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How to Create a Race-Day Sports Nutrition Plan, Part 2

Coaches Ryan Kohler and Trevor Connor dive deeper into specific nutrition metrics for a race, exploring research about race-day nutrition for the Leadville Trail 100 MTB.

This is Part 2 of a three-part series and is intended to help you better understand the nutrition demands of your event.

In this second workshop, Kohler and Connor dive deeper into specific nutrition metrics for a race. As a case study, Kohler explores a research paper he published about race-day nutrition for the Leadville Trail 100 MTB.

RelatedThe Fundamentals of Sports Nutrition: How to Use Intuition to Improve Fueling

More on This Race-Day Nutrition Series

The best cyclists know that your race-day plan must include a nutrition strategy, detailing the quantity and types of food that will best fuel your body for maximal performance.

In Part 1 of this series, How to Create a Race-Day Sports Nutrition Plan, Head Coach Ryan Kohler and Coach Trevor Connor showed you how to create a race-day sports nutrition plan.

Part 3 of this series explores how to write out your nutrition Plan A, Plan B, and the Disaster Recovery Plan; how to find out what nutrition will be available at aid stations; calculation distances and estimating nutrition needs between aid stations; and more nuts-and-bolts nutrition plan execution.

Video Transcript

Intro  00:16

Welcome to Fast Talk Laboratories, your source for the science of cycling performance.

Ryan Kohler  00:25

All right. Hey, everybody. Welcome back. We have got another webinar for you here. This is part two of building your race-day nutrition plan. So, we have got Trevor back in person now.

Trevor Connor  00:36

Hi, nice to be back in civilization.


Ryan Kohler  00:39

Yeah, good to have you back in the studio. So, we’re going to get rolling today and talk a little bit about this fun research project that I did a number of years ago. This kind of plays into the building of your race day plan, and, you know, within this project, it was just sort of a fun way to take a, you know, a group of athletes that I was already working with, and just collect some data, see what they did for nutrition planning and see what kind of, you know, results came out of it after they finished the race. Let’s get into that. I am going to share the screen here. There we go. Alright, so here we have got part two, like I said, creating a race-day nutrition plan. So, here we go.

Ryan Kohler  01:31

So, to start off, just sort of why we did this. Where I was working at the time, we had the Leadville 100-mile mountain bike race on the schedule, and it was a regularly recurring thing each year that a lot of the coaches did. So, because I was managing the nutrition program at the time, and I had nine athletes that were immediately available and signed up, it was a great convenient sample to fold together to do this. So, you know, and really, in the end, it was just, it just sort of seemed like a fun project to put together, everybody was interested in it, and, you know, I don’t remember exactly how many years ago this was, but even since then, there’s been so much more research on nutrition and sports nutrition and, you know, fueling for performance that, you know, I think at this time, we were still asking a lot of these questions. So, this was sort of a fun project to say, well, we are just not sure, so let’s put this together in terms of, you know, looking at someone’s plan, and seeing what they’re doing, how does that relate to what’s currently accepted in the research now? And then once they go out and execute that plan, then we will do a follow-up and see, okay, well, how did that actually work out for you? And what did you actually consume? So, there were two papers that we were able to pull out of this. Both were written as abstracts for the ACSM conference, so ACSM is the American College of Sports Medicine. So, this first one was titled Carbohydrate Intake during Endurance Mountain Bike Racing and focus just on the carbohydrate piece of it. The second one was called, Differences in Carbohydrates, Sodium and Fluids Intake During an Ultra-endurance Mountain Bike Race. So, these are the same event, it was just how the data was pulled out. I put some links below, so you can find those papers on ResearchGate. I also put Dr. Inigo San Millan’s profile on there too, if you wanted to look him up, since you know, he was the one that assisted in writing these up.

Ryan Kohler  03:28

Alright, so the methods were pretty, pretty simple. As I said, we had nine athletes, they did a race day nutrition plan, and this was what we call their goal intake. So, they rode down from start to finish, you know, and for Leadville, there were different aid stations and different course markers that people typically use to say, okay, there is this part of the course, this part of the course is known as x, you know, and there’s just kind of famous landmarks now that people use to gauge their progress. So, we utilize those and had people write out, okay, from point to point, what’s your intake going to look like? And that’s what was analyzed. So afterward, they went back and did the exact same thing, and they wrote down to the best of their knowledge, what they actually took in, and then we compare those. So, the pre-race plan, as I said, was analyzed, analyzed for intake values, and these were relative to the accepted ranges in the research at the time.

