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Should You Eat or Drink Your Race Fuel?

In News,Nutrition by Becca Blomquest / September 18, 2014 / 0 Comments

By Brooke Schohl, MS, RD

You have many, many choices when it comes to fueling for endurance races. Your local running, bike or triathlon shop’s shelves are lined with countless products and options…making things a little confusing! Before you wade through all of the brands, nutritional content, ingredients and flavors, it’s important to answer one question: will you use solid or liquid nutrition to get you across that finish line with flying colors?

Most pro triathletes and elite runners use liquid nutrition alone in the form of drinks or gels for longer races. But then again, they are pros. They finish the race up to nine hours sooner than the age groupers do, which makes a big difference. Remember that you are unique and that your fueling strategy probably won’t be the same as your favorite pro, or even your training partner.

I get this question all of the time — solids or liquids? — and the answer is dependent upon a variety of factors. The following considerations will help you make your decision:

The Task at Hand
What event are you training for? Half marathon? Marathon? 70.3 triathlon? A huge factor determining your fuel plan is the type of activity your race entails and of course, the length of the race. Most people have a tough time getting solids down during a run, whereas consuming these foods on the bike is much easier due to the nature of the activity. It’s important to really get in tune with your body — your likes, dislikes and toleration of fuel sources. I always feel that more natural food and drink options will produce better results. So many athletes have adopted clean eating regimens in their everyday lives, and why muddy that up by consuming chemical-filled, engineered products on race day?

Gastrointestinal Toughness
Most liquid nutrition options are primarily carbohydrate. Of course protein can be added to these drink mixes, but carbs are the star of the show. For many of my athletes, consuming large amounts of carbs (without protein and fat) is a killer on the old GI tract. The fuel is absorbed quickly, leaving athletes feeling hungry with inconsistent energy levels. On the flip side, some athletes are unable to consume any solids during racing due to the intensity of the pace or fickle stomachs. Which one are you? Do you do best with mainly carbs, or some protein and fat? Maybe you can handle a combination of liquids and solids if the race is long enough to demand it.

Hourly Caloric Intake
How many calories do you need per hour to get through the race? Athletes with lower caloric requirements can more easily get away with just liquid nutrition. When fueling for training and racing with metabolic efficiency in mind, the amount of calories you actually require is probably much lower than what you are consuming. Metabolic efficiency is a way of fueling that promotes burning fat stores (we all have them) for fuel rather than the more common reliance on high-carb food or drink sources. Wouldn’t it be nice to unload some of those race-day calories and take in only 10 to 30 grams of carbohydrate per hour? You can do it!

Osmolality
Did you know that your body is only able to efficiently digest and absorb a limited amount of calories per specified amount of time? I had an athlete who was over-concentrating his bottles by mixing too many calories into his water bottles. This quickly led to GI distress on race day due to the body’s inability to digest and absorb all the nutrients. For this reason, it is very important to avoid overloading drink mixes and opt for lower calorie options.

Preferences During Training
What do you like to eat during training? During racing? What foods work best for you? If you don’t know, now — during training — is the time to experiment. Challenge yourself to try new things; you may be surprised at what you can get away with. I recommend consuming carbs with protein and fat for as long as possible, then switching over to carb alone towards the end of the training session or race. The longer you can control blood sugar by not consuming carb alone, the more fat is being oxidized. Train your body to stay in a fat-burning place longer by adding fats and proteins to those training/racing fuel carbs. A great example of this is Pocket Fuel, a fruit and nut puree that contains almost equal amounts of carbs, fat, protein and has demonstrated great success among ultra runner and triathlete populations.

Like many other aspects of nutrition and training, there are different strokes for different folks. Meaning, what works for you may not work for your training buddy and vice versa. There are many variables at play here; trial and error during training blocks will help you determine the best course of action for you. Seeking the advice of a sports dietitian never hurts either.

Brooke Schohl, MS, RD, METS, is a registered sports dietitian and the owner of Fuel to the Finish Endurance Nutrition Coaching in Scottsdale, Arizona. She is an avid triathlete, having completed many triathlons of all distances including three Ironman races. She integrates that personal experience and knowledge into developing customized, sport-specific, metabolically efficient fueling plans for her clients. Brooke and her husband, John, own two Scottsdale, Arizona-based triathlon stores named Destination Kona. For more information on services and offerings, visit her website at www.fueltothefinish.com.

Should You Eat or Drink Your Race Fuel?

