Nutrition & Hydration
Nutrition and Hydration – by Steph Wearne
The team at Stafford and Rowse want to make The 30/50 Challenge as enjoyable as possible. We want to ensure that you reap the benefits of all your hard training and perform to your maximum potential. By understanding the importance and the place of nutrition and hydration you will put yourself in good stead to achieving all of your exercise goals. The following information compiled by Steph Wearne, our head Nutritionist will set you and your team up with the right knowledge to fuel your body before, during and after the event.
Dehydration is a major factor to that can limit an athlete’s performance. Studies have shown that dehydration as much as only 2% of body mass can result in symptoms such as fatigue, impaired muscle function, reduced gastric emptying and impaired mental function, all of which will decreasing optimal performance.
Athletes should never begin training in a dehydrated state. Sweat rates of up to 500-2000mL/hour can be experienced during training and it is essential that athletes fully restore fluid balance to start their next training session well hydrated and to get the most out of training.
Athletes need to have a fluid plan to follow on the day of the event to ensure optimal hydration. The best strategies should be well trialled in training so the athlete can identify an effective and practical fluid plan.
The 30/50 Challenge is an endurance event that may see you running for up to 12 hours. In order to reduce the risk of dehydration, it is imperative for you to commence the event in a fully hydrated state. In an event like the 30/50km challenge, thirst is not a sufficient indicator of fluid needs. By the time signs of thirst appear and absorption of fluids occurs, athletes are already dehydrated. Therefore athletes need to have a fluid plan that has been well practiced in training.
The fluid requirements of individual athletes varies dramatically. Fluid requirements differ due to body composition, fitness levels, exercise intensity, genetics and the environment that they are competing in. Due to this, it is impossible to prescribe a generalized fluid replacement plan. Fortunately, athletes can measure their own fluid requirements by weighing themselves both before and after a training session. A loss in weight is a direct reflection of fluid loss eg. 1kg reduction body weight is equivalent to 1L fluid loss. To completely rehydrate, the athlete is required to consume 125-150% of this fluid loss eg. 1kg loss in body weight requires 1.25-1.5L of fluid to be consumed. Monitoring urine concentration is another way to check your hydration status Light coloured, like lemonade, is good. If it’s dark, like apple juice, drink more. Once an individuals sweat losses are known, a personalized hydration plan can be developed.
Pre-event fluid requirements
Commencing an event adequately hydrated will ensure that you are not playing catch up during the event. The ideal hydration practices before an endurance event is to consume 300-600mL of fluid with the pre-event meal 2-4 hours before commencement and then a top up of 300mL-450mL in the 15-20 minutes right before the start. However with the 50km challenge beginning at 7:00am and the 30km beginning at 8:30am these strategies are not the most practical. Therefore athletes need to ensure adequate hydration the night prior to the event and should consume fluids regularly upon waking only to levels they can tolerate without GI problems. Therefore practising fluid habits in training is going to be very beneficial.
Race day hydration is simple- Replace what you lose. During training you will have established your personal fluid requirements and how much fluid you can tolerate at once. Ideally, you will drink at a rate that will replace your sweat losses, or at a minimum replace losses within 2 per cent of starting body weight. The gut can tolerate 200-300ml every 15-20 minutes, so most athletes have the capacity to consume sufficient fluid throughout the event. Fluid intake during an event is likely to be better tolerated when consumed at frequent intervals rather than large boluses.
The 30/50 Challenge has multiple checkpoints along the way with each one having water facilities available, so these should be taken advantage of as opportunities to hydrate.
During an event fluid losses should be matched in both quantity and composition. Water will replace fluid losses but will not address the electrolyte losses. Replacing sweat with water will result in an electrolyte imbalance. If too much water is consumed without adequate electrolytes the athlete may be at risk of hyponatraemia where there is too much water compared to sodium in the blood stream. Although this is rare, symptoms include confusion, headaches, fatigue and coma. In order to avoid hyponatraemia athletes should not consume in excess of sweat losses and ensure electrolyte replacement.
There are many gels, drinks and tablets out on the market that provide electrolytes and one in particular is shotz electrolyte tablets. They are designed, when added to 500ml of water, to match your sweat losses. They are simple and convenient to use and most importantly they taste great.
