Having an effective nutrition and hydration strategy for your next marathon or sportive will help you to get the best performance on the big day. Getting it wrong can have a drastic effect, and this is why we should always have a nutrition and hydration plan worked out beforehand.
In this blog we summarise the basics about energy use and hydration during endurance sports, and give some key pointers to help you make the most of your event.
First Things First
Our bodies fuel endurance sports using a combination of the limited glycogen stores in our muscles and liver, along with our relatively unlimited fat stores.
High intensity efforts will be drawing close to 100% glycogen for energy, while more moderate efforts will be in the region of 30% glycogen and 70% fat.
So, if we are working hard (climbing hills, riding in a fast group or running into a strong breeze) we're going to be using more of our limited glycogen stores and ultimately accelerating the depletion of this limited supply.
If we allow our bodies to run low on glycogen we see a significant fall-off in effort and, in many cases, hit the dreaded marathon runner's wall or the cyclist's bonk.
How to Fuel Your Next Marathon or Sportive
There are four key aspects to consider when planning a marathon or sportive from a fuel perspective - pace, energy management, hydration and emergency fuel.
Judging our effort will help ensure that we don’t dip into those limited glycogen stores too much or too early. This is especially important during the early miles when the buzz and excitement tend to carry us along at a pace that's probably higher than planned.
Not being able to resist the urge to overtake people is another glycogen killer - each of those little extra efforts shifts the energy ratio more towards the glycogen zone.
Work out in training what's a sustainable pace and try to stick to it. If anything, under-cook it in the early miles so there is something in the tank later when everyone else is tiring.
We all know that effort requires energy which, in turn, requires fuel. However, we sometimes neglect this very basic part of our preparation and begin an event with no clear plan for nutrition or hydration. This is too important to leave to chance and following these basic guidelines will help ensure that you get it right on your big day.
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