Study: Carbohydrate Intake During Endurance Mountain Bike Racing

Ryan Kohler  04:24

We’ll start with this first one, so the Carbohydrate Intake during Endurance Mountain Bike Racing, so I put the description below here, and you can read through that but really, you know, this second half of it was, was really the main piece. Highlighting the need for carbohydrates in relation to endurance events that require the use of all energy systems over multiple hours. So, really just looking at you know, this is a multi-hour event, you know, a lot of people wanted that sub-nine-hour belt buckle that you get when you finish the race under nine hours, and then a lot of others wanted, you know, they wanted to be on that 12-hour mark, you know, and so somewhere sub-nine, or roughly, you know, 9 to 12 hours was sort of the goals for these different athletes. So, this research review I wanted to make very, very quick, just because there is I mean, we could do an entire segment on carbohydrate alone or multiple.

Ryan Kohler  05:19

Yeah. So, there, I only pulled, I pulled out two references that I think are nice to just drive the point home. But like I said, there’s a lot more available. So, you know, what I put here, some is good, more is better to a point. So, again, there’s going to be this recurring theme of individualizing your nutrition intake, and this one study in 2014, looked at 61 papers on carbohydrate supplementation, 82% shows statistically significant performance improvements, 18% showed no improvement. So, I look at this, and they say, well, yeah, there’s a really good rationale to focus on carbohydrate for performance, and like I said earlier since then, I mean, the number of studies are just, you know, there’s many, many more even since this time. And then finally, the second one here in 2013, looking at a rough range of 68 to 88 grams per hour showing the greatest improvement in performance. This was an interesting one because even with a 10-gram carbohydrate per hour level of intake, there was still a very small improvement. So again, it shows that there’s this kind of dose response up to a certain point, beyond a certain point, for some people, they’re gonna start to experience GI distress or other things, and then they’ll actually not see those improvements continue. But again, you know, we went from the old ranges with 30 to 60 grams an hour, you know, and then it was 60 plus, upwards of 90 even 100 in some studies, so it’s really all over the board.

Individual Variance

Trevor Connor  06:52

Still trying to figure out things, there is a huge amount of individual variance. So, you really have to experiment with what’s right for you, 90 grams per hour does seem to be that upper limit of what you can handle beyond that, I think a lot of people would start having some sort of gastric distress, hate using that term, I keep using that term gastric distress, but that is the term is used. I think above that you’d start having some issues, but you can even add to this there were the recent studies looking at mouth rinsing, where they will put a carbohydrate solution in your mouth, have you rinse it, kind of swish it back, and forth in your mouth, like mouthwash and then spit it out, and they showed that was performance-enhancing because there was an anticipatory reaction your body would, or your brain would sense the carbohydrates in your mouth, expect that the fuel was coming in and allow you to go a little harder.

Ryan Kohler  07:46

Yeah. Yeah, it’s pretty cool what it does, and, you know, for yeah team sports, I think the mouth rinsing has really become a big, a big focus, it’s been, that’s been a really neat part of the research.

Carbohydrate Goals vs. Actual Intake

Ryan Kohler  07:58

Looking at the results here, this was really the only graph that we used for this one, and it was really just looking at carbohydrate goals versus the actual intake. So, I circled a few here, this, you know, so the athlete 1, 2, 6, and 8, and I just wanted to pull them out because, you know, you can see here, the dark blue line is their goal. So, that was when they wrote down their initial plan that was their actual, or their planned intake per hour for carbohydrates, and then when they completed the race, we went back over everything looked at, basically a food log for them, and we have that light blue line as their actual intake. So, I just wanted to highlight really how close they came, right? And the interesting thing about this is that you know, and this is a little bit more of the storytelling piece of it that I found really interesting at the time was that, you know, these athletes were the most experienced, right? So, I think there is something to be said, for the more we do this, the more we need to really recognize how important it is for trial and error and, you know, testing new things, finding upper limits, and this is what we come out with, you know, so we have I mean roughly, you know, five or so grams per hour difference in carbohydrate, which I think is pretty impressive to plan for that and get that close at the end.

Trevor Connor  09:19

Like the contrast of athletes four and five, who both targeted around 40 grams and ended up in the 70s. Then you have athletes seven who targeted that high range and ended up right where athlete four and five were targeting, but all three of them, you can see they are way off on what they targeted and what they did.

Ryan Kohler  09:40

Yeah, athlete seven is an interesting story where he is actually a pretty experienced athlete. So, I think his goal reflects that. But he actually got sick during the race and he lost a lot of his ingested carbohydrates. So, he actually consumed a lot less which is why that ended up you know, early on if we did first, I forget how many hours but the first, you know, three, four hours or so of the race, he was probably on target, but then later on, when he got sick, he actually still finished, which was impressive, but he lost a lot of his lunch that day.

Trevor Connor  10:13

Fair enough.

