The Endurance Athlete Cheat Sheet
Quick quiz – How many calories do you need on race day? How much fluid per hour? Read on to see the science behind how the folks at GU Energy formulate their performance energy products and get the answers to these questions. It’s on the course so train with it.
Summer in Leadville – the start of the race could be cool and crisp but the finish could be just plain hot.Regardless of the weather, here are a few things to keep in mind that the scientific community has learned about endurance nutrition that might help you when you need it most on race day.
The team at GU Energy is proud to be the official on-course energy product of the Leadville Race Series and we have spent nearly 20 years working with professional athletes and leading scientists to optimize performance energy products for endurance athletes. That would be you. Some things to keep in mind for training and racing.
On average, athletes need to take in about 120-300 calories an hour during a multi-hour endurance event like the Leadville Race Series. Overload your system, and you risk decreased performance due to gastric distress.
Athletes need a significant amount of those calories to be carbohydrates (anywhere between 30-70 grams per hour) due to the body’s need to use glucose as fuel during endurance exercise. Endurance events can burn through the body’s stored glycogen pretty quickly. That’s what’s called “bonking” and that’s why you need to eat DURING the event. Simply put, that’s why we created the first energy gel back in 1991. Keep the glycogen pilot light burning and stay hydrated and you cross the finish line. It’s that simple.
Humans need at least 15-30 oz of water per hour during endurance events, depending on heat, humidity and pace (among other things). Performance decreases after losing just 2% of body weight from dehydration.
Electrolytes help maintain fluid balance, preventing dehydration and are also essential for muscle contractions. All in all, electrolytes will help you go faster and stay out longer.
It takes between 24-48 hours to completely recover from a workout and replenish your glycogen stores, which is why taking a well-formulated recovery drink inside the magic 30 minute “glycogen window” after training is so important – fail to replenish your fuel stores and you fail to be ready to train again the next day.
You can see how all of these principles require the athlete to practice and customize their nutrition plan BEFORE race day. We design GU products with these needs in mind and that’s why we recently launched the Performance Energy Sampler, which brings together all of our products into one neat package.
The original idea behind GU was to find the quickest way to deliver an appropriate amount of calories to an athlete during competition without upsetting his or her stomach.
You’ll notice there is maltodextrin in GU, which is a complex carbohydrate (remember the 30-70g of carbs per hour from above?). Studies have shown that some complex carbs are digested faster than simple sugars like table sugar and honey. There is also fructose in GU gels which your stomach processes much faster than maltodextrin but doesn’t produce a sugar high which you might get from those simple sugars. This matters because the quicker your body can process the carbohydrates, the less blood needs to be diverted from your muscles to your stomach to process the sugars. You go faster and stay out longer as a result.
As a rule of thumb, taking 1 packet of GU Gel and 1 packet of GU Brew Electrolyte per hour will give you the right calories (240), fluid (20 oz.), electrolytes (sodium and potassium) and carbohydrates (54g) that you need to sustain a winning pace.
And lest we forget recovery, that oh-so-important but often neglected part of training. You’re probably training multiple times a week now with many back-to-back workout days. You’ll need to recover after each one to train hard the next day so make sure you are taking a recovery drink within 30 minutes after each workout over 60 minutes or so.
As the Official Energy Gel & Chew of the Leadville Race Series, we’d like to offer you a chance to try the entire GU lineup. It’s on the course so train with it… guenergy.com.
Enjoy the time spent training and best of luck on race day!
–The GU Energy Team