Carbohydrates are the primary fuel source used during exercise. Consuming carbohydrates during endurance events increases performance. This is because carbohydrate stores in the body are limited, and consuming them through food is necessary to help prevent athletes from “hitting the wall.”
Depending on the length of your event, you will need anywhere from 30-90 grams of carbohydrate/hour. Typically, energy gels and bars are used during endurance events as a quick source of carbohydrates. While these are a great source of quick energy, they can get sickly sweet fast and contribute to flavour fatigue during endurance events lasting hours or days. Read on for some savoury snacks that can be used as fuel during endurance events:
Potatoes: Microwave mini potatoes, sprinkle with salt and wrap in foil. 100 grams of baked potato is about 20 grams of carbohydrates, which is similar to the typical energy gel. Potatoes are also a great source of potassium, which is lost in sweat.
Pretzels: 25 grams of pretzels, about 50 pretzel sticks, will also provide you similar amounts of carbohydrates to the 20 grams in a typical energy gel plus. Make sure you buy the salted ones to help replenishes sweat losses.
Peanut butter sandwich: Simply spread salted peanut butter between two slices of bread. Select white bread over whole grain to decrease risk of gastrointestinal issues. Two slices of bread will provide about 30 grams of carbohydrate, depending on the variety of bread bought.
Rice cakes: This recipe (click here), made with combination of rice, bacon, eggs, soy sauce and sugar, was developed by Australian physiologist for Tour De France Cyclists. 1 rice cake is about 30 grams of carbohydrates.
While perhaps being a bit more palatable than the typical energy gel, the downside of the above options is the ease of consumption compared to typical gels (think 50 pretzel sticks versus a gel). Another con is that the same amount of carbohydrates cannot be consumed with real food as compared to gels. This is because gels are made with a specific ratio of carbohydrates that allows for maximal absorption in the gut. This same ratio won’t be found naturally in real food, and trying to hit this same amount of carbohydrates with real food may result in gastrointestinal issues. To prevent gastrointestinal issues, look for fuel options that are low in fibre and fat as these are more quickly digested.
As always, make sure that you practice your in-race fuelling plan. Just like you need to train your muscles for race day, you also need to train your gut. Practicing your nutrition plan will not only give you confidence on race day, but also prevent the dreaded gastrointestinal issues, while giving you energy to perform at your best!
To get this free weekly newsletter straight to your inbox, click here.