Sunday, June 27, 2010

Fueling During Training and Racing Part 2

The last blog post I talked about some basic aspects to fueling during training and racing for just about any race. In this post I will discuss more specific aspects of training for longer distance events.

The carbohydrate is your body’s most efficient fuel source. It plays a role in both low and high intensity endurance activities. A 150-pound triathlete can store approximately 1800 calories of glycogen as carbohydrate. This can help you through about two hours of high intensity training or four hours of moderate-intensity training. Our body can also utilize fat and protein as fuel (in very small amounts) to support the moderate-intensity workouts, but our stores of this are not nearly enough to support the energy of 4+ hour training days you need carbohydrates.

Consuming carbohydrates during training longer than one hour can help performance by maintaining adequate blood sugar levels. Blood glucose is the main fuel source for your brain, and a well-nourished brain may improve your training focus and possibly decrease your perceived effort. During the later stages of long training sessions, when the body’s carbohydrate reserves are running low, the greatest contribution to improved performance is achieved through maintaining steady blood glucose levels. Carbohydrate intake during training cannot prevent the inevitable fatigue associated with Ironman training, but it can prolong its onset. I recently experienced not having enough blood glucose at my run with the devil in Las Vegas. I will talk about this later in this post.

It is also important to remember that fueling during training throughout the week will play a role in your longer workouts on the weekend. If you constantly under fuel during workouts throughout the week you will likely have sub par training for your longer workouts on the weekend. If your weekly training workouts are longer than 60-90 minutes you should use something other than just water. You should consume an electrolyte drink or sustained energy drink and gels for workouts over 90 minutes. If you are training for an Ironman and will have a big weekend of training you may want to consume a gel 45 minutes into a 90 minute workouts.

Everyone always asks me how much carbohydrates are needed during training and racing. This really depends on your weight and can have a pretty wide range. Scientific studies estimate the range of dietary carbohydrate at 30 to 60 grams per hour. Research has shown that the human body can only burn (oxidized) carbohydrates at a rate of 0.5 to 1 gram per minute. From practical “real world” experience, many athletes can tolerate amounts higher than this. Some people as high 100 grams (or about 400 calories per hour). This is likely dependant on the person and size of the person. The larger the person the more calories they can tolerate. Also keep in mind for shorter workouts you should always plan ahead and eat a healthy snack a few hours before your workout.

For training sessions lasting longer than 60-90 minutes, I recommend athletes strive for 45 to 75 grams of carbohydrate per hour. This can be divided in to two to four doses (consumed every 15 to 30 minutes). Smaller athletes should start at the lower, and larger athletes at the higher, end of the range. You can consume these through drinks, gels, and bars. I tell some athletes to time their drinking to minimize dehydration. On hotter days drink more frequent about every 10 minutes warmer days should be 15 to 30 minutes. All of this should be practiced in training to see what works best for each individual.

Your ability to tolerate or absorb a particular amount of carbohydrate may depend on the type of carbohydrate consumed, the intensity of activity, and your hydration status. For instance, some athletes can tolerate a high-glycemic, sucrose-based sports drink, while other individuals may better tolerate a lower-glycemic, maltodextrin-based drink. Keep in mind as training intensity increases the stomach’s ability to handle high-carbohydrate loads decreases. I am one of the individuals who can't tolerate sucrose based drinks and need to rely on maltodextrin-based drinks such as Heeds Sustained Energy Drink. This product has mostly maltodextrin as a source of carbohydrates and a little amount of protein. I still consume some sucrose based carbohydrates just not in my energy drink. I get the simple carbohydrates in my gels and cliff blocks. I find it works best for me to have the majority of my carbohydrates for longer distance events from maltodextrin source. It is still important to have some from sucrose based products.