Shotz electrolyte tablets will be available already prepared at each checkpoint and additional tablets will be available for your own use. Consider this when creating your fluid plan.
Following an endurance event many athletes will be mildly dehydrated and particularly so if they failed to follow their fluid plan. Restoring hydration is one of the key priorities for recovery and athletes should aim to consume 125-150% of fluid losses within 4-6 hours of the cessation of the event. The recommendation to consume an amount greater than sweat losses aims to take into account the continued loss of fluid through sweat and urinary output. Whilst rehydrating, it is important to continue to consume electrolytes, especially sodium. This will reduce fluid loss through urinary output, thereby enhancing fluid balance.
The ideal sodium concentration for fluid replacement is ~50 mmol/L, however many available drinks on the market are only 10-25mmol/L to make drinks more palatable. Shotz electrolyte tablets are a good choice as by adding one tablet to 500mL of water, the sodium concentration is ~37mmol/L without compromising a great taste. Including sodium in your recovery snacks and meals is also a good way to replace sodium losses.
Although competitors will have well deserved the chance to celebrate their achievements after the event, athletes must be aware of the influence alcohol can have on recovery. Alcohol can dilate our blood vessels which affect soft tissue and increases the chance of muscle soreness and delays injury repair. Therefore it extremely important to prioritise fluid replacement.
- Become accustomed with Shotz electrolyte tablets. In order to maintain hydration status it is imperative to match sweat losses.
1 Tablet + 500ml water = Perfect hydration solution
- Check your hydration status by looking at your urine colour. Light coloured, like lemonade, is good. If it’s dark, like apple juice, drink more.
- While training, start by drinking 150-300ml of fluid per 15-20 minutes. This will provide a benchmark against managing any fluctuations in weight.
- Begin the race fully hydrated to avoid playing catch up
- During the event, start drinking right away and keep drinking every 15-20 minutes. Fluid intake rate is based on what you’ve learned and practiced during training. Frequent, small amounts are most effective.
- Do not rely on thirst
- Drink small amounts of Shotz electrolyte solution frequently during the event.
Remember that you cannot train your body to manage with dehydration- the only management is to avoid it!
Whether it’s the 30km or 50km event, your training diet will be a major influence on your fitness condition and how well you perform come event day. Without complimenting your training with the right food choices, the chances of reaching your optimal fitness by race day will be greatly reduced. The main aim of your training diet should be to consume a diet high in carbohydrate, moderate in protein and low in fat to ensure sufficient energy, body function, immune function and muscle repair.
Training is when you need to trial and identify the best strategies for you to use on event day!
Carbohydrates are by the far the most important nutrient for athletes. Carbohydrates exist in the body in two forms, glycogen and glucose. Muscle glycogen is the body’s main and preferred fuel source. When we exercise, the muscles require more oxygen, nutrients and carbohydrates to operate at their optimum level. As the body can only store a limited amount of carbohydrate it is important to continually restore the carbohydrate levels during 30/50km challenge. With insufficient carbohydrate you may experience “hitting the wall” or “bonking”, the undesirable feeling of loss of energy and fatigue.
Carbohydrates have a number of other roles that will help you maximize your potential. The immune system is suppressed by intense training. This places athletes at higher risk of succumbing to an infectious illness during this time. Carbohydrates have been proven to be an immune protector. By ensuring sufficient carbohydrate intake before and during endurance exercise you can reduce the disturbance to immune system markers. Carbohydrates reduce the stress response caused by exercise, thus minimising the detrimental effect on the immune system.
Carbohydrates should make up 45-65% of an adults diet. For athletes doing 60-180 minutes of moderate endurance training per day should be consuming 7-12g/kg/day of carbohydrates. Athletes should also ingest 30-60g of carbohydrate per hour while exercising to avoid fatigue setting in so this needs to be taken into account for training as well as on event day.
Foods rich in carbohydrates include:
- Grains (oats, rice, barley, wheat) and anything made from them (bread, pasta, cereals)
- Potato and corn;
- Fruit in all forms;
- Legumes (lentils, split peas, baked beans etc)
- Shotz sports foods eg. Shotz energy gels and Shotz energy bars
Protein is the building block of all muscle, connective tissue, hair and other components in your body. Prolonged and high intensity exercise results in the breakdown of muscle protein. During the recovery phase the breakdown process slows and the muscle building process increases. This can last for as long as 24 hours. Research proves that the consumption of foods rich in protein (15-25g) within the first hour after exercise helps to promote muscle building. Foods high in protein should continue to be consumed for up to 24 hours.