Ryan Kohler  10:14

Yeah. And the others, yeah, I think four and five are great examples where, you know, the pieces with these athletes, they were less experienced, they were still endurance athletes, they’ve done events before, but they’ve never done something like this, right? So, they planned fairly low. So, they were, you know, they were looking at slightly slower times, which would suggest a lower need for carbohydrate on an hourly basis, but what happened with them is they were very inconsistent with their fueling. So, they actually ended up consuming a lot more, because they had these moments in the race where they did absolutely nothing, or very, very little, and then they just stopped at an aid station for a while and pounded food. So, it was sort of all over the map. What we found here with the numbers, and you know, the sub-nine and the over-nine, so as expected, here, the sub-nine-hours, they had a higher carbohydrate intake, they average about 72 grams an hour, and they actually planned for a higher carb intake. So, really, really tight there, they planned 68, and they actually took in 72, so that was great. And I think that reflects well, with the research that we’ve seen over the years up to today suggesting that yeah, these higher intakes are really necessary for this type of racing. When we get to those athletes that went over nine hours, then we can see they took in a little bit less just under 60, and they overall had had a lower planned intake as well, but still fairly close. But the interesting thing was just that variability that we saw in the less experienced athletes versus the more experienced ones and more developed athletes.

Beginner vs. Experienced Cyclists

Ryan Kohler  11:48

We talked about this, you know, a little bit earlier. But yeah, just showing which ones like how tight they were, you know, and these are more highly developed endurance athletes, and they’re going to, to meet their needs a little bit better. The others, you can see, you know, yeah, maybe planned for less, and then ended up consuming more. The nice thing is, I think they did the planning initially, and they were able to start getting that process going and thinking of, you know, this is my plan, but what’s my backup plan? So, one of the pieces of feedback that I liked from this, this project was, you know, when they did get into a bind, and they realize they were behind, they could use an aid station, or they could find food along the way and keep themselves fueled. So, it wasn’t ideal, it wasn’t this, you know, like an IV drip of energy coming in every 12 to 15 minutes, but they were able to adapt, and yeah, they ended up taking more than they planned for, maybe they needed a little bit more, but they still finished, which was great. The takeaways from here. So, the more highly developed athletes that are racing at faster absolute speeds need more carbohydrates to support this glycogenolysis, this breakdown of glycogen, and that greater energy demand, right? So, the applied piece that I thought was interesting from this is, you know, we have a range of abilities here. So, as our fitness improves, we have to adapt that carbohydrate intake to meet the need of those increased demands. So, if we’re eating, you know, 40 grams an hour in our first year as a cyclist, and then we move up to these very experienced cyclists 10 years later, and we’re still doing the same thing, we probably need to adjust that a little bit and just pay attention to how that evolves over the years.

Trevor Connor  13:30

So, a question I have for you and I have a pretty good guess at the answer, but those more experienced athletes, how much were they putting food in their pockets, pre-preparing their food, and eating throughout the race versus not eating until they got to an aid station then wolfing down a lot of food?

Ryan Kohler  13:50

Yeah, for them to achieve that consistency they have the prepared stuff with them, and they would eat on the bike. So yeah, that’s a great point, because that’s one of the skills that we need to develop, especially in this case in a mountain bike race, one of the very common pieces of feedback was that they were either, you know, freezing at a certain point in the race, and they didn’t want to take their hands off the bars to move, or you know, they were going downhill too fast and they couldn’t do that. So yeah, those more experienced athletes know, okay, and they have this planned out, when do I need to reach in the pockets, shove something in and chew it as I am descending a single track or whatever the case is. Yeah.

Trevor Connor  14:28

Yep. That would have been my guess, and also, my guess would be the less experienced athletes were probably having a harder time preparing their foods to probably go into extended periods without eating then getting to the feed station, just grabbing everything they could find.

Ryan Kohler  14:42

Exactly. Yeah. Yep, that’s pretty common. So, that is why we want to focus on this individualized piece to get you there with a plan you feel good about and something that you’ve tested.

Study: Differences in Carbohydrates, Sodium and Fluids Intake During an Ultra-endurance Mountain Bike Race

