Saturday, 7 May 2016

Nutrition and other tips and tricks for a 80 km long race in undulating terrain (AKA rolling hills)

These are some nutrition and other tips and tricks for a race ~80 km long in undulating terrain (aka rolling hills), in temperate weather conditions as the one tomorrow in Oslo, the Ceresrittet race.

I think this type of course is quite common in a lot of club-level races, so these tips and tricks should apply to many races and will likely refer to people to this post in the future or you can save it in your bookmarks if you find it useful.

The race is not particularly long, and most people would aim at finishing it in ~2 h. Muscle glycogen depletion is unlikely if the pace is moderate, but if you are up for a hard race (I’m sure you are) you want to be sure that muscle glycogen depletion is not a limiting factor and affects your performance in the later stages of the race.

24-48 h pre-race: Have a diet rich in carbohydrates (CHO), low in fat and fiber. Aim at 10-12 g of CHO per kg of body mass for 24 to 48 h pre-race. This can be quite a lot of food for most people. Provided you don’t want to have TOO MANY calories with all this food, aim at having low-fat high-carbohydrate meals. There is nothing bad with the fat in food, it is just that it makes the food too energy dense and blows your energy budget. Instead aim at carbohydrate dense meals. Try to spread the food out during the day so as to avoid feeling bloated or too full. For this period avoid having foods high in fiber so as to avoid unnecessary weight gain due to water retention in the gut. A good tip to increase the CHO budget of the day is to have sweet (low fat) desserts at lunch and dinner. Good examples of these are creamed rice and banana with caramel (Hapå) (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Hapå and bananas make a terrific pre-race day snack and/or dessert.

2-4 h pre-race: Aim at ~2 g CHO per kg of body mass. Again, low fat.

30 min-15 min pre-race: Have 3 mg of caffeine per kg of body mass. Caffeine is a well-proven ergogenic aid.

During the race: Aim at a total of ~120 g of CHO intake. It is going to be unusually warm (17-21 C) during the race considering that it is Norway/Oslo so you probably don’t want to have all these CHO in very dense form (i.e. gels). In my case I will aim at having 500 ml of a 20% CHO solution (total 100 g CHO) and ~500 ml of water to wash it down if thirsty. The other 20 g can come from a pre-race banana or similar.

Post race: Unless you are doing another hard effort(s) on the day or the day after, it is a good time to forget a little bit about the carbohydrates and focus more protein ingestion. Aim at 20-25 g of protein immediately after the race and every 3-4 h. Try to push back the ingestion of carbohydrates for as long as you can manage and bulk-up your diet with fibre-rich food like different types of salads. This is also a good time to ingest high-quality oils/fats like those in nuts, avocado and fish. Salmon and a salad or a salad with cottage cheese would make a great post-race meal/snack.

Please consider that these are general guidelines and you would need to adjust all these based on personal aspects of each individual.

It should be noted that another ergogenic aid that could have a beneficial effect on this type of race is Beta-alanine, which requires ~15 days of pre-race treatment for significant increase of skeletal muscle carnosine levels.

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