In News,Nutrition by Becca Blomquest / September 2, 2014 / 0 Comments

By Brooke Schohl, MS, RD

You have many, many choices when it comes to fueling for endurance races. Your local running, bike or triathlon shop’s shelves are lined with countless products and options…making things a little confusing! Before you wade through all of the brands, nutritional content, ingredients and flavors, it’s important to answer one question: will you use solid or liquid nutrition to get you across that finish line with flying colors?

Most pro triathletes and elite runners use liquid nutrition alone in the form of drinks or gels for longer races. But then again, they are pros. They finish the race up to nine hours sooner than the age groupers do, which makes a big difference. Remember that you are unique and that your fueling strategy probably won’t be the same as your favorite pro, or even your training partner.

I get this question all of the time — solids or liquids? — and the answer is dependent upon a variety of factors. The following considerations will help you make your decision:

The Task at Hand
What event are you training for? Half marathon? Marathon? 70.3 triathlon? A huge factor determining your fuel plan is the type of activity your race entails and of course, the length of the race. Most people have a tough time getting solids down during a run, whereas consuming these foods on the bike is much easier due to the nature of the activity. It’s important to really get in tune with your body — your likes, dislikes and toleration of fuel sources. I always feel that more natural food and drink options will produce better results. So many athletes have adopted clean eating regimens in their everyday lives, and why muddy that up by consuming chemical-filled, engineered products on race day?

Gastrointestinal Toughness
Most liquid nutrition options are primarily carbohydrate. Of course protein can be added to these drink mixes, but carbs are the star of the show. For many of my athletes, consuming large amounts of carbs (without protein and fat) is a killer on the old GI tract. The fuel is absorbed quickly, leaving athletes feeling hungry with inconsistent energy levels. On the flip side, some athletes are unable to consume any solids during racing due to the intensity of the pace or fickle stomachs. Which one are you? Do you do best with mainly carbs, or some protein and fat? Maybe you can handle a combination of liquids and solids if the race is long enough to demand it.

Hourly Caloric Intake
How many calories do you need per hour to get through the race? Athletes with lower caloric requirements can more easily get away with just liquid nutrition. When fueling for training and racing with metabolic efficiency in mind, the amount of calories you actually require is probably much lower than what you are consuming. Metabolic efficiency is a way of fueling that promotes burning fat stores (we all have them) for fuel rather than the more common reliance on high-carb food or drink sources. Wouldn’t it be nice to unload some of those race-day calories and take in only 10 to 30 grams of carbohydrate per hour? You can do it!

Osmolality
Did you know that your body is only able to efficiently digest and absorb a limited amount of calories per specified amount of time? I had an athlete who was over-concentrating his bottles by mixing too many calories into his water bottles. This quickly led to GI distress on race day due to the body’s inability to digest and absorb all the nutrients. For this reason, it is very important to avoid overloading drink mixes and opt for lower calorie options.

Preferences During Training
What do you like to eat during training? During racing? What foods work best for you? If you don’t know, now — during training — is the time to experiment. Challenge yourself to try new things; you may be surprised at what you can get away with. I recommend consuming carbs with protein and fat for as long as possible, then switching over to carb alone towards the end of the training session or race. The longer you can control blood sugar by not consuming carb alone, the more fat is being oxidized. Train your body to stay in a fat-burning place longer by adding fats and proteins to those training/racing fuel carbs. A great example of this is Pocket Fuel, a fruit and nut puree that contains almost equal amounts of carbs, fat, protein and has demonstrated great success among ultra runner and triathlete populations.

Like many other aspects of nutrition and training, there are different strokes for different folks. Meaning, what works for you may not work for your training buddy and vice versa. There are many variables at play here; trial and error during training blocks will help you determine the best course of action for you. Seeking the advice of a sports dietitian never hurts either.

Brooke Schohl, MS, RD, METS, is a registered sports dietitian and the owner of Fuel to the Finish Endurance Nutrition Coaching in Scottsdale, Arizona. She is an avid triathlete, having completed many triathlons of all distances including three Ironman races. She integrates that personal experience and knowledge into developing customized, sport-specific, metabolically efficient fueling plans for her clients. Brooke and her husband, John, own two Scottsdale, Arizona-based triathlon stores named Destination Kona. For more information on services and offerings, visit her website at www.fueltothefinish.com.

