose fat and maintain muscle, or for powerlifting: Add BCAAs during workouts and on Race Day.
The BCAA (branched chain amino acid) group consists of three amino acids, leucine, isoleucine and valine. Two of the main roles of BCAAs is to stimulate amino acid uptake by cells, and protein synthesis. It is recommended that you check even your protein powders to ensure they have all 3 listed in ingredients, because not all of them do! Having all 3 in your system during workouts is essential to muscle growth and recovery.
Aim for 10-15 g of BCAAs every hour during workouts. For advanced athletes wanting to gain weight, have high need for carbs/calories, or for specific sport performance (OCR or endurance racing): Add protein + carbs during workouts and Race Day. The general formula: 30-45 g carb + 15 g protein in 500-600 mL water every hour during activity.
So, if you’re ready to perform instead of just getting by and skipping the nutritional version of leg day, I personally recommend doing it slowly and work on creating habits sustainably. For more information, and to learn more about nutrition and personalized coaching for Obstacle Course Racing and Endurance Sports success please visit us at fullpursuithealth.com and feel free to reach out to me personally with any questions. - Jessie@fullpursuithealth.com.
Thinking about having your Macros calculated? Full Pursuit Health is offering Fierce Gear OCR followers a 50% discount for a full macro breakdown!