Ryan Kohler  14:51

So, the second one, Differences in Carbohydrates, Sodium and Fluids Intake During an Ultra-endurance Mountain Bike Race. So, this is where you just brought sodium and fluid into the mix, and really like it says here in the description just to look at differences if there are any in these nutrients throughout a race like this. So, I just put these together, because, over the years of, you know, I get athletes asking me like, what supplements should I take? Or what is the best ergogenic aid to help my performance? I always like well, carbs, sodium, and fluid, and I always start there, because many times we do not have those figured out, and if you look at the research, these are three very, very heavily researched areas in sports performance, and each one of them can affect our ultimate outcome. So, before we get into, you know, all kinds of different supplements, and you know, just everything that’s out there, we can make a list I’m gonna go on for days, these are the three that I always start with. So, this was a fun project to look at, you know, we know these three interact, and they work together to feel your performance, but let’s see if there are any differences between these groups. So, we did a quick overview of carbohydrates, we’ll look at the fluid and then sodium here. So, briefly here, you know, one or two liters per hour of fluid loss is pretty common during exercise, of course, there’ll be people that might be on the lower side of that, or even a little bit less than one liter per hour, these race can also vastly exceed that, you know, upwards of three, four liters per hour, you look at some of the research in football, I think you can see over four liters per hour, it’s very, very immense, you know, and this has been around now for some time, but those losses of body mass of 2 to 3%, can impair endurance performance.

Adequate Fluid Load

Ryan Kohler  16:33

So, you know, the goal here is, you know, achieving adequate fluid load that minimizes those changes to body weight. So, we don’t need to, there was a great study years ago that looked at, I think it was with ultra-runners, they had a group that drank to actually gain weight, they had a group that drank to maintain weight, and a group that drank to allow themselves to lose about 2% of body mass, and that group that lost just a little bit actually ended up performing the best, the other two groups actually, it took them longer for that event. So, that very slight loss in body mass can actually help your performance, once you go beyond that, then we start to see your performance really fall off the cliff.

Trevor Connor  17:20

The danger here, so yes, there is this research showing that little bit of fluid loss, you can see improvements in performance that’s very easy to study in a lab, it’s very easy to put you on a scale and go, okay, you’ve lost about 2% now. When you’re out in a race in an event, trying to thread that fine needle of okay, I want to drop 2% but not more than that, it’s gonna be really hard for you to do, you don’t have a way of measuring that, so it’s better to just focus on a good strategy, and try to keep yourself relatively hydrated. It may very well work out that you’re going to lose 2-3%, but my guess is if you try to lose a little bit, you’re probably going to lose more than you think.

Ryan Kohler  18:07

Yeah, that’s a great point. It’s hard to manage, you know, but if you have at least some idea of, you know, your sweat rate and your fluid needs, and you can tell when you’re out if you’re doing a big ride, and you don’t drink enough, and you have a really crappy experience out there, and you’re crawling home, yeah, next time drink more. But yeah, like you said, Trevor, it is not something that we can micromanage out on the course. So, we do have to sort of develop this feel a little bit too.

Trevor Connor  18:30


Ryan Kohler  18:32

So, yeah, that later on, I have this, you know, we talked about sweat right here, you can do this at home and get a pretty quick rough idea, and so later on, I have a little at-home guide where you can, you can test that out yourself and you know, get an idea of a rough range that you can start drinking too.

General ACSM Reccomendations

Ryan Kohler  18:50

So, taking from ACSM again, and this is very general fluid recommendations, these have been around for a long time, this is you know, four to 800 milliliters of fluid per hour, right? So, this, of course, again, we said everything varies, there’s large individual variability with this stuff, but this is definitely for endurance athletes on the lower side, especially that four to 500. We have these caveats, you know, we’re going to be on the higher side even well above 800 for faster, heavier athletes. Slower and lighter athletes might be on the low end, right? But this is the one where this range can vary quite a bit. So, it’s really important to tailor this to your needs. But for very general recommendations, this is an easy place to get started and see if you’re hitting even that, you know, this baseline level.

Trevor Connor  19:41

One small caveat to be aware of and be careful of is if you are a smaller, lighter athlete, something that is important in fluid loss and sweat rates are your surface area to body volume, and if you’re small, so this is often true with, with women, with children, you have a lot more surface area to body volume, which means it’s much easier for you to lose fluid and dehydrate. So, you have to be particularly careful about making sure that you’re hydrating sufficiently in the heat.

Ryan Kohler  20:20

Yeah, that’s a great point. Yeah, anything we can do to help figure that out. And tailor those Recs to your needs, I think it will be really helpful.

