How nutrition helps you perform better during the European Championship obstacle racing

In a few months, your new adventure will begin: The EC Obstacle Racing. Did you think your previous runs were hard? Think again. You are probably dedicated to training right now, but have you thought about what you are eating? Every year, we coach hundreds of people in order to, amongst others, perform better in their sports. Nutrition is essential for this. Today, we will share some knowledge and experience with you by answering the question: How does nutrition help you get more out of your obstacle run and workouts?

Having pasta the night before?

Energy gels in your bag?

Or maybe some MCT oil...?

Anyone who has ever dived into the world of food surrounding obstacle runs, trail runs or other endurance sports before will recognize the quest. I, too, used to consume a quick 'glow in the dark' energy drink without thinking about it, but now I know better. Of course it is not a golden formula (even in this case), but do you want to know what you can eat to perform optimally for your race and your health? Read along!
Extra pasta and a few gels and bars

When I made the shift from just strength training to a combination with endurance sports a few years ago, I tested various things concerning optimal nutrition for this. Back then, it seemed like a tradition for every endurance athlete to consume a lot of carbs. Preferably absorbed as quickly as possible and a little bit extra to 'maximize your glycogen reserves'.

This high GI (Glycemic Index) products are indeed quickly absorbed. They also contain little to no fiber, possibly reduces the chance to get intestinal cramps. And when someone says "Just eat pasta, ginger bread, triple club sandwiches and energy gels and bars during a game, because you'll run, bike or obstacle race better... well... what do you do ;P?" Okay let's stop fooling around.
I know there are top athletes that perform optimally without this nutrition. But, and that is my starting point, because it works, doesn't mean it is healthy.

By the way, if you just don't care whether you grow old healthily and you are performing just fine in your opinion with your sugary goodies, save yourself the trouble of reading ;).

The dark side of conventional sports nutrition choices

Dizzy, lethargic, nauseous or hungry?

What most sports nutrition and fast carbs do, is make your insulin levels and therefore your blood sugar levels rise through the roof. The result of this rapidly rising blood sugar level is that it responds with 'I'm outta here' and plummets back down. This causes you to feel nauseous, dizzy, lethargic and soon hungry again. During an endurance event, you will want your blood sugar levels and energy to remain constant, because you can still go for x kilometers of hours.

Nausea or intestinal problems?

Endurance athletes may sometimes suffer from nausea or intestinal problems. Or they experience these problems a few days after the event. This can have several causes. One of them is that traditional sport gels and drinks often contain oligosaccharides in addition to sugar or sweeteners such as xylitol, maltitol or sorbitol. Beans also contain these and cause intestinal problems in a lot of people. Eating fruit on top of it will only amplify the problem. In other words: imagine how your intestines would feel when you eat a plate of beans and onions in one go... party...on...

Especially for long-term events (and for your overall health) it seems to me that this is a party you should skip.

Good preparation

Good preparation before your game (short or long) actually starts long before the game itself, even when it comes to nutrition. This seems to be a point that many people tend to 'forget'. They invest in sport gels and bars, but during the rest of the time, they consume all kinds of sugar rich, processed, ready made products. Or they think they're eating right with their world meal consisting of chicken and 1 leek. What that means. For this, read the articles What is Fit Food and What to eat before and after workouts.

Another small additional tip, certain foods such as bell pepper, onion, cabbage, leek and in some cases dairy can cause problems during exercising. So it's best to avoid these before your workout.
To eat or not to eat during endurance training or a game?

Training shorter than 30 minutes

If your endurance training is short (moderate intensity), you do not need to take any extra food or drinks with you. Do make sure that you have had a full meal about 2 hours before (also see again: What can I best before and after my training). What is a short training depends on your level, but let's say a training of half an hour on average. Please note, I am talking about endurance training, not sprint or interval training. If you are training for more than half an hour, you can take water or water with BCAAs with you.

Training up to 1.5 hours

If you are to train for a longer time (+ 1/1.5 hours), make sure that have at least 500 ml of water or water with BCAAs with you, in addition to the meal beforehand. Drink another 500 ml of water after your training as well. Just to be sure, you can bring a small snack (more about this in a bit), but use it only when you notice you have too little energy after all.
Training or game longer than 1.5 hours

With longer training sessions or for games in which you will be working for more than one and a half hour, it is very important that you do not eat and drink too much or too little. Yeah... but how much is that? Of course, this also varies per person and you will need to test this out for yourself. However, there are averages for you to start from.

Starting point: 120 - 240 cal per hour = about 30 (ladies) - 60 (men) grams of carbs. Calculate for events where you bike on 300/350 (ladies) - 400/450 cal (men) per hour bikes.

Plus, drink something every 30 - 40 minutes.

What to eat prior to a game?

