If you read my last blog post, you know that I had a nutrition experiment going with a group of runners. The takeaway for me was, they don’t eat like athletes, but more like dieters. This subject has brought up nutrition awareness among my cohort but has also brought up performance and recovery nutrition. We live in the information age. We are surrounded by information, both accurate and inaccurate with more inaccurate information than anything. How people receive information, process information, and pass on information is heavily based on their emotions regarding the subject. This is true with religion, politics, sports, and just about anything, but especially nutrition. Nutrition is food, food is weight, weight has many of us in emotional turmoil with fear-based behaviors.
As an athlete centered coach, I invest time into making sure my runners have the appropriate information to make informed decisions about their training and race day strategies. I preached nutrition previously for improved recovery and performance. As a matter of fact, I covered runner nutrition in a blog post from 7/31/17 and can be found in the November 2017 archives on my website. http://www.runwithgina.com/blog/runner-nutrition-explained
But what about real-time race nutrition strategies? You must fuel your body to perform! No ifs, ands, or buts about it. It is common sense. If you are taking your car on a road trip, you would need to put fuel in it. Because of fear-based behaviors, runners don’t do it. “I don’t want the calories”. Guess what? You need the calories. “My stomach doesn’t do well with carbohydrate gels”. Guess what? You must train your gut to receive the nutrition. It is true, some people have runners’ colitis and can’t take in anything, but that is a small percentage of runners. Those people100% know if they fit into that category.
Carbohydrate utilization or what your body needs and uses is based on duration and intensity of endurance activity. I have been telling my marathon runners that the guidelines for carbohydrate needs during a marathon is 30-60 grams per hour. Most carbohydrate gels have 21-24 grams. If you are running a 4-hr marathon on a course that provides a sugar-free electrolyte replenisher, how many carbohydrate gel packs would you need to sustain your run? This is a matter of hitting the wall or not hitting the wall, because your muscles will run out of stored carbohydrates at 2-hrs and 30-minutes of running. I won’t do the math for you because this is something people really need to be thinking about. I know there are some of you that are thinking, “Well, I am a fat adapted athlete. My body utilizes stored fat as fuel”. Again, fuel utilization is intensity based. The lower the intensity, fat is used as fuel. The greater intensity, carbohydrates are used as fuel. This is why in marathon racing, the negative split is so important. Early on, your body uses fat as fuel with a lower intensity to spare the stored glycogen (carbohydrate) for later in the race.
What about the half-marathon distance? Yes, you need fuel if you are a recreational runner, running over an hour. In 2016, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine, stated that carbohydrate needs are 30-90 g/hr based on duration and intensity. You can see the infographic in the cover picture by Dr. Asker Jeukendrup.
Because I live in an evidence-based world, I must do my due diligence and cite research to back up the above information. In a 2014 study published in the International Journal of Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, researchers studied two groups of recreational runners in the Copenhagen Marathon. One group freely ingested carbohydrate based on their timing preference, while the other group used scientific principles of ingesting carbohydrates at 60 grams per hour. The group that ingested carbohydrates at 60 grams per hour ran the race 4.7% faster. These were recreational runners that run 3:38-4:20 in the marathon. A 4.7% improvement at that duration is a difference of 10 minutes! Taking off chunks of time is not about running faster in training. It isn’t always about running more miles. Sometimes it as simple as how you fuel your body. By the way, GI distress was low in the two groups and there wasn’t a difference between the two groups in regard to GI distress.
Who wants to shave a lot of time off their half or full marathon time? I’m going to assume most people. Don’t let your tank go empty on race day!!!!!!!!!!