Over the holiday weekend, G and I took our bikes out west and rode 50 rolling miles starting and ending in The Plains. It was amazing. Partly because that's where we did many of our first rides together as a training team back in the summer of 2011, but also because I was taking my new bike, Dash, out on her maiden voyage, and because our choice of fuel in the wee hours of the morning was on point.
How do you fuel for endurance?
This has been debated for decades, the earliest recollection of which I remember eating bowlfuls of spaghetti the night before a big swim meet to "carb up". I don't remember feeling any which way about it, whether it was good or not good. I think when you're young you can tolerate a whole host of different macros in a only-slightly-more-than-recreational sport. These days, even junior athletes are very serious about what type of food they eat (and don't eat), the timing of it, and a whole host of other training practices including lots of interval training and weight lifting. Bravo!
But back to fueling for endurance. Some carbohydrates are needed, yes. But they don't need to be emphasized. A balanced meal with carbohydrates, fat, and protein -- protein being the most important of the three -- will keep you full the longest and be the most advantageous to your endeavor. More important even than macros is eating food that honors your own individual dietary needs and sensitivities. A heck ton of protein the morning of a race is going to do you no good if you've just consumed all of it via a dairy-based milkshake for which you are dairy intolerant. I am dairy and gluten sensitive, so my meals need to focus on foods that will sit well in my belly.
There are two things that are even more important than food, I would argue. Those things are:
1. Hydration - drinking water heavily the day before and morning of the event
2. Correct Electrolyte Balance - drinking lots of water means flushing out a lot of vital minerals in the body. For endurance athletes, maintaining proper electrolyte balance is key to prevent cramping and bonking. You can get these by including them in your water via electrolyte tabs, or take Endurolytes pills, which is something that I have been doing recently and advocate for. There are zero side affects, take as directed on the bottle. If taking effervescent tabs or powder in your water, watch out for additives that might disturb sensitive bellies like artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols.
In the mean time, that morning of our 50 miler, I made us some gluten free, dairy free overnight oats and tweaked the recipes found online to include some much needed protein, fat, and fiber to the mix. I combine all dry ingredients into a medium sized mason jar (a bowl will do, a mason jar is just portable, a plus!) and mix first, then add in wet ingredients and stir again. Leave in fridge overnight and they're ready first thing the next morning.
1/2 C gluten free oats
1 TBSP chia seeds
1 Scoop IsoNatural Whey Protein Powder (or any protein - mine is unflavored, I bet vanilla would taste OK)