This is probably the single most asked-about topic on our Endurance Planet podcast, and it's something I constantly find myself talking about. Nutrition for anything less than Ironman distance/time is not rocket science. But it is important. For me it's been a work in progress and I'm slowly getting better at it. I've narrowed it down to taking in a great source of calories, that is for sure, now it's just seeing how much I can handle to keep me from slowing down. It gets scary knowing I've had GI issues in the past. But this past race I felt awesome in that regard. A testament to quality calorie sources (namely Skratch, Bonk Breakers)!
A few things I advise in general:
1) Keep it simple with nutrition products; use what you train with and choose products in which the ingredients are rather simple as to not freak out your system with foreign things;
2) Always bring extra of everything you have;
3) Be intuitive with your intake;
4) Take Master Amino Acid Pattern (MAP). Trust me here. Read why here. This is the first time I've used MAP significantly throughout a race (not just before), and there's no doubt in my mind that it played a role in my success for a 6-min PR, by helping me have increased endurance and resilience to fatigue during the race. (Plus, I can get you free shipping this month by clicking the link above and mentioning my name, so stock up now!)
At Oceanside 70.3 this year, I calculated that during the race I took in about 1,000 calories. A decent amount for my size, but next time I'll probably do even more. Not one calorie was forced nor was I on a timer -- I ate/drank naturally when I felt the need for it or wanted it. Eating/drinking intuitively does take some practice to ensure you get enough. In year's past I estimate that I was unintentionally underfueled in races; whether because I was too involved with the race (i.e. forgetting) or GI issues or "hitting the wall" with taste of the calories I had.
So here's what I did last weekend, and it worked out well:
As we all know, good race nutrition starts before the event. All week I ate well and laid off alcohol and bad things, except for chocolate. It's wasn't drastically different than usual (minus less beer). On Friday I ate as I normally would, but in this case that was still more calories than I technically needed given a physical activity status of zero. That was good. I didn't go out of my way to "carb load" I just made sure my body's glycogen stores were full with normal stuff and didn't gorge myself. We had a late lunch (~3:30 PM) so dinner was late too (like 8 PM). I had chicken breast (organic, free-range, bbq'd; the thing was a giant and I only half); quinoa with s&p, lime juice; broccoli sauteed in coconut oil. Perhaps high in fiber, but this is a normal meal for me so it settled just fine, even on race morning. For dessert: several heaping chunks of 85% dark chocolate. No beer or wine. Wasn't in the mood. Instead, the cocktail of choice was a beet juice (with celery too). I went to bed full. Ehhh.
Race Day Breakdown:
Race morning / ~300-400 calories (mostly CHO)
Oatmeal/sweet potato mix, ~350 calories
Coffee, a 1/2 cup was all I choked down
Water, drink to thirst
We were up at 4 AM, at which point I immediately took 6 MAP. I waited ~ 25min for that to digest for max benefits (if you don't wait then some of those precious amino acids/enzymes can be used for digestion rather than going to the muscles and into your system where we want them). Breakfast was 1/4 cup pre-soaked oats cooked and mixed with 1/2 large Japanese sweet potato, 1 tbsp ground chia seed, salt, cinnamon, and almond milk. It was good, but I couldn't even eat it all; not nerves here, just still full from the night prior. Didn't want to to gorge myself. Also, this was relatively high in fiber, but again, it's a normal race meal for me and gave me no negative issues. As for coffee -- I am like the opposite of what you're supposed to do. I drank coffee like normal the week leading up, but then on race morning my nerves did play a role (as usual) causing me to lose the taste for coffee so I only had maybe 1/2 cup with coconut creamer. Lame-o.
Note: 1) I had no added sweetener in any of this breakfast -- I lose the taste for sweet, too, before a race. 2) I had no significant protein outside MAP (i.e. no egg, no protein powder, no almond butter, etc, as I have in the past). The MAP is all the protein you need and its easily digested compared with food protein that is harder to digest and unnecessary. No significant fats either. Just CHO-based. How it should be. Breakfast done by 5:30 AM.
Pre-race / 0 calories
4 MAP, it's the shit
Water, while I was in the corral. Not too much
Note: next time I will be putting Skratch hydration mix (40cal per scoop) into my pre-swim water bottle. I think I could have used a few calories here.
Bike / 680 calories (128g CHO)
2 Bonk Breakers, 440 cals
Skratch Labs Drink Mix, 240 cals in 2 X 20oz bottles
Water, drink to thirst
Loss: 120 cals of Skratch (lost 1 bottle on a bump)
Extra: Skratch single serving sticks, 2 GUs
As soon as I was on the bike I started drinking my Skratch. It was as refreshing as water after that swim (I think I swallowed a gallon of salt water). Skratch's extremely palatable flavor is so subtle that I can drink a fair amount without gagging from sweetness. I seriously have had problems with anything too sweet on race day; I just can't handle it even if it's fine in training. The Skratch I had on board to begin with included 3 bottles with 1 1/2 scoops each of pineapples (~1200 calsand ~30g CHO per bottle, 360cal/90g CHO total). They say 1 scoop makes ~16oz, and my bottles are ~20oz so I like having that extra 1/2 scoop. Then, as mentioned, I lost one bottle early on, which left me with 240 cals, 60g CHO.