Sodium Intake

Ryan Kohler  20:28

So, moving on to sodium. So, starting off with some typical losses, you know, roughly a gram per liter of sweat is fairly typical, of course, this can also vary pretty widely. I’ve done quite a lot of sodium testing with athletes in the past, and I’ve seen, you know, in the low end of the range, you know, half a gram, you know, four or 500 milligrams, roughly, and quite a few athletes are right around that one gram, maybe 1200 milligrams per liter, and others are quite a bit above that. But, you know, this seems like a good place to be starting just if you have no expectation of how much you are losing, you know, assuming around there is a pretty safe start. So again, with the ACSM recommendations, and easy place to start, these have been around for a while, 300 to 600 milligrams per hour of sodium intake, right? I always think of the sports drinks that are out there now, there is so many on the market, you know, this is one example, you know, but there’s plenty more, you can turn them around, look at the nutrition label, and see what the serving of sodium is, or the amount of sodium per serving, right? And then look at their fueling guidelines on the back of any of those products, you are going to find those two things, nutrition facts label, and then their usage guide. So, this is one that recommends, you know, two to three scoops per 24 ounces. So, something like that, if you have a 24-ounce bottle, that’s typically one of the taller, you know, bike bottles, that would get you around two to 300 milligrams per eight ounces, or per cup, or putting you into that 800 to 1200. So, right around that one gram per liter mark. So, a lot of them are, you know, formulated, you know, fairly close, you know, I think with these ranges, they’re all going to be right around there, but there are some that do go below and above. So again, there is a lot of options out there to sort of, you know, find what you need, find something that works, find the taste that’s going to work as well, and they’re all going to be fairly close to these accepted, you know, intake ranges.

Trevor Connor  22:36

So, the one thing I’m going to add is just to be careful. So, look at the recommended range here and really try to stay in that range. One thing I do not like to see athletes do with sodium is get into the mentality of more is better, and really start packing their water bottles with a ton of sodium. I was actually on a race where I got handed one of my athlete’s water bottles, and I basically got seawater, he had put so much salt in it. Remember that water is called the Great Follower, so water follows, it goes to the area where you have a high osmolality, which is the concentration in the fluid. So, if you drink a water bottle that’s really high concentrations, what’s actually going to happen is that’s going to get into your gut, and your body’s going to go, okay, this is too concentrated for me to do much with it, it’s going to try to process this, the way it’s going to process it is to grab fluid out of your system out of your blood, so that really concentrated water bottle with very high sodium could actually temporarily dehydrate you.

Ryan Kohler  23:45

Yeah, and not to mention the taste too, you know, you’re going to get to a point where, you know, it’s, you know, look at the type of sodium that’s used, I think a lot of companies have moved to sodium citrate right now, that has a little bit less of a seawater taste to it, but if you’re using ones that have sodium chloride, yeah, you can definitely go overboard with that, and if the taste is bad, you’re not going to want to drink that either. So, I mean, I think I’ve actually come down if I think about my progress with sodium over the years, you know, I think I’ve actually come down and any, you know, leg cramping is a pretty common topic in this area, I’ve done it in the past, whereas, man, I was cramping during that race next time I’m going to take more sodium, and it didn’t help, it was a fitness issue, you know, for me, so, you know, slamming the sodium in the bottle really wasn’t the solution. But there are times where if it’s, you know, warmer or you know, and I know that I’m going to sweat a little bit more, I might go up a little bit, but I think I’m rarely going over 800 milligrams per liter now, you know, it’s not that high.

Trevor Connor  24:50

Yeah, no, I agree completely. We talked about that in several episodes now that the whole theory of cramping being about electrolyte loss or electrolyte issues has really been thrown out, there are cases where that contributes, but that’s really not the cause. If you’re having cramping issues this theory of I need to get more sodium, not true, you need to look other places, that’s really not what’s going to help you too much.

Fluid Goals vs. Actual Intake

Ryan Kohler  25:15

So, the results of this one, this is the fluid goal versus actual this, I really like this because everybody was really close, you know, we see a wide variety of fluid intakes. This athlete number two was actually the fastest and most experienced athlete of the group, I forget where he finished exactly, but it was far up there, so pretty quick.

Trevor Connor  25:38

Did he make the top 100?

Ryan Kohler  25:40

Oh, yeah, easily

Trevor Connor  25:41

I was going to say.

Ryan Kohler  25:41

Yep. Yeah, so we see this stuff, and that stands out across everyone else. He was the closest one to professional-level mountain biker. So, you know, this fluid intake reflects that, and he was spot on with this fluid intake, I don’t think you get this kind of perfection 40/40 there without having practiced this a lot. You know, and we see some others, you know, like athlete one, couple fluid ounces under still had a really good race though, finished under nine hours, you know, and athlete seven, of course, stands out, but we know fluid intake was low because of the explosion of contents during the race. So, but everybody else pretty darn close.

Trevor Connor  26:24

That really is impressive.

Ryan Kohler  26:25

Yeah. Yeah, for some reason I just really liked this slide because it shows that, you know, if you do plan this out, and you know, that was one of the takeaways is like planning it out, have someone look at it, and don’t just do this in a vacuum, but then refine it, and then go execute, and, you know, you’re gonna be pretty close, you know, I think fluid, we know how fluid affects performance, so this is a key one to look at. So yeah, let’s make sure we’re getting enough.