Intelligent Fueling for Race Day

In News,Nutrition,Training by Becca Blomquest / August 13, 2014 / 0 Comments

By Brooke Schohl, MS, RD

Learn to give your body the right amount of food and drink to perform at your best with these tips.

They say that nutrition is the fourth discipline in a triathlon. Under-fueling leads to bonking and over-fueling can translate to gastrointestinal issues. When you learn to give your body just the right amount of food and drink in order to perform at your best, then you have mastered the elusive fourth discipline. But alas, this is not an easy task.

Use the following intelligent fueling tips to help you conquer this challenge and have a great race!

Only Fuel When Necessary
Most athletes are fueling way too soon and with too many calories (translation: carbohydrates). This mistake negates the body’s ability to tap into fat stores for energy before switching over to carbohydrate as the major substrate utilized. Even in extremely lean athletes, internal fat stores vastly outweigh carb stores, making fat the nutrient of choice to burn. Remedy this by waiting to fuel – two to three hours into a workout or race is just fine. Fat stores jump into action, providing energy to the body during this time period. After two to three hours have passed, you can begin feeding the body calories – carbs as well as fat and protein.

Consider the Race Distance
This tip goes hand in hand with the previous one. For a Sprint triathlon or even an International distance for some athletes, no dietary fuel is needed during the race. Challenge your body’s internal fuel stores to catapult into action rather than relying on dietary carb right away!

Remember — Nutrition is Cumulative
Crappy nutrition throughout the year plus great nutrition in the week leading up to the race equals selling yourself short. The positive effects of a solid everyday fueling plan will shine through on race day. You’ve heard the analogy of an athlete’s body being equated to a high-performance car. Give the car low-octane gas and its performance is limited. Give the car the high-octane gas and it reaches its full potential. Conversely, great everyday nutrition and terrible training nutrition also fail the athlete come race day. Example: the clean-eating athlete who trains with Pop Tarts and soda. The key is to keep it consistent. Eat clean all day, everyday – training and racing included.

Hydrate Properly
It’s the day before the big race. True or false: You should be drinking everything in sight to be fully hydrated and primed for the big day. False! Just hydrate adequately, making sure to use urine color as your guide. A pale yellow color deserves a thumbs up. Anything darker than that and you need more water. Add electrolytes as needed, dependent on factors such as sweat rate, race climate and length of the race.

Consider Fueling Options
Athletes have many, many options when it comes to sports products used during training or racing. Make your selections count: read and understand labels and be comfortable with the ingredients. Check out some of the more natural sports products hitting the market (i.e. Huma Gel, Pocket Fuel, Ignite products). CLIF Bar, with their efforts to include organic ingredients whenever possible, is another worthwhile option. Because CLIF is the official on-course nutrition for Life Time Tri, training with the products you will be using during the race could help you avoid gastrointestinal issues on race day.

Another viable approach is to use real food for fuel. Dried fruit such as figs and dates provide excellent carbohydrates. Don’t use training as an excuse to wolf down doughnuts or that king-size Snickers. Using them during training doesn’t make them any healthier.

Moral of the Story
Less is more. Despite what your friends or sport product packaging may tell you, more is not more. You don’t need 400 calories per hour. You don’t need to drink a gallon of water pre-race. You don’t need to refuel with as many calories as you burned. Be smart and seek the help of a Metabolic Efficiency Training Specialist for more guidance.

Brooke is a registered sports dietitian and the owner of Fuel to the Finish Endurance Nutrition Coaching in Scottsdale, Arizona. She is an avid triathlete, having completed triathlons of all distances including 3 Ironman races. She integrates that personal experience and knowledge into developing customized, sport-specific fueling plans for her clients. Brooke and her husband, John, own Destination Kona Triathlon Store and Destination Kona/Triple Sports in Scottsdale, Arizona. For more information on her services and offerings, Brooke can be reached at brooke@dktristore.com.

Keeping Hydration in Check: How Much is Enough?

In News,Nutrition by Abbie Yarger / July 7, 2014 / 0 Comments

By Brooke Schohl, MS, RD

Keep dehydration and over-hydration out of your race day by learning to take in just the right amount for your body. This summer, take these hydration tips to heart.

You’ve seen it before — the overzealous athlete chugging a gallon of water race morning. Is this necessary? Safe? Recommended? As summer and scorching temperatures approach, it’s tempting to overdo it with fluids. But careful — over-hydrating can lead to hyponatremia, when blood sodium levels become diluted. As a result, your body’s water levels rise, and cells begin to swell. As you can guess, this isn’t a good situation.