One very big factor that will come into play is the weather. The heat will for sure play a factor in what you can absorb because if you are dehydrated this can become an issue on what you can tolerate. One thing I would highly discourage in an Ironman race is to fall for the buffet of things available on the run! I have known people that get to the run a see all the food and drink at the aide stations and forget what they did in training. They start trying a little of this and that and by the time they are at mile 13 they are puking. Stick to your plan and don't indulge in the buffet. Have a back up plan if you feel sick to your stomach and stick to that back up plan

When training and racing Ironman events it is important to try and take in the majority of your calories on the bike. I would always lean toward the high end of the guidelines on the bike because it is likely you will not be able to take in as much on the run. Race morning for longer races you should get up extra early. I know that would mean get up at 3 or 4, but lets face it who sleeps well the night before races anyway? You should try and consume a breakfast that is mostly carbohydrates and something your have consumed during training before workouts. Oatmeal, fruit, eggs or egg whites are all good suggestions. If you cant eat oatmeal before a race a bagel with a very small amount of peanut butter, piece of fruit, and eggs is another option. Brown rice mixed with egg whites and some fruit might be another option. My choice is a bagel with peanut butter and jelly, and a muscle milk protein shake. As I have said before everyone finds something that works best for them through trial and error!


For some crazy reason I wanted to attempt the 50 mile run here in Las Vegas yesterday. Calico Racing puts on a race called Run With The Devil and they have a 5K, 10K, 1/2 Marathon, Full Marathon and a 50 miler for all those crazy people like myself. I planned on doing the 50 miler. We started at 7am and I was on track for most of the first half of the run. I was feeling pretty good with only a little bit of stomach cramps. I have a history of having trouble with longer events in the heat. Why I thought this was a good idea I don't know. From mile 30-38 I was feeling the heat (maybe because it was about 105) and slowing down to a snails pace! I once had heat exhaustion at Ironman Arizona and it is a very frustrating feeling. Physically my legs could do it and my legs wanted to run. The effort to just walk was making it hard to breathe and making me feel winded. I felt the heat and was not able to eat or drink much. I had 12 miles to go and didn't feel like dying so I decided to stop. I was not able to take in hardly any carbohydrates during the run because it was so hot and I am sure this contributed to the feeling of lethargy that I had at mile 38. So if you learn anything from my experience it should be don't run when it is over 100 degree especially 50 miles! Everyone said I was nuts and I think maybe I was. I am so glad I can focus on shorter distances right now. Most of my rides, runs, and swims for the next few months will be less that an hour long.....imagine that! After training for Ironman St. George then this run I don't know what I will do with all my spare time. I have not lost the bug for Ironman training. I recently saw that they have a new Ironman race for next year in Texas. I have given it lots of thought and think that I am going to sign up for it. Here we come TEXAS!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Fueling During Training and Racing Part 1

One of the most common questions triathletes and runners ask me is what they should eat when training and racing. The answer is not real simple. That is why I am going to discuss it in two different blog posts. This way you, the reader won't get bored and I will get a break writing it! First I will talk about the various options and provide you with some basic information. In the next blog post I will talk about how to fuel during some of the longer events such as marathons, ultra marathons, half ironman and full ironman events.

When trying to figure out what to drink or eat when training keep in mind everybody is different. A lot of times it takes several trial efforts to find something that works for you. I have mentioned before in previous blog posts what I do for longer events and that works really good for me. I figured it out through trial and many errors!