Ryan Kohler  26:53

So, then the sodium. So, there are some funny ones here, the sodium goal for athlete one was off the charts compared to everyone else. But you look at that, and it is really, really just toward the upper end of what we’ve talked about. So, the thing I found interesting here, is, you know, this is Leadville, it starts off cold, it gets hot, most of the time, unless you are in snow or rain, you know, you’re at a higher elevation, you know, it’s just this big event where you’re out there for 9 to 12 hours, roughly, right? So, I think with this, people started thinking just like we’re talking about, oh, I need you to know, sodium where am I going to take my salt pills, etc., things like that. I was really impressed with the goals that people set they were not through the roof, and they were not too low, they fell right in line, and the intakes actually, for some of the most successful athletes here, we’re actually quite low.

Trevor Connor  27:46

I was going to say you are not, rider number two, who you said was on the top performers, he is one of the lowest in terms of his sodium consumption.

Ryan Kohler  27:55

Yeah. Yeah, I thought that was pretty fascinating to see. Yeah, I think it was just a great take home to say, yeah, we don’t need to overdo it with the sodium. If we can align that fluid, and sodium, really figure out the fluid we need, and then have that sodium align with the amount of fluid that’s coming in, it seems like a great way to start.

Ryan Kohler  28:13

Alright, so the results on this one, just some takeaways, the sub-nine-hour athletes, they had higher overall consumption of carb fluid and sodium, these are the percentages higher that they consumed. So, their average sodium intake was about 434 milligrams an hour, average fluid intake was right around 800 milliliters an hour, and that sodium intake was right in line with those ACSM guidelines even, you know, 540 milligrams per liter roughly. So really, really nice performance there with them. The athletes that went over nine hours, of course, were lower across the board. Their average sodium intake was about 368, average fluid intake slightly lower 632 milliliters per hour, and again, that sodium intake fell in line with the guidelines, you know, and we see here, again, these athletes going over nine hours, are, of course, they’re out there longer, they’re riding slower, so their fluid needs will be lower as well, most likely. So, this sort of reflects that. So, in the discussion, we ended up not finding any statistical differences, right? So, that was fine, what not a big deal. So, what we were able to take away from this is really one it supports that individualization of nutrition, it shows just looking at those graphs how different even among nine people how different the actual intakes can be, you know, higher intakes of carb, fluid, and sodium within your individual needs could have a positive impact on your performance there. So, this is where I, you know, put that clarifier of within your individual needs, but I like to once we find those needs, I like to push that envelope toward the higher end, so we create a range for you and say, okay, here’s what works, but let’s see how high we can go. When we reach that upper limit, okay, let us dial it back down and now we have a pretty safe range that we can work within. That way it ends up giving you the ability to be flexible within the race, you know, we can even say on the lower end, okay, if you miss a little bit, and you go below this, how low can you go? So, it really helps if you can give yourself that range.

Trevor Connor  30:11

Yeah, does not surprise me at all, they had no statistical difference, and of nine in a study like this, it’d be hard to get some plus you had one athlete who got sick, I’m sure threw some things off. It also just goes back to the fact that we’ve talked about nutrition, there still is a lot of individual variances, you have to find what’s right for you. So, doing a study with nine people on sports nutrition, it is very hard to get significance.

Carbohydrate Intake for Athletes Finishing Sub-Nine vs. Over Nine

Ryan Kohler  30:38

It is. I think we’re just lucky to get nine people to do this and follow through with it, you know? So yeah, back to those original questions, you know, how does this carbohydrate intake change for athletes finishing sub-nine versus over- nine? You know, as you get faster, you need more, you know, individualization is, again, that key that we keep coming back to. One other significant difference between goal intake and actual, so in some cases, but I think it depends on its ability that you have to practice and execute, right? So we saw some like Trevor said, there is a wide variety of intake levels, but depending on how much you practice and you refine this, you can really start to narrow that down between whatever your goal is, and what you actually consume on race day, you know, and I think also that’s going to give you the flexibility to respond to that on race day and respond to any wrenches that might get thrown into the race.

Working With Someone To Plan Race-Day Nutrition

Ryan Kohler  31:31

So, finally, another question we asked, is it worth working with someone to plan your race-day nutrition? So, I think that is a big yes, because I, you know, I’ve done this in the past where I’ve just, you know, I’ve done it on my own, and I put together a plan, and it didn’t go that great. So, having someone else just look at this, someone who’s looked at the research can be really helpful, all athletes ended up finishing, seven out of the nine athletes did achieve their goal time, some had a goal time of, I just want to finish under 12 hours, and they did that they were you know, in that 10 to 11ish range. So, that was great.

