I’ll be honest, when I was young….I didn’t really put much thought into “fueling” for my workouts and races. I ate what I wanted and drank what was popular. I tried to have a filling breakfast before races with at least three or four hours for digestion and I drank mostly water and sports drinks (Gatorade, Powerade, and All-Sport). Today, there is so much thought and philosophy on fueling properly for energy so that you don’t hit a wall (bonk) and you don’t have digestive issues (or gastrointestinal problems). These can be common things to deal with for endurance athletes like myself.
It’s mind blowing what kind of nutritional products are on the market these days. You might start out looking for a simple workout recovery drink and you end up viewing an overwhelming line-up of nutritional must haves. How do you know what is good and what is bad? What really works? What do you really need? Why are some things really expensive? Do you need supplements, vitamins, drink mixes for reds, drink mixes for greens, digestive aids, protein powder/recovery, hydration formulas, and so on? How can an everyday athlete afford or even fit all of these things into their daily routine?
Honestly, I don’t think I really need most of what I see. You probably don’t either. A healthy diet of meals throughout the day is important. I’ve written at least one blog on the type of diet I try to maintain to help with my training and recovery needs. Yet, having proper fueling products on race day or for those really grueling workouts can be very helpful. If you start investigating and comparing the different types of sports drinks, gels, and chews out there, you’ll see that they are not all the same. Each company tends to stand by its product to boast of its benefits over the competitors.
I’m not going to go into what I use today or all the different types of “fueling” options out there today. However, I wanted to write a blog to let you know to take your time. Try different things. Find what works for you. Some products work better in some situations than in others. For example, some fuel options have slower absorbing carbs and these might be good for longer races. If you need quick and instant energy then you might be better off sipping energy drinks with glucose or sucrose. You also need to be aware of how to use products. Take gels for example, they typically need to be taken with a moderate amount of water. There are some gels that do not need additional water.
One product might be easy on your stomach and another might give you issues. Some products might taste pleasant and others might make you gag! Plus, the textures of gels and chews can really vary. A lot of athletes will seek out all natural products and other athletes want the latest scientific stuff even if it is generated with artificial stuff. Again, you’ll want to buy and test out the products you are interested in.
I do believe there are enough products out there that you can find items that fit your needs for fueling those hard workouts and competitions. Take time to read up and don’t just do something because a “pro” athlete does it. Remember, a lot of these pro athletes train and compete in a way that their bodies can handle and need different fueling strategies than most other people. How much we burn in calories for our activity, how much we sweat, our metabolism, our allergies, and what types of sensitivities we have with certain ingredients all play into what types of products work best for us. Timing is also a very important component to fueling. Some people bonk because they fuel too late and others have stomach issues because they fuel too much in a short period of time.
Like training, fueling needs practice as well. Don’t ever do something new or try something new on race day. Hopefully you will find some products you love and they will help give you the boost you need to achieve your goals. Never under estimate the importance of eating healthy and fueling in way that helps your body bring out its best. It can make a huge difference in performance!