Most endurance athletes on an unrestricted diet comfortably meet their protein requirements of 0.8-1.0g/kg/day. Those who need to work harder include people who restrict their food intake and vegetarians. Foods rich in protein include meats, poultry, seafood, dairy products, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes. Cereal-based foods contain small amounts of protein and supplements such as shotz protein bars can also provide additional protein.
The nutritional aim before the race is to increase energy stores. During the race, you can expect to burn in excess of 13000kj. You cannot expect to consume this amount, as it is more than a whole days worth of food! Each stage of the pre-event nutrition is aiming to increase these stores as much as possible.
Carbohydrate loading is one of the most important components to pre-event nutrition. It involves changes to both your diet and training level and will only be effective if both are addressed. The aim of carbohydrate loading is to maximize muscle glycogen (carbohydrate) stores prior to race day. The process involves 1-4 days of exercise tapering combined with a high carbohydrate diet.
The good news is that carbohydrate loading actually works! It is estimated that carbohydrate loading can improve performance by 2-3%. This extra glycogen can improve performance by enabling athletes to exercise at their optimal pace for longer.
Tips for carbohydrate loading
- Carbohydrate loading requires an exercise taper for 1-4 days. Failing to rest will reduce muscle glycogen levels.
- Ensure you eat enough carbohydrate (70-85% of adult diet). A carbohydrate diet comprised of 7-12g/kg body weight is sufficient to elevate muscle glycogen levels
- To avoid stomach upsets, consume foods low in fat and fibre.
Note: Carbohydrate loading will cause body mass to increase by up to 2kg. This weight is due to extra glycogen and water. Don’t worry this will fall off during the event! The main priority for carbohydrate loading is topping up energy stores, therefore this is one occasion where processed, refined foods are recommended. Some vitamin and mineral requirements may not be met while carbohydrate loading, but this is not a problem if a balanced diet is resumed after the event.
The pre-event meal is like topping up your car with petrol; it will ensure that you can go for longer. As The 30/50 Challenge is starting at 7am, it is unrealistic to consume your pre-event meal four hours before. For this reason it is important to be prepared.
The pre-event meal should ideally occur 2-4 hours prior to the commencement of the race. You should be aware of which foods are suitable for you from trialling foods in training. Keep in mind the meal needs to provide carbohydrate and fluid and ideally should be low in fat, protein and fibre to avoid GI problems. Athletes who suffer from nerves may find a liquid meal such as a sports meal shake a good option.
Some examples include:
- Plain breakfast cereal with low fat milk and fruit
- Porridge with low fat milk and fruit juice
- Pancakes/pikelets with maple syrup o honey
- Toast with banana and honey
- Toasted muffins or crumpets with honey, jam or syrup
- Baked beans on toast
- Low fat creamed rice with tinned fruit
- Spaghetti with low fat, tomato based sauce
- Fruit smoothie with reduced fat milk with low fat yoghurt and fruit
- Sports meal shake
Shotz have a number of products that would be suitable to include in your pre-event meal such as their energy bar and electrolyte tablets.
Every minute prior to the event can be used to increase muscle glycogen stores. As the pre-event meal should be consumed a few hours prior to the commencement of the event, a small carbohydrate rich snack 30-60 minutes before the event would also be recommended. Shotz energy bars contain 30g of carbohydrate and are a great tasting choice but be sure to stick with what you have practised in training!
With the 30/50km challenge starting early in the morning, it is not a good idea to sacrifice sleep for the pre-event meal. Therefore a carbohydrate rich meal should be consumed the night before and possibly stick with a light meal or snack in the morning to top up energy stores after fasting overnight. Also ensure to consume carbohydrate at the checkpoints to balance missed fuelling opportunities in the morning.
During the event the primary concerns are fluid, carbohydrate and sodium provision. Consuming 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour is proven to boost endurance and performance. To ensure that you are consuming sufficient carbohydrate, aim for about 30 grams per hour if your weight is closer to 50kg. If you are closer to 90kg, aim for about 60 grams. In an event like the 30/50km Team Challenge, it is important to maintain your intake of readily absorbed carbohydrates throughout the whole event so ensure to take advantage of checkpoints and the availability of your support crew.
