We are delighted to team up with David Dunne and Dr Sam Impey from Hexis to shed some light on the importance of race fuelling.
The simple trick of practising your race fuelling can have serious benefits on your race day performance! This happens because your training quality can go up, your body is adapted to the amount and type of fuel you are putting in to power your race, and you arrive at the startline confident that you know how you will fuel your race.
In this article we’ll look at some of the best ways to plan and practice your race fuelling, with some easy practical tips to use over the final stages of training.
When should I practice race fuelling?
Weeks 6 and 5 before race
Start by taking some of the foods and sports products you want to use on race day out on your longest training session of the week. It’s important to fuel all long or hard training, but the idea here is to really try and make this specific to what you want to eat/drink on race day.
Take an amount of food/drink that you are comfortable with, it’s good to have a mix of solids, gels and drinks. Try to spread the food and drinks out evenly over the whole training session. This is a good time to find and try the foods and sports products that suit you best.
Weeks 4 – 2 before race
Over the last 2 or 3 weeks before your race is the best time to move from 1 race fuelling session per week to 2 or 3. You can begin to slowly increase the amounts of foods and drinks you are having during training so that in your final training week you are taking on the amounts of food and drink that you are going to use on race day.
During these weeks it’s also a good opportunity to practise when you’re going to eat – you can plan to fuel at specific distances (e.g. every 3km), or at specific times (e.g. every 20 min) – some wearables have alarm functions you can set to repeat or notify you about fuelling – or you can write it on your hand, or a piece of paper and keep it in a plastic cover.
How much and what should I aim to eat?
A good general guide for how much you should aim to eat is this:
NEW TO RACING:
- If this is your first race try to have between 20g and 40g of carbohydrate per hour during the race.
- If you race a couple of times per season have between 40g and 60g of carbohydrate per hour during the race.
- If you are an experienced racer have between 60g and 90g of carbohydrate per hour during the race.
- Once your go above 60g per hour its good to think about using gels and drinks that have a mixture of glucose and fructose.
The best way to keep fuelled and hydrated is to use a mix of whole foods, gels, bars and drinks during races – you don’t need to use all of these types, but try a couple of combinations to find what works best for you.
The goal here is to find what is comfortable for your stomach and practical to carry during the race. Checkout our rice cake recipe for some inspiration.
Train your gut as well as your muscles!
One of the key benefits of practising race nutrition in the weeks building up to a race is that you are training your gut to be able to process and absorb the nutrients more effectively. Doing this greatly reduces the chances of you having problems on race day (like feeling bloated, sick or REALLY needing to go to the bathroom!).
You can train your gut in the same way you train your muscles, by starting slowly and making small improvements over time – i.e. feeding more, over longer/harder sessions. And like your muscles, these adaptations don’t happen overnight! Research has shown that you need at least 4 weeks to really see a meaningful difference.
Key points to remember:
- Start practising race fuelling 6 weeks before the race.
- Practise with the products and foods you are going to use in the race.
- Use a combination of gels, bars, whole foods and drinks (you don’t have to use all of them, find what works for you).
- Think about training your gut in the same way you train your muscles – it takes a little time.
You can find more articles on fuelling training and racing at: https://www.hexis.live/performance-lab – and where all Quest participants can get an exclusive 40% off using code QUEST40