What you eat before a game is probably the most personal thing. Especially a good meal the night before, whereby you eat both slow carbs, protein and good fats seems to be beneficial for most athletes. What is best to eat the next morning, varies from a full meal two hours before to a light shake as breakfast. The best way to know what works for you is by testing it. Looking at a long endurance training soon? Plan it is if it were a game.

If I have an early event myself, I make myself a full FitFood shake. If I start later in the morning, I eat a full breakfast 4 hours in advance and limit myself 2 hours in advance to a shake consisting of hydrolyzed whey isolate, a handful of kale, some MCT oil and some cooked basmati rice. In any case, choose easy to digest carbs such as basmati or sweet potato, easy to digest protein such as hydrolysed whey isolate or BCAAs and a little bit of healthy fats.

A couple of tips to optimally get through your endurance event

Avoid

* Avoid wheat, dairy products, apples and pears if you have had intestinal problems before.

* Avoid excessive caffeine and/or pre-workouts.

* Avoid flavorings, or better yet, avoid products which make you think TRYCHLYFISO-what...?!

* Moderate your fiber intake.

Do

* Take a full smoothie as pre-workout or pre-competition meal. By blending it, you have less chance of getting intestinal problems.

* Eat regularly and small portions during your game.

* Vary! From my own experience: 8 of the same bars and you never want to eat them again :P.

* Salt and sweet flavors. Especially for events over 6 hours.

* Balance between carbs and proteins.

How can you eat FitFood during endurance events or trainings?

Also when it comes to food during a match, you can choose from several options that contribute to your performance and health. Here, I like to limit myself to the experience that I have with nutrition from sources that are as natural as possible. Another method is based on ketosis. I do not yet have experience with that one, so I will leave this undiscussed.

* NAKD oatie bars

* CLIFF Organic energy sweet potato sea salt

* Zonnatura squeeze fruit

* Ella's kitchen sweet potato, pumpkin, blueberry. For sale at any supermarket. The first response from my running buddy was 'Baby food?'. The second: 'good stuff'. In a useful squeeze pouch.

* Homemade sweet and savory snacks with ingredients such as: sweet potato, raisins, whey protein, white rice, dark chocolate etc.

Try to eat a snack every hour to 45 minutes. Sometimes you see athletes eat just before the start. However, it is smarter to do this after being busy for like 15 or 20 minutes. If you need to do an Ultra, Triathlon, obstacle, survival or adventure race, combine your solid foods with liquid foods. If you're up for a 10 km run with a constant pace on asphalt, liquid food will suffice for most people. Again... test it!

What about drinks?

If you have a short training or game (<12 km), just water will do just fine as hydration in between. At warmer temperatures or a longer run or endurance events, it is wise to add a small dose of electrolytes (salts) and possibly some BCAAs. But you will read more about this in the article A healthy alternative for sports drinks BCAAs with coconut water.

Do what works for you, test, test and test again

How and what to eat before endurance events varies widely and is very personal. In this article we gave you tips and advice on how you can not only improve your performance, but you will also keep an eye on your health. We certainly do not have the illusion that the article is complete, plus there is always an additional supplement that claims to provide you with even better results. However do realize that

there is much to gain by starting to eat real, healthy and enough food. Before, during and after your games. Always make sure that you test different types of nutrition before and during your longer trainings. Every body reacts differently and by getting to know your body, you can perform better.

About LoveFitFood

LoveFitFood (Sjanett de Geus and Maaike Rijk) inspires barbell and mud-loving active people to be fit, tough and simply awesome. Without stress or too much complexity. They give you practical advice, tips and tricks that fit your lifestyle and fitness goals. No prescribed regimen, but learning you what does or doesn't work for you in a way that's sustainable and fun for you.

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B. Greenfield, Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health & Life, 2014, Victory Belt Publishing

JA Hawley, JJ Leckey – Sports medicine (Auckland, NZ), Carbohydrate Dependence During Prolonged, Intense Endurance Exercise.2015 – Springer

J.H.Lavin, G.A.Wittert, J.Andrews et al. Interaction of insulin, glucagon-like peptide-1, gastric inhibitory polypeptide and appetite in response to intraduodenal carbohydrate. Am.J.Clin.Nutr 1998; 68: 591-598

D.S. Ludwig, J.A. Majzoub, Ahmad Al-Zahrani, G.E. Dallal, I. Blanco, S.B. Roberts. High glycemic index foods, overeating, and obesity. Pediatrics 1999; 103 (3): E26

M. Sisson, (2012, July 2). Dear mark: How much glucose does your brain really need?. Retrieved from http://www.marksdailyapple.com/how-much-glucose-does-your-brain-really-need/

J. Walberg. Glycemic index and exercise metabolism. Sports Science Exchange 1997; 10 (1) American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 84, No. 2, 354-360, August 2006