THE MERRELL BLOG: WHAT'S NOW. WHAT'S NEXT. LET'S GET OUTSIDE.
Long Distance Race Nutrition For The Layman
Part 1 of Sean McFarlane's series of race advice
If you’re anything like me, you’ll have started to read numerous articles on nutrition only to lose interest and perhaps the will to live after the first paragraph. Some like to get very scientific and technical about what we consume during long distance racing but I’m not one of them. Perhaps it’s to my detriment but I prefer to get by through a series of trials and errors, with hopefully the error count dropping off after each race. I still make mistakes but I am learning. So what have I learnt? Here are five lessons, picked up the hard way.
1. Make sure you’ve tested your race nutrition. I’ve seen so many people, particularly with gels, turn up on race day, get their goodie bag with a couple of gels and use them for the first time during the race. A big no no. Gels are an acquired taste and you’re unlikely to make that acquisition straight away.
2. In longer races don’t hesitate to use real food. My bigger races are won in over 12 hours yet so many competitors are fed up with and can’t stomach gels and energy bars by half way through. That really is a rookie mistake, which I’ve made on far too many occasions. I normally have about 30% (sorry, getting a bit technical!) of real food during these races. My nosebag of choice is white rolls with butter, cheese and tomato cut in half and wrapped in tin foil. In transitions or any stops I tend to have small pots of creamed rice and custard.
3. Fuel up at the right time. I see so many people, particularly on the bike, approaching a climb and stuffing themselves in preparation for it. Wrong. The extra exertion required to get up the climb will seriously affect your digestion so it’s a far better strategy to focus on rewarding yourself with something at the top.
4. Liquid intake. Until relatively recently, I mainly took water in my bottles but I’ve had far better results from adding at least something to it. The choice is yours but, sticking to the layman approach here, your system needs something to entice it into absorbing the liquid and its contents, which it won’t do with water alone. There are so many products out there that it’s not difficult to find one that you’ll like the taste of.
5. Graze don’t gorge. Try to operate a continuous grazing process and certainly don’t wait until you’re hungry or thirsty before taking nutrition on board. Prevention really is better than cure. To graze effectively, make nutrition as easy as possible to take. On the bike, back pockets are still popular but having things almost to hand can be easier. Experiment with this as you don’t want to interfere with the bike’s function. Having a front pouch clipping your leg on every pedal will really take its toll after five hours. And things falling off into the spokes can be costly in many ways.
So the main message? Experiment. Training isn’t all about the physical preparation.
These are the views and opinion of Sean Macfarlane and are examples of what works for him. They may not work for everyone and Merrell advise everyone to exercise sensibly and consult professional medical advice with any exercise related concerns.