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Part 2 on nutritional timing!

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Part 2 on nutritional timing!

Ultramarathon through Yosemite.


Skill: Bar Muscle-up

Speed Squat: 2 reps @ 60-65% EMOM for 10 sets

Not for time: 3 Rounds – 25 Windshield Wipers, 15 Goblet Squats, 2 TGU ea. arm

If you missed Part I of this series on nutritional timing, check it out.  If you are the kind of person that can pick up right in the middle of a story without worrying about what has transpired already, then you are the worst kind of person I know.

So we have already covered Stage V and Stage I eating.  Now we will explore the intricacies of Stage II.  There can be a lot of variance here from athlete to athlete, but there are also some very common rules we can abide by when fueling at this stage.

Stage II eating covers everything you will consume from when the gun goes off until you cross the finish line.  What you eat and drink will vary depending on a few factors, namely: length or race, weather during the race, race priority, and to a lesser extent your Stage I eating prior to race time.  I say lesser because we should have that pre-race eating and watering down to a science.  Before we can begin our discussion of time duration of the race, I must leave you with some caveats on individual food tolerances.

Everyone has tolerances built up to different foods.  If you eat a SAD (Standard American Diet), chances are your gut can handle high levels of gluten, fructose and other sugars, and all kinds of potentially nausea or cramp-inducing fuels.  If you have been eating a diet free from gluten and excessive amounts of fructose, your stomach will not be happy if you ingest these things before, during, or after your race.  Testing these dietary parameters in C priority races or even training will be important.

When testing these parameters it is important not to confound what you are testing with some other unforeseen factor.  Some athletes will feel nauseous not because of their poor fueling strategies, but maybe because of excessive fluid consumption, maintaining a pace too fast for their current state of training, excessive nutrient consumption, dehydration, excessive salt water consumption (think salt water swims in triathlons), or just plain nervousness about the race.  The body is a very complex system making the testing of nutritional timing difficult to do, so limit as many of the input as possible when testing.  For every input there are myriad and multiplicative outputs.  By limiting the inputs in to the complex system, you will also limit confounding outputs.

I know that was a lot of fluff, but now we can begin to break up our race/training durations in to specific nutritional guidelines:

  • 2-90 minute efforts: At these durations the most important nutritional stage isn’t actually Stage II, but you should be more focused on Stages V and I – in that order.  The chances of you bonking midway through even a 90 minute effort are very slim.  I know a lot of 5k and 10k races happen the morning of a holiday, so just be sure not to party too hard the night before.  Adequate fluid intake before the race will be your primary goal at this duration.  At the longer end of the spectrum you can begin to concern yourself with fluid intake during the race, but solid calories will be a non-factor.
  • 90 min – 4 hour efforts: This is where nutrition can not only be the difference between holding your pace and not, but it can also be the difference between you finishing the race or bonking out.  You will need to, once again, make sure your Stages V and I eating and watering are up to snuff.  After that, your main priority will be adequate water and carbohydrate repletion.

    It is best to take in carbohydrates in the form of liquid such as a sports drink.  Gels and similar endurance substances are fine as well, but you must drink 4-6 ounces of water per 100 calories consumed with these.  Do not think it is ok to use sports drink here instead of water.  The digestive load of 100 calories can easily begin to pull away much needed water from your blood plasma if you are not taking in WATER as well.  Like most things in life, adhering to just one form of anything can and will lead to disaster.  Do not think that water is enough to get you through your race, and do not fall prey to advertisings telling you all you need is some new sports drink.  Consuming both in the right amounts will behoove you.

    There is a growing body of research showing that some protein ingestion will limit serotonin secretion.  Serotonin is a chemical that induces a sleepy/tired feeling.  The longer the event, the more likely we will release serotonin.  By taking in a sports drink with a 4:1 carb to protein ratio, we can limit serotonin secretion.  Accelerade is a good choice.

    At very high intensities you will need to replenish about a calorie of carbohydrate per pound of bodyweight per hour.  (“You said there would be no math!” …I lied.)  Sneaking in a quarter calorie of protein (4:1 carb:pro ratio) per pound of bodyweight per hour would be wise.  That means 150 calories of carbohydrate and 40 calories of protein per hour for me.  I would then spread this intake out over the course of the hour eating and drinking in 10-20 minute spurts.  The idea of eating every 10 minutes is ridiculous during a race in my mind, so I choose to stage my intakes every 20 minutes or as close as possible to it.

