I am thrilled to introduce a guest contributor to the Spring Challenge series. Emily Miazga is a 3 time Coast to Coast champion, creator of Em's Power Cookies, and all-round legend in the multisport world. She also holds a M.Sc Clinical Nutrition and a Certificate in Advanced Sports Nutrition - so you can be confident she knows what she's talking about! Em recently hosted a nutrition presentation for an enthusiastic group of ladies in Westport. But we wanted to share her first-class advice with everyone - read on to learn all of Em's key takeaways about nutrition for Spring Challenge.
Photo credit: Richard Rossiter
Carbohydrate is King
For all sports "Carb is King" as this is your body's primary fuel source during exercise - but there are a few different categories that make some types of carbs less useful (and less desirable) than others.
What you eat before you exercise is also important.
If you start exercising with a low fuel reserve, chances are that no matter how much you consume during exercise you won't be able to overcome that depletion. Here are a few of Em's ideas for what you can eat before you train or exercise to get your body ready to go.
Tip: PURE Sports Nutrition have a great protein mix to add extra punch to your smoothies.
How many carbohydrates are there in my food?
Reading nutrition info panels on products is the most accurate way to determine carbohydrate grams (include sugars in the total carbs!). Here's a snapshot of carbohydrate amounts in common foods.
How many carbohydrates do I need?
How long do you think your team will take to finish?
If close to the 3 hour mark, then carb needs are 30-60g per hour.
If longer than 3 hours then carb needs are 60-90g per hour.
6-Hour and 9-Hour Events
Carb needs are 60-90g carb per hour.
Try to estimate your finishing time.
Plan on a longer day – you will likely be on course longer than anticipated so carry more than you think you need.
What does that look like?
Em's framework for 1 hour of fuel looks like this.
Tip: PURE Sports Nutrition have a great range of sports drinks and electrolytes to choose from.
This framework gives an idea of how to balance out drink, with real food, and something sweet. Some people like to eat more at once. For example, having a large Em’s Power Cookie will last a couple of hours, which means you don’t have to eat as often, compared to having smaller Bites. However, you still need to keep up with the fluids and gels/bananas in between the bigger feeds.
The total amount of carbs consumed doesn’t have to add to up the exact targets of grams per hour, as long as the total at the end of the day, divided by the hours exercising, equals the target per hour.
Here's an example from when Em was racing Coast to Coast. Over 13 hours she would have a total carb intake of about 1,000g. During the mountain run her carb intake per hour was just under 40g, but on the bike stages she consumed over 80g of carbs per hour. At the end of the 13 hours, her total carb intake averaged out to about 70g per hour.
How to work it out!
Give this exercise a go to work out your "sweet carb spot" during training.
Go out for a longer training session – such as a long hike or bike ride > 3 hours.
Decide what you will take for food and drink using the above information as a guide, and make sure you consume it during the session.
Afterwards, write down exactly what you consumed (food and drink) and the total grams of carbohydrate.
Divide the total grams of carb by how many hours the session took. This will tell you your average carb per hour intake.
Assess how you felt during and after the training session.
Did you feel good with your energy levels and tummy tolerance? Great! You’ve hit the sweet spot for your carbs per hour intake.
Was it too much food? Then back it off next time.
Did you feel low in energy and come home hungry? Then increase it next time.
Repeat steps 1 to 5 in future training sessions until you find your sweet spot!
Other Considerations and Suggestions
What is your team goal for pacing? Be sure to all agree on the race strategy.
Will you stop to eat, or will you eat and drink on the go?
Keep it simple. Don’t try to over-engineer your foods.
Apply an eating plan that you can replicate each hour for however many hours it takes.
Transitions provide an opportunity to stop, rest and fuel up (if that is what your team agrees to do)
Your crew can have pre-prepared items ready for you, such as hot soup or noodles if the conditions are cold.
Use the transitions to add some variety to the hourly nutrition routine of sweet stuff while out on the course.
If your team is competitive team and you want to save time, then don’t stop to eat in transitions.
Have food/drink ready for your next leg of the race so you just drop, grab and go.
Fluid needs vary from person to person.
General recommendation is 250-300mL every 15 minutes.
Use training to fine-tune your own individual needs:
When it is hot you will need more fluid and sodium.
Crucial to use a good sports drink that is formulated to contain the correct concentration of sodium, which can help minimize cramping.
If you’re carrying the weight of water, make it count and use a good sports drink instead which takes care of 3 things: 1) carbs (fuel) 2) sodium 3) fluid.
General Tips and Tricks
Choose foods that work for you and that you enjoy eating
Practice eating and drinking during your training - long training sessions are perfect for this. But be aware that when racing you may be pushing harder than normal and this can affect digestion.
Decide as a team how you plan to race and work together and help each other.
Save caffeinated gels or Coke for the latter half of your race, to get a little extra kick.
Keep your nutrition plan simple. Bringing the “kitchen sink” can create complications.
Happy training, and see you at the event!
A stackload of helpful advice and handy tips! Massive thanks to Em for sharing her knowledge and experience with us. If you have any questions or want to learn more, check out www.powercookies.com. Happy adventuring, Hannah.