I also took my MAP within the first 10min on the bike. I had about 8 in the bag, but I think maybe only 5 made it into my mouth haha. Bring extra.
The Bonk Breakers were pre-cut for easy eating, in baggies in my bento box. Flavors of choice: Apple Pie and Blueberry Oat (220 cal, 34g CHO each). Some will argue keep it only CHO, but I am ok with the little bit of fat/protein on the bike. I ate pieces throughout the whole bike, always chasing with Skratch. The bars were great, and while sweet, definitely not too sweet for my race palate. Now here's the thing, I was only planning on having 1 full bar and maybe 1/2 of the other, but once I lost the bottle of Skratch, I knew I was going to need both bars entirely. That's a lot of solid to put down, but it ended up being totally fine with no GI issues/no side stitches on the bike or run. The key is taking in small bites at a time with drink.
Losing the bottle with Skratch was the kind of thing you have to prepare for in a race. I knew my body would need more than just the 40oz hydration (calories or not), so, as mentioned in the RR, I slowed up at aid stations to grab water for a quick "chug and toss." I also had an extra gel stuffed in my outfit, and grabbed another GU at an aid station -- just in case I began to feel bonky. I also had Skratch sticks; although, I don't think it's possible to use the Skratch sticks while racing unless you stop so they were kinda useless. I was talking to my bike fitter and he estimates that I may have lost up to 2-3min in time with the "stops" at the aid stations. Hmmm. What do you guys think?
Also, next time I think I will stick to 2 BBs and 3 bottles of Skratch to set me up better for the run.
Run / 310 calories (~74g CHO)
Skratch, 80 calories
2 Powerbar Gels, 220 calories
Water, aid stations
I now know that I definitely could have taken in more here, perhaps even double the CHO? And maybe I would have run faster and/or avoided that low I felt for the first half? Still, this was pretty good amount of calories in for me to survive based on what I felt I needed and keeping it "conservative" to avoid GI distress like I've had in the past. I set a pre-mixed 16.9oz bottle of Skratch (1 scoop of pineapples) in T2 before the race to carry with me on the run. That worked out well and I loved having it. I don't mind running with my bottle, especially given the alternatives. I did something "new" too: I had Green Apple and Tangerine PowerBar Gels, even though I prefer the Strawberry Banana in racing. But it was too late to get more as I gathered my things Friday night and realized that's all I had, haha.
I also had my last dose of MAP waiting in T2 and I took that right away. Again, I think I got 5 of the 8 pills I brought? Not even sure haha.
On the run, I open a gel and it will take me nearly a mile to eat it all. I do this for a reason -- so that I can dilute it appropriately with water/drink. Otherwise, if you take it all at once or too fast and you don't drink enough with it to dilute, your body will then draw water to your gut to dilute the thick gel for ideal osmolality thus essentially dehydrating yourself! Exactly what we don't want!
Anyway, I took the Green Apple first within the first 5 miles of the run. I prefer the consistency of PowerGels above others -- it is more liquidy, not chalky and thick. I "sipped" on the gel with sips of Skratch and water, and I'm sure it helped at giving me that feeling of new-found energy (also why I think I could have gone with even more calories early on in the run looking back; next time). Then around mile 8-9ish it was time for more. The Skratch was down to a few more sips, saved to have with the other gel. I ate the Tangerine gel, which honestly tasted gross at that point in the run but I knew I needed it for the final stretch, so down the hatch it went in little bits at a time with Skratch and water at aid stations.
Speaking of aid stations, I maybe slowed up at aid stations ~5-6 times total for cups of water. Less than normal because of the Skratch, so essentially carrying that bottle saved time. Maybe a minute?
One more note on the run: So the rule of "NO outside assistance"... I saw spectators lining the run handing out things like water bottles; I don't think these people were doing anything intentional to get racers in trouble; however, not allowed, right?! Man, I was tempted to take one especially once my Skratch was gone, but I didn't! What is your take on that...?
Finish / many, many, many calories
Beer... Stone, only good shit, of course
2 chicken/avocado tacos...
Party food... all night...
Earth Cafe Cheesecakes for a birthday treat....
Anything that's salty, bring it ON! That's what I love post-race. That said, there was some sweet stuff around too that tasted awesome. Ok... is was ALL awesome! I was not nauseous after this race as I've been in the past, and within 10 minutes I was totally fine eating all the finishline fare. There have been times when this is NOT the case. Beer was a must too... even if not great for recovery going into more racing this upcoming weekend...
My nutrition is getting better with every race. Not perfect, but on track! I've gone from some very bad experiences, to finding out calories sources that work for me that save me from GI issues. Whether or not I am sponsored/affiliated with Skratch and Bonk Breaker, I would still use their product. I also know that I can now practice taking in even MORE calories to maximize my efforts out there -- on the bike for sure to maximize my stores for the run, but more on the run too. It's a work in progress for sure... just as long as I have it figured out for Vegas & Tahoe.
Lastly, I'm open for constructive criticism here, if you'd like to chime in.