Sweat Rate

Ryan Kohler  32:04

So, quick take-home here, since we talked about hydration a bit, this is a quick way that you can start to assess your hydration at home. So, you know, I’m sure if you’ve used the Google at all over the years, then you’ve seen there’s a lot of ways, the calculators out there, you do pre and post weight, and you can find your sweat rate. So, this is just sort of going into that to give a little bit more of a background to it. So, if we wanted to find out our sweat rate, we would start with a pre and post-exercise bodyweight. So, look at what we started at, look what we ended with, there is usually going to be some kind of a loss there. We look at the exercise time, and we put it together in here. So, we have a pre-exercise weight, for example of 75 kilos, we worked out for an hour and a half, post-exercise weight was 72.8 kilos, so we did have a change there, and we’re almost 3% body mass loss. So, our sweat rate for this would be one-and-a-half liters per hour, right? In addition to this, I like to have people record their you know, fluid intake as closely as they can, and then if you can also record your solid food intake, great.

Trevor Connor  33:13

Couple of important notes about this are to be careful because there are a lot of people out there, there’s a lot of companies now that are doing sweat analysis, doing all these things and tell you here’s what you need. First of all, they’re showing, at least the research I’ve read, they’re showing that trying to replenish your body weight, so let’s say you weigh yourself before a race, and weigh yourself after and you’ve lost five kilograms going, I now need to drink five kilograms of water, not the best approach. You do need to rehydrate, but let your body reestablish its weight over time, you also need to make sure you’re eating if you just drink five kilograms of water, you’re going to pee most of it out. So, they have shown that’s not necessarily the best approach. The same thing with sweat rate, they will do sweat analysis, but trying to replace that sweat, so both the fluid and whatever mineral loss you had, also doesn’t work because remember, we were talking about the A, there’s the issue of crossing that gut barrier. So, even though you drink a fluid, it’s very similar to your sweat, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily getting into your system. B, as you start to lose those electrolytes and fluid and sweat, your body’s already doing things to adjust, so since you are losing fluid from your blood fluids going to be taken out of your cells to replenish some of the fluid in your blood. So, you actually have some shrinking of your cells. So, your body’s going to try to stay in balance that way if you then hit the gut with all this fluid and all these electrolytes, well actually that is not what your body needs at that time, because it’s not saying oh boy, look my blood volume is going way down, replenish it. My blood volume has gone down a bit, my cells have shrunk a bit, but it can immediately bring all that in and then get back into some sort of form of homeostasis. So, those are not necessarily the best benchmarks for saying, here’s exactly what I need. You can look at them, certainly, if you go and exercise all the time and you lose a lot of bodyweight, you probably do need to be hydrating more. If you are a heavy sweater with a heavy electrolyte loss, you might want to go with something a little bit stronger. But trying to exactly replace what you’re losing isn’t a good strategy. It’s just not that simple.

Ryan Kohler  35:38

So, I’m hearing trying to micromanage your nutrition is probably not the best approach.

Trevor Connor  35:43

I don’t think so. I think it ultimately comes down to using this information as a guide, but then what you have to do is experiment with yourself. Go out and do some hard rides, use some races you don’t care about as much, use Gran fondos that you’re doing for fun, and experiment with well, if I eat this much and drink this much what happens to me? And you’re going to start finding what does it doesn’t work for you.

Planning Drinking Opportunities

Ryan Kohler  36:08

Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So yeah, we will use this as a starting point here. So, we have got this sweat rate, one-and-a-half liters per hour, we’ll carry that over. So, we can take that sweat rate, one-and-a-half liters an hour, and say we are going to go out for two hours, right? Then we can assume we’re going to roughly lose about three liters or about 100 fluid ounces, and this is where the planning piece comes in. So, this first part is pretty straightforward. What’s our sweat rate? How long are we exercising? Great, we can get some kind of estimate for how much we would think we might lose. But the cool part when it comes to planning is and I do this a lot with marathon athletes, I love looking at this, this is where I geek out on this stuff, but I love when I’m working with a marathoner and we get to look at the course and say, okay, what’s your run pace? How many aid stations? Where are the aid stations? And then what we can do is really start to sort out how many opportunities will you actually have to fuel yourself during that course? So, we can break these up, and that’s why I call them drinking opportunities because you know, these are opportunities that we identify that are going to help your performance. So, you know, in this case, we can say, all right, we’re going to drink four times per hour, so every 15 minutes, right? So, over a two-hour race or event, in this example, that’ll give us eight opportunities to drink, right? So, for our maximum fluid intake, we’re looking at taking this estimated sweat loss of around 100 fluid ounces, divide that by eight opportunities to drink, and we say, okay, you’re about 12 ounces every 15 minutes. So, that’s about an upper end, right? Then if we want to give a lower bound to that, we can say, all right, well, let’s take that 2%, right? And maybe that’s not ideal for everyone, but we can say 2%, maybe other people, you know, are like I do find actually I’ve tested myself; I know I still perform well at like 3%, great. You can put that in there, and this is where that flexibility comes in. Then we find roughly what is 2% loss, right? We find here, it is about a kilo-and-a-half, find the ounce equivalent for that 52.8 fluid ounces, roughly, and then we subtract our fluid loss minus the 2% body weight, and we find out okay, that is 48 fluid ounces, let’s take that number and divide that through those drinking opportunities, and we come out with six ounces every 15 minutes. So, now we can pretty easily set ourselves a rough range, say, all right, every 15 minutes, I’m going to look at six to about 12 ounces of fluid every 15, right? So, if you have no other starting point, and you want to do a little bit more analysis and dig into the numbers a bit more, you can give yourself a range to start with, but like we have said already, just this has to be flexible, you know, and you can do the exact same thing. What I found is, the more experienced the athlete, it’s almost the less we need to do this, because we can take, I think what you were saying Trevor, you know, we can take any ride and say, okay, well, let’s look at your data from this ride. Okay, how did you perform? What did you fuel with? How did it go? And then you can come out with pretty much the same information in the end.