On the flipside, dehydration is incredibly dangerous as well. Dehydration occurs when you lose more fluids than you take in. Vigorous exercise, especially in hot or humid weather, expedites fluid loss through sweat. This condition can be mild to moderate, or severe. Mild/moderate symptoms include a dry mouth, tiredness, thirst, decreased urine output, dry skin, headache, constipation and dizziness.

Severe dehydration takes a more drastic turn with warning signs like little to no urination, extreme thirst, sunken eyes, shriveled/dry skin, low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, fever and delirium.

Sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus are all electrolytes lost via sweat; sodium is lost in the largest amounts. Electrolytes are in charge of maintaining water balance, helping your muscles contract/relax and assist in nerve impulse transmissions. Electrolytes are vital to life, and it is essential that they be maintained within their narrow operating windows. Therefore, athletes supplement electrolytes during sport when they will be losing them via sweat.

Keep dehydration and over-hydration out of your race day by learning to take in the proper amount for your body. Here are some tips for maintaining proper hydration.

Track Urine Color
Urine should be a pale yellow color like lemonade — not clear, not apple juice colored. This is the most simple hydration assessment tool as you can use it anytime (well, except when using those port-a-potties on race day).

Calculate Sweat Rate
Sweat rate is an incredibly individual thing, which means that fluid recommendations are given in a range:

  • Make yours personal by finding an online sweat rate calculator such as: triharder.com/THM_SwRate.aspx
  • The average sweat rate per hour is 32-48 ounces
  • The average sodium losses per hour range from 500 – 1,500 mg
  • Set your fluid and electrolyte intake goals based on your findings

 

Hydrating Pre-Event
Drink adequately, not excessively:

  • Amount: 10-20 ounces morning of training/event**
  • Type: Water
  • Electrolytes: Sodium obtained through normal diet should suffice

 

Hydrating During Your Event

  • Amount: 12-24 ounces per hour**
  • Type: Water (liquid calories optional and depend on event length)
  • Electrolytes: 0 – 800 mg/hour of sodium**

 

Hydrating Post-Event

  • Amount: 16-20 ounces per pound lost**
  • Type: Water
  • Electrolytes: No supplements necessary; replace through food!

 

**Highly variable — dependent on body composition, sweat rate and climate

To sum it up, summer can be dangerous when it comes to hydration, so stay on top of it. Weigh yourself before and after events. Observe urine color. Be careful to not under- or over-hydrate; both can be dangerous. Take the necessary steps to ensure you stay safe during warm weather training and events.

Brooke Schohl, MS, RD, METS, is a registered sports dietitian and the owner of Fuel to the Finish Endurance Nutrition Coaching in Scottsdale, Arizona. She is an avid triathlete, having completed many triathlons of all distances including three Ironman races. She integrates that personal experience and knowledge into developing customized, sport-specific, metabolically efficient fueling plans for her clients. Brooke and her husband, John, own two Scottsdale, Arizona-based triathlon stores named Destination Kona. For more information on services and offerings, visit her website at www.fueltothefinish.com.

5 Good Reasons to Cycle Indoors this Summer

In News,Nutrition by Abbie Yarger / July 7, 2014 / 0 Comments

By Coach Troy Jacobson

After spending all winter on the trainer, it’s hard to imagine forgoing a ride on a warm sunny day to crank out your intervals in the pain cave, right?

However, indoor (or stationary) training can and should play a key role in every competitive cyclist and triathlete’s training regimen, as proven by countless athletes of all levels over the years. In the fast-paced lives we all lead where every second counts, indoor workouts can get the job done with time to spare, and all you need is a little bit of motivation and a bike trainer or stationary bike. Following are just a few of the many reasons why it makes sense to ride the road to nowhere.

Reason #1: Indoor workouts are more time efficient
Once your “pain cave” – or workout area – is set up, it’s easy to put on your cycling kit, hop on the bike that’s already on the trainer and start your session. Heading outdoors requires more preparation and potential drive time if you need throw your bike in your car, not to mention that road riding requires that you obey traffic laws like stopping at stop signs and traffic lights. These stops and starts reduce the overall time efficiency and quality of your allotted training time. An argument can be made that one hour on the trainer = 1.5 hours on the road!

