Fueling for endurance, performance and (relative) comfort

The importance of carbohydrates before a race is not a myth, says William Kelly, owner of Pyramid Wellness in Rutland, but ideal nutritional practices are much more complex than simply “carb-loading.” Kelly recommends complete proteins from diverse sources including beans, nuts and meats, leading up to the race. Salts are also important, he says, recommending Hymalayan Pink salts as they “have all sorts of trace vitamins and nutrients that are beneficial.”

Sports nutritionist and ultramarathoner Sunny Blende, agrees saying “It’s like building a house, the protein is going to help rebuild the muscle—it’s the lumber and the nails—and the carbohydrates are the construction crew. You need both,” she said in recent article published by

Hydrating sufficiently and eating high quality carbs such as sweet potatoes or whole grain pasta the night before the race is best, experts agree.

Ideally, experts recommend, eating a good-sized breakfast two to three hours before the event starts. Examples of good pre-event meals include a bagel with peanut butter and jelly and a banana, plain oatmeal, ham or bacon, or even a rice, bean, and cheese burrito.

Scientifically, your body can only absorb about 240 calories per hour, nutritionist have found, so it’s important to eat smaller snacks regularly, or you’re likely to get sick.

“It’s a deficit sport. You can’t eat all that you’re expending,” says Blende. She finds regular bites of foods help her stay at the top of her game and sets an alarm to remind herself to consumer something every 15 minutes. Such practices are common. In fact, many endurance athletes go by “the rule of thumb” that consuming 1 gram of carbohydrate per minute of exercise (e.g. 60 grams of carbs per hour or the equivalent of 240 calories) produces optimal fueling during endurance exercise.

Consuming enough calories is more important than the form of the calories, research suggests. Endurance athletes who consume more calories do better than those who consume fewer. (Case in point: Ironman Triathlon Champion Chrissie Wellington, consumed about 335 calories/hour when she won in Hawaii.)

It’s more about “survival” rather than  “good nutrition” during a race, so don’t feel guilty if you use candy as fuel. “Sports” gels, bars, drinks etc. are also just sugar (as far as your body is concerned) and sugar is just a simple carbohydrate.

“I like to eat real foods,” said ultra sports athlete Rob Butler, owner/designer of Shale Hill Adventure Farm in Benson. Butler relies on PB&J sandwiches, ham, bacon, honey, maple syrup and mints to get him through long races. Mints? “They help to open up the respiratory system,” he says.

Experts agree. “Mint is one of the most famous natural herbs used for its analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antioxidant, and vasoconstrictor effects,” the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition recently reported.

Simple, natural, effective!


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