Below is a table of foods containing 50g of carbohydrates and their advantages and disadvantages:
|Food/Fluid||Amount to provide 50g||Advantage||Disadvantage|
|Good for hydration||Does not provide carbohydrate.|
(4-8% CHO + electrolytes)
|600mL-1000mL||Best option for meeting hydration and fuel needs simultaneously||Provides small amounts of electrolytes.|
|500mL||Provides alternative flavour, cola may provide a small amount of caffeine to aid performance||Negligible electrolytes|
|500mL||Provides carbohydrate||Possible risk of GI upset if high fructose content. Negligible electrolytes.|
|1 ½ – 2 gels||Concentrated source of carbohydrate||Doesn’t provide fluid|
|2-3 medium||May relieve hunger||Several portions are need to provide sufficient carbohydrate, doesn’t provide fluids|
|50g||Compact carbohydrate source||Doesn’t provide fluid|
|2 thick slices plus 4 teaspoons jam||May relieve hunger||Several portions are need to provide sufficient carbohydrate, doesn’t provide fluids|
|1 ½ bars||May relieve hunger||May be slowly absorbed due to high fat, doesn’t provide fluids|
|1 ½ bars||May relieve hunger||Several portions are need to provide sufficient carbohydrate, doesn’t provide fluids|
|1 ½ bars||Compact source of carbohydrate||May have various levels of herbal additives with unknown functions|
Shotz energy gel
|1 ½ gels||Compact source of carbohydrate practical for use between checkpoints||Need to address fluid separately|
Shotz energy bar
|1 ½ bars||Compact source of carbohydrate||Need to address fluid separately|
In an event such as this planning is crucial. There are five checkpoints throughout the event, all with varying distances in between. For example if a section is going to take 0-30 minutes, you would only need to carry one Shotz energy gel, but if it is going to take 30-60 minutes you will need to carry two Shotz energy gels etc. Be sure to inform your support crew what food you will need at each checkpoint and how many gels you will need for the next leg. Note there is no support crew access at the first checkpoint.
Below are some suggested carbohydrate rich snacks:
- Fruit juice, cordial or soft drink
- Fruit smoothie or liquid meal supplement (e.g. sports meal shake)
- Honey or jam sandwich (thick bread slices)
- Muesli or cereal bars
- Fruit, fruit salad and low fat yoghurt
- Breakfast cereal and low fat milk
- Banana roll
- Shotz energy gels and Shotz energy bars
Remember that it is important to test your race day nutrition strategies during training.
Cramps and Stitches
- Avoid dehydration
- Avoid gassy drinks
- Frequent small drinks
- Don’t overfill the stomach
Recovery post training and post event includes a number of activities, such as rest, massage, hydrotherapy, treating injuries and rehydrating. While most athletes know that managing their food and fluid intake can result in a more effective recovery, few do so effectively. A banana on its own simply isn’t enough!
There are three steps to effective nutritional recovery. They are:
- 1. Refuelling: Eat and drink early. Muscles are most receptive to replenishing carbohydrate stores within the first hour after exercise. Athletes are encouraged to consume 1-1.2g carbohydrate / kg body mass in the first hour. If you have more than 24-36 hours to replace stores, then it probably doesn’t matter too much when you eat, provided you have enough carbs. Maintain a high carbohydrate intake throughout the whole night after the event. Meeting your carbohydrate needs isn’t as easy as it sounds – it requires a conscious effort, especially when up to 12 hours of the day could be spent exercising!
- 2. Repair: Endurance events cause a large amount of muscle breakdown. During recovery, the body reduces muscle breakdown and increases muscle building. In order to increase the muscle building it is essential to consume foods high in protein (15-25g) within the first hour after exercise and continue for up to 24 hours.
- 3. Rehydrate: Most athletes will finish an endurance event with some level of fluid deficit. For optimal hydration we should replace 125 -150% of fluid lost, however if weighing yourself before and after the event is unrealistic then continue to consume fluids regularly until urine is less concentrated.
Stephanie Wearne – SRTT Head of Nutrition