Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Secret to Caloric Intake and Sustained Energy During Long Workouts and Races

By: Brad Kearns

Key Workouts, as described in my book Breakthrough Triathlon Training, are the most important element of successful race preparation. When pushing your body to new levels, it’s essential to consume and digest adequate calories to prevent the dreaded bonk (depletion of blood sugar levels) – which causes fatigue, dizziness, apathy, and a dramatic reduction in performance.

There are three common and very serious mistakes made by many athletes when they attempt to fuel themselves during long workouts:

Consuming too much solid food – the digestive process is severely hindered during sustained exercise and many athletes choose heavily processed products like high fructose syrup laden energy bars.
Consuming too much sugar – it’s difficult for the body to process sugar for hours on end, leading to digestive problems and energy swings.
Consuming too few calories – Remember that you have to hydrate yourself at 32oz/hour also, so attempting to get your calories from an energy drink will water log you and produce a deficit.

The solution is to consume most of your calories in a concentrated liquid form, which is much easier to digest and minimize stress on your system during sustained exercise.  Perpetuem from Hammer Nutrition and Cytomax Pre-Formance are excellent choices to mix into a water bottle and enjoy a substantial amount of convenient and easy to digest calories during long workouts. These are nutritionally balanced meal replacement formulas, low in sugar and fat, and designed specifically to fuel athletes for sustained exercise.

Caloric requirements
Hammer Nutrition recommends consuming a maximum of 250 calories per hour for sustained exercise. My personal experience and discussions with some of the world’s top long distance triathletes indicate something similar and in some cases up to 400 calories per hour. With most of your blood in your extremities and your digestive system is not functioning well due to exercise stress, the only good choice is to prepare a thick mixture in a water bottle (I can get up to 750 calories in a single bottle, and gradually sip the mixture over a couple hours).

I find the best results come when most of my calories are from a liquid meal like Cytomax Pre-Formance or Perpetuem, supplemented with a couple natural energy bars like Lara Bar, Platinum or Organic Food Bar, then using gels if needed towards the end of the workout. In July 2001, I rode my mountain bike across the Sierra from Auburn, CA to Lake Tahoe (90 miles, 13,000' climbing) - a 12 hour effort - consuming only Cytomax Pre-Formance (~2,400 calories worth), Cytomax energy drink, a handful of energy gels, a couple handfuls of almonds and a frozen Snickers bar from a saloon in the middle of nowhere at Uncle Tom's Cabin, CA. Go easy on your stomach and obtain most of your calories in low-sugar liquid form when you go long.

Please understand the difference between Cytomax the energy drink and Cytomax Pre-Formance or Perpetuem. Cytomax the drink is for hydration, electrolyte balance and moderate caloric needs during exercise. The other products are a calorie source. Even though they are liquid, they provide for your caloric needs, not hydration.

Brad Kearns

For more information go to http://www.bradventures.com

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