    Electrolytes begin to be of some importance at the upper end of this time spectrum or in extreme heat situations.  The most important one at this time frame is sodium.  It is also the most easily accessible.  Salt caps are a pill full of sodium and a few other electrolytes and are easy to transport.  There are also salt tabs you can suck on.  The one that makes the most logistical sense would be a sports drink with added sodium.  It will be more than adequate at this duration of event.

  • 4-12 hour efforts: We are now in to a time duration that, unless very elite levels are attained by the athlete, you will be working well below your anaerobic threshold.  This means your primary fuel use will be that of fat.  This does not mean we can skimp on the carbohydrate intake, though.  Fat burns in a carbohydrate fire.  If we are to mobilize AND utilize our fat intake and stores, we must still be consuming adequate carbohydrate every hour.

    Adequate carbs at this distance/time will be 300-600 calories per hour range.  Once again, this is based off the one calorie of carbohydrate per pound of bodyweight per hour.  BUT NOW WE DOUBLE IT.  The repercussions of bonking during this kind of race can actually begin to be life-threatening.  If you are out on an 18 hour course with limited or no resupply, chances are you will have no easy outs off the course.  Experimentation and smart note taking during your training runs will help you here.  Nonetheless, a good place to start is 300-600 calories of carbohydrate per hour, as well as 80-150 calories of protein per hour.

    We are not going to be able to totally replenish muscle glycogen during these events, but if we can keep our hourly deficit less than 100 calories chances of bonking will be slim.  Spread your hourly consumption out and continue to take in 4-6 ounces of water per 100 calories of food.

    At these durations, hydration and electrolyte consumption are ever important.  16-24 ounces of liquid per hour will stave off dehydration and its negative effects on performance and health.  A sports drink with sodium would be ideal.  1,000mg or 1g of Na or sodium per hour will be adequate in all but the most extreme of conditions.  However, experimentation will lend itself well here.  On your longer, hotter training runs, weigh before and after the run without any fluid intake.  This way you can figure out your sweat rate at certain temperatures and humidity.  You should aim for minimal to zero weight loss due to sweat during your race.  This is not easy to do, but I assure you that aiming for this lofty goal will keep you hydrated.

    The other electrolytes are lost at such miniscule rates they are no worth mentioning here.  A supplement like Salt Caps with all of the electrolytes in it is not required, but is an easy safeguard just in case.

  • 12-18 hour efforts: This is where things get tricky.  The aforementioned rules still apply, but we may have to turn to more out of the ordinary nutritional tricks and tips.  Solid food is almost always a must at this duration.  Some of my personal favorites are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, bananas, Mountain Dew, salted sweet and regular potatoes, potato chips, and cookies.  “ZOMG! Did he just say Mountain Dew and cookies?!?”  Yes, yes I did.

    Hunger will be at an all-time low during these longer races.  Eating whatever you can stomach will be important.  This is where the science of high-fructose corn syrup and ultra-dense calorie foods become a boon.  But you must prepare your gut for these loads and still be wise with their usage.  You cannot just begin drinking a coke in the middle of an endurance event and expect no negative side effects without training for such a situation.  That means experimenting and using these foods in training runs prior to race day.

    Caffeine has its place during these events to combat the release of serotonin which can make you yawn, feel lethargic, and lead to drowsiness.

  • 18+ hour efforts: So a full day event is in your future?  Multi-day?  Death Race??  Good on ya!  You will feel most alive when so close to death.  Calories, calories, calories.  There is an old adage about races at this length being 10% racing and 90% eating.  This is very true.  You can expect to take in 6,000-10,000 calories per day in these events.  Real food is your primary source, and you must eat and drink frequently.  Stay well ahead of hunger and thirst, and remain one step ahead of carbohydrate depletion and muscle wasting.  Try not to cannibalize your tissues.  (Good luck.)

Part three will be coming up soon!  Digest this, first.

Coach G


By | 2017-04-25T14:38:24+00:00 February 7th, 2013|CrossFit Ktown Knoxville, Uncategorized|3 Comments


  1. Harper February 7, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    You may have the most nutritionally smart keyboard in the entire world. Never lose sight of that.

    Also where is the 30sec-1min effort?

  2. Ben February 7, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    First paragraph = Dan Carlin

  3. crossfitktown February 7, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    Ha! He does say something similar, doesn’t he? Also, I am impressed you know Dan Carlin. I shouldn’t be, since you are Mr. Ben Slocum, but I am amazed nonetheless…


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