First lets talk about all the products out there. I use gels that have less simple sugars in them. These work better for me. The ones I prefer are Hammer and GU. Some of the gels have caffeine, 2X caffeine, sodium, and 2X sodium. For longer events be careful if all of your gels are double caffeine. That could be a problem if you are doing an Ironman and taking a gel every hour or so and you get all jacked up on caffeine. Also remember caffeine can dehydrate you. In longer events I will take a few gels with caffeine and I do those only a couple times throughout the day. Most of the gels I consume don't contain caffeine. Keep in mind some sports drinks contain caffeine and sodium. You really need to read everything because you could be overdoing it on some things. When I am training longer than 4 hours I will use a sports drink that is slightly higher in calories than my electrolyte drink. For longer training I use a product by Hammer Nutrition called Sustained Energy Drink. It has a little protein as well as maltodexrin as a carbohydrate. It does not contain simple sugars. There are some similar products to this called Endurox or Accelerade. These do contain some simple sugars and I am sure they taste better. I don't tolerate a lot of simple sugars when training for longer events. I don't seem to digest them well and it causes stomach distress. Since the Sustained Energy Drink does not contain many electrolytes I add a scoop of Heed to this product. There is actually a company out there that will create your product specifically the way you want it. The website is You tell them what you want and they make it for you! I have not used the product but have clients who have and they all liked it.

You will also need to consider where you will be racing or training. You may need to adjust your usual requirements if you are in a very hot or humid area. It is likely you will need to drink more frequently in those conditions. Some of my athletes tend to forget to drink or eat when training and racing. They get caught up in the moment and at the end of the day of training they realize they did not drink or eat enough. I tell them to go by a schedule. In the summer drink every 5-10 minutes depending on the head or humidity and the person. In the cooler weather drink every 15 minutes. This will vary person to person. The best thing to do is consult with a trainer or coach for your specific requirements. On average every 45-60 minutes you will want to take in a gel or part of a bar for training or racing lasting over 90 minutes. If your training is less than 90 minutes you could easily get by with water or a lower calorie electrolyte drink like Heed. If your training is over 90 minutes then depending on your weight, size you may need anywhere from 200-500 calories every hour. You might think that is a pretty wide range but there are all sizes of people. I personally do best on 200-300 calories an hour when on the bike. When running I try and get in about 150-200. If you are training for a marathon is is really important to find out what they will be serving on the course. I tell people to train with that product and make sure you can tolerate it. If you can't then you will need to think about another option like wearing a fuel belt. I personally don't like to do this but in some cases you don't have an option. You don't want any surprises on race day! I am training a girl who is getting ready for a marathon and has been using gatorade in her training because that is what they were going to serve on the course. At the last minute they changed to powerade without telling anyone just posting it on the website. You may think this is not a big deal but for some people it is! The most important thing you can do is to do nothing new race day. Your breakfast race morning should be close to what you eat before training. Race morning meal is not such a big deal for shorter distance events. Eating about 2hours before your race is usually good if it is a sprint or olympic distance. If you are doing a longer event then you should wake up in enough time to eat 3 hours before the event and you should have a good mix of complex carboydrates and protein. You should not eat a lot of fat race morning. Then keep water with you until the race begins. About 30-40 minutes before the race starts eat a small bar or gel.

I will talk in more detail about fueling for longer distance events in a later post.

I wanted to congratulate a few people who raced last weekend. Nancy Dickinson is a client that I coach. She is a trainer at LVAC and we trade my coaching services for her stretching services. She is an expert in flexibility and does a great job stretching people. I coach her and she stretches me an hour each week. If anyone needs someone to stretch them contact her! Anyway she competed in the Honu Half Ironman in Kona Hawaii. She finished in 5:23 and was 10th in her age group. That is a very difficult race because of the heat and she did excellent. I raced this course years ago and it is such a great race I would highly recommend it. Ashley, Brian, and Sheletha raced in the San Diego Half and Full Marathon last weekend. Great job to all of them for finishing!

I wanted to tell everyone I am starting to sell cycle shoes. These are the Gaerne Italian Brand of shoes. I decided to do this mainly because so many people in spin class ask me where to get shoes. I now can get them for anyone and give you a great product at a good price. The model I can get is the Electra in black and white and the Diva. Contact me at if you are interested in getting a pair. I also got more of my great stick figure shirts. They no longer say Train With Cyndee Train Without Cyndee they just have the figures on them and my logo. I now also have long sleeve. Lastly I am getting Headsweat Visors and will have them soon!