Reason #2: Indoor workouts are safer, and can cause less anxiety
Depending on where you live, training on the roads can be a challenge with fighting vehicular traffic congestion, ignorant motorists and torn up asphalt. That weekday post-work ride that’s meant to calm your nerves can actually have the opposite effect. Doing more of your workweek cycling indoors, especially on your “quality days,” can reduce your overall exposure to becoming yet another injured cyclist related statistic.

Reason #3: Indoor workouts are fun to do with a group
Sure, outdoor rides can be fun and social, but indoor riding enables cyclists of different abilities to ride with one another. After all, getting dropped on a trainer ride rarely happens! Invite your friends to join you in your pain cave for workouts, or seek other local indoor group cycling workout opportunities.

Reason #4: Indoor workouts are convenient
Whether heading down into your basement or to your local gym for an indoor cycling class, indoor workouts are generally more convenient than road rides. In addition to less prep time (see reason #1), you can also get other workouts done before or after hopping on the bike.

Reason #5: Indoor workouts can be very high in quality
All of the variables that can negatively affect an outdoor ride, including traffic, terrain, road conditions, wind, other riders, etc. are essentially eliminated when it comes to the indoor ride. When indoors, you have absolute control over the important variables of intensity and duration, so workouts can be of the highest quality over a given amount of time. Find a library of quality indoor training workout sessions, fire up the power meter and/or the heart rate monitor and get to work!

Here’s a sample workout you can try to get started:

Indoor cycling workout

From beginners to the Elite, indoor training has a place in everyone’s training schedule, even during the summer months. Introduce some high-quality indoor rides to your program, and watch your fitness take a leap to the next level!

A former pro triathlete and coach since 1992, Troy Jacobson is the creator of Spinervals Cycling and the Sr. National Director of Endurance Sports Training for Life Time Fitness. Learn more at www.lifetimeendurance.com.

How To Carb-Unload Your Favorite Pasta Dish

In News,Nutrition,Training by Abbie Yarger / June 3, 2014 / 0 Comments

By Brooke Schohl, MS, RD

It’s the night before a big race. A giant bowl of pasta is just what the doctor ordered, right? No – the carb-loading ship has sailed. Use these tips to make your favorite pasta dish more metabolically efficient.  

While endurance athletes absolutely need carbs in their diet, too much of this macronutrient hinders the body’s ability to burn fat for fuel. Fat is the preferred substrate for everyday fueling as well as training/racing. Think about it: your carb stores top out at two or three hours; your fat stores can carry you through up to 10 long-distance races.

Many training foods are heavy in the carb department (easily digestible simple sugars), as athletes need quick energy during training/racing. But is this the best fueling strategy for your day-to-day life? Instead fill the body with foods that stabilize blood sugar, keep energy levels consistent and improve satiety. Counteract carbohydrate blood sugar spikes by adding a fat and protein source to meals and snacks. Include carbs in your daily diet but make them the sideshow (along with fat, protein and vegetables) instead of the main act.

If you’re a pasta junkie, don’t freak out. Use the following tips to carb-unload your favorite pasta recipe and make it more metabolically efficient.

1. Swap regular pasta for quinoa or brown rice pasta.
When you do eat grains, make sure they are quality choices. Enriched flour pastas have little nutritional value and are high in calories.

2. Reduce pasta amount by half or 3/4.
You don’t need an entire box of pasta for a dish to taste great. Cut the amount and see if you even miss it.

3. Add more veggies.
Increase the ratio of vegetables to pasta. The fiber in the veggies will fill you up more than the pasta ever could.

4. Easy on the milk, butter and cheese.
Don’t eliminate these ingredients – you’d miss out on the delicious sauce and consuming fat is ok. Simply scale back a little (try cutting these ingredients in half). Again, you won’t miss it.

Bottom line: Experiment with recipes – don’t feel locked into the ingredients and amounts. This also holds true for restaurant dining. Be comfortable with the meal you select at a restaurant or prepare at home. There’s no need to eliminate favorite meals, just modify them to fit your healthy, super-fit lifestyle. Enjoy guilt-free, that’s the way it should be.

Brooke Schohl, MS, RD, METS, is a registered sports dietitian and the owner of Fuel to the Finish Endurance Nutrition Coaching in Scottsdale, Arizona. She is an avid triathlete, having completed many triathlons of all distances including three Ironman races. She integrates that personal experience and knowledge into developing customized, sport-specific, metabolically efficient fueling plans for her clients. Brooke and her husband, John, own two Scottsdale, Arizona-based triathlon stores named Destination Kona. For more information on services and offerings, visit her website at www.fueltothefinish.com.