4 Humps to Go: Fuel for your Fire

by Ted Willard – G2 Altitude Training and Coaching

Chapter 3: Fuel for your Fire

What should I be eating when I am riding? I don’t want to cramp. Am I getting enough electrolytes? When should I eat prior to a race?

There is no more fought over and debated issue then that of how to fuel the human body. Trust me, all the answers are not here! What is here is a few tips and a few myths you should all read and understand.

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Sometimes a smile at the end of the race, has nothing to do with what you ate (Photo: Steve Shambeck)

Do I need to “Carbo Load” prior to a race?

NO! It’s seldom necessary. Research has shown that carbohydrate loading has no effect on performance in races lasting less than about 90 minutes. Also, its effect is minimal even in longer races when adequate carbohydrate is consumed during the race. So your diet the day before an XC event or an Over The Hump Race should be similar to the rest of the week.

When should I eat before a race?

The basic guideline is that you should eat a normal meal about 3 hours before your race begins. Everyone’s body works a little differently but this time frame should offer adequate time for digestion and will not take energy away from your race performance to digest food that may have been eaten too close to race start.

How much do I have to drink to avoid dehydration?

A lot of athletes ask this question and my answer surprises them. I say, “It’s ok to be dehydrated.” Yes. The widely accepted rule of drinking to avoid dehydration has been in question quite a lot lately. Especially for events that are relatively short like Over The Hump, drinking to avoid dehydration is an uphill battle. It’s unlikely that the effects of becoming dehydrated will affect you during the race but to drink enough to completely prevent dehydration during exercise is counterproductive. Instead drink enough based on thirst during the event and then drink enough water after the event periodically over the next few hours to avoid the effects of dehydration. A number of studies have shown that athletes perform best and face no additional risk of heat illness when they simply drink by thirst, which typically replaces only 65-70 percent of sweat losses.

But won’t I cramp?

You could write an entire book on the debate and issues relating to cramping and the hundreds of nutrition products and theories on why athletes cramp during exercise. Recent science has clearly shown that there is no correlation between dehydration levels and risk of cramping. Actually, most muscle cramping appears to be a symptom of a type of neuromuscular fatigue that is caused by unaccustomed exertion. Why do you always cramp during races? Because you have pushed your body beyond the level of exertion it is accustomed to. So what is the solution? Well, there is no sports drink or amount of water that will instantly make you stronger. So the answer lies in your preparation, your training for the event. Drinking more fluid and consuming more electrolytes have not been shown to reduce cramping., There are however some key nutrients that can delay the onset of muscle fatigue (cramping). A recent study has shown that increasing the amount of sodium before prolonged exercise will delay the onset of cramping. So be sure that your favorite race fuel drink is high in sodium and you can effectively delay the onset of muscle fatigue.


And now the question you have all been waiting for ……

Is my post race beer proper recovery food?

No! But you earned it!

 

About the author:

Ted is a USA Cycling Certified Coach and avid mountain biker. He cut his teeth on the US Cup MTB Series in 2011 taking the Series overall and landing on the top podium step at 3 US Cup XC events last year in Cat 1 30-34. He is an owner of G2 Bike in Aliso Viejo. G2 Bike is a full service bike shop and also offers all types of athlete coaching programs and compliments many of its athletes training with G2 Altitude Training.

More info at www.g2bike.com

Coming up:

Chapter 4: Lightening the load, Equipment choices and tips!

Chapter 5: Ready, Set, Go!

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