Trevor Connor  39:11

Yep. So, I think this is a great guide, and you take this and now you experiment with this, try doing the six fluid ounces every 15 minutes, try doing the 12.6, and see what works better for you.

Ryan Kohler  39:24

So, for next time, we are getting closer to the kind of writing your own plan. So, all of this stuff is helping you to get toward that. So next time, we are going to actually look at putting a plan together. So, to prepare for that if you have been following along with this. So, you can look at some past power or heart rate files, get an estimate of your energy expenditure, right? Just get a starting point to say, all right, I’m going to lose roughly 700 calories an hour, you know, and then that gives you an idea to say, well, I can’t replace 700 an hour, so let me figure out what’s a reasonable amount to start with, what have I done in the past? You can compile sweat loss data, one of the multiple ways that we’ve talked about. Start to list out some fuels that you like, or that you know work for you, and then think about how to start organizing these, right? We talked about the marathon example, like where are the aid stations? How much will you carry between each stop? And really, how much can you carry without carrying too much? That was another piece of feedback that I got from this Leadville project was, you know, some of the less experienced athletes started with a Camelback, you know, and they had like the two-liter bladder in the back, they had bottles on their bike, and what they ended up doing was really carrying around two liters of water around the entire course, because the two bottles were enough to get them from aid to aid. So, things like that, you know, think about how you are going to carry and how much you’ll need.

Trevor Connor  40:46

Water is an easy thing to get at an aid station, the issue you have at aid stations is they might not have food that you particularly want or can digest well. So, when I do an event like this, I’ll tend to rely on the aid stations or my fluid, so just bring the two water bottles and be more careful about making sure I’m bringing the sort of foods that I want. So, in that in case I get to an aid station, I can’t eat any of that, I can still keep fueling myself.

Ryan Kohler  41:14

Yeah, that’s great. So, that’s all we have for now. I’m going to stop screen sharing and go back to our call to see if we have any questions.

Trevor Connor  41:23

Great presentation, Ryan, and a really interesting study.

Ryan Kohler  41:26

Thanks. Yeah, it was a fun one to do. Oh, we did have one question milligrams per hour.

Ryan Kohler  41:33

So there Yeah, there were two, two references in there. I think this is speaking to sodium, Rob, but the milligrams, you see it in milligrams per liter, and milligrams per hour, depending on which one you’re looking at. So yes, I use both, and what I’ll do is we’ll look at we’ll actually look at both and say, okay, how many, just to really see if those lineup, so when someone has their fluid figured out, and we figured out the amount of leaders that they’re taking in, then I’ll go back and say, okay, does the milligrams of sodium per liter work out? Or does it seem like it’s a little bit higher, a little bit low?

Trevor Connor  42:12

Just keep in mind, also a lot of the foods, especially if you are using sports foods, like gels, things like that, a lot of them will also have a sodium content. So, if you are targeting a certain amount per hour, and then you calculate that into well, here’s how much I need in my water bottles, you’re actually going to get too much sodium because you’re not factoring in the food.

Ryan Kohler  42:31

Yeah, good point.

Ryan Kohler  42:34

All right, well thanks. We will follow this up next time with again, how to start building that plan. In the meantime, check out the forums for sure, and bring out any other questions or you know, things that have worked for you in the past things that haven’t worked, and we’ll look forward to more discussion in there. So, thanks for joining.

Trevor Connor  42:55

Thanks, everyone. Hope you enjoyed it.

Ryan Kohler